– Ne la corte – Tre stracci ad asciugare

Corrado Govoni

– Ne la corte – Tre stracci ad asciugare
sul muricciuolo accanto il rosmarino.
Una scala seduta. Un alveare
vedovo, su cui giuoca il mio micino.

Un orciuolo che à sete sul pozzale
di marmo scanalato da le funi.
Dei cocci gialli. Un vaso vuoto. Un fiale
che à vomitato. Dei fogliami bruni.

– Su le finestre – Un pettine sdentato
con due capelli come dei pistilli.
Un astuccio per cipria. Uno sventrato
guancialino di seta per gli spilli.

Una scatola di belletto. Un guanto
mencio. Un grande garofano appassito.
Una cicca. Una pagina in un canto
piegata, da chissà mai quale dito!

– Per l’aria – La docile campana
d’un convento di suore di clausura.
Una lunga monotonia di zana.
Un gallo. Una leggera incrinatura

di vento. Due rosse ventarole
cifrate. Delle nubi bianche. Un treno.
Un odore acutissimo di viole.
Un odore acutissimo di fieno.

In the courtyard- Three rags out to dry

Corrado Govoni

—In the courtyard—Three rags out to dry
on a wall near the rosemary shrub.
A seated ladder. A widowed hive
on which my kitten is having fun.

A thirsty jug on the marble well
furrowed with age by ropes and pulleys.
Two yellow pots. An empty vase. A vial
that’s vomited. Leaves brown and crinkly.

—On the windowsills—a toothless comb
with two strands of hair like two pistils.
A powder-puff case. A pin cushion
of silk disembowelled filling spills.

A cosmetics box. A droopy glove.
An enormous wilted carnation.
A cigarette butt. A folded page
in a corner, by who knows what hand.

—In the air—The soft chime of a bell
from a convent of cloistered nuns.
A long monotony of a cradle.
A rooster. A gentle fragmentation

of wind. Two wind vanes coloured red
with letters. White banks of clouds. A train.
The most intense aroma of violets.
The most intense aroma of hay.

.
Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2020

This untitled poem is from Armonia in grigio, Corrado Govoni’s second collection of poems (Florence 1903).
Although the title of the poem conveys a melancholy (as do stanzas 1-4, where the broken, empty objects, the toothless comb, and the disembowelled pin cushion convey squalor and abandonment) that was typical of crepuscularism, this poem also holds within it a certain lightness: we are presented with a list of ordinary things within a space that is definitely crepuscular. It is written in conventional hendecasyllabic metre, but with strong punctuation that interrupts the melodic flow. The register is low, using “everyday” language to present a scene we understand to be familiar to the poet, even if the word “I” is never expressed: we see through his eyes, hear with his ears, feel the gentle breeze on his skin and the scents all around. His memories come alive in our minds, and they are our memories.
As always translation presents a series of choices to be made, and we can never be sure of our solutions. The author uses words like “scala seduta” (seated ladder), “vomitato” (vomited), and “sventrato” (disembowelled”). We can, of course, choose to write “folded ladder”, “spilled”, and “torn”, which would explain exactly what he means, but he doesn’t choose “scala piegata”, “versato”, and “strappato”: so I follow his lead and keep as close to his text as I can, leaving the interpretation to the reader, just like the Italian reader must interpret his words to understand the meaning. I never know if this is right or wrong, but the idea of paraphrasing a poem fills me with dismay. If Govoni wanted to use those words in the text, I can very well do it too. Other times I must change a word: un fiale is a honeycomb, but I need to say “toothless comb” later on in the text for pettine sdentato, so I opt for a word that sounds the same as fiale. I choose “vial” and it will also make the rhyme with “well”. It’s very much like a game, a game I love.

As for the poetic devices: I tried to keep the rhyme, the repetition, the consonance and assonance, the alliteration, and the register, but, as always, a lot was lost in translation.- M.C.

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