Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Translation of poem by Mario Luzi

Between Night and Day

"What place is this?" my companion murmurs sleepily,

stirring himself, roused by the shuddering stop

of the train out on open rails.

"Somewhere on the way to Pisa" I answer,

watching the depths of gray where ash-violet mountains

sink into iris.

A stage in the to and fro

between house and country, between burrow and field,

I think, and of him who often speaks of our life

as the struggle of a strange animal between ant and mole.

There must be a thought

not unlike this one

that brings a guilty smile

to his lips, on his back, head against the seat, this early morning.

To die or give in under the yoke

of our species' meanness, I read

in that face, humble and eager,

trusting, of the good sort,

and yes, of the endless revolution at the gates.

"You too are in the game,

you also carry stones

stolen from the ravines

to the edifice," I'm thinking;

and I think of a love larger than my own

that overcomes repugnance

and with a more perfect wisdom takes the good

with the good, closing an eye on the corrupt and rotten.

The flame of swallows escapes,

shot down by the rain;

the railman's shout

that dies above sends off this procession

become lazy in thick grass.

"You have to grow; grow in love

and wisdom" confides the face,

sweating, defeated, in the light of uncertain day.

translation by Nick Benson of Mario Luzi (1914-2005), 'Tra notte e giorno,' Nel Magma (1961-1963), in Tutte le poesie (Garzanti, 1988), pp. 328-29. My notes from another life connect this poem to Montale's 'Voce giunta con le folaghe,' in La bufera e altro ...etc.

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