|L’autoritratto di Montale. 1952.|
My last Friday Notebook post should have included the following—a translation of Montale‘s famous sunflower poem, occasioned by a request from Conrad DiDiodato for versions of it to be published on his blog. Conrad himself and Annie Wyndham (see here and here) have weighed in as well. I highly recommend that you visit Conrad’s post and contribute your own version, just for fun. I had a wonderful time doing mine, especially since I don’t know Italian!
Bring me the sunflower, and I’ll make it
take root in my garden seared by salt wind,
and all day long the sky’s blue will reflect
upon the excitation of its yellow face.
All dark things lean toward clarity,
bodies exhaust themselves into a flow
of colors: into these airs. To fade away,
then, is the most adventurous venture.
Bring me the plant that leads us up
to where blonde transparencies arise
and the essence of life mists away;
bring me the sunflower delirious with light.
And, since I just got my copy of William Arrowsmith‘s versions, The Collected Poems of Eugenio Montale, 1925-1977, let me include Arrowsmith’s take on the poem. It didn’t occur to me until I saw it in this book that the poem is one of several untitled poems in the sequence “Cuttlefish Bones” (Ossi di seppia), from Montale’s collection (his first) of the same name. Like Williams’s red wheelbarrow poem (part of the Spring and All sequence), Montale’s benefits from being read in context:
Bring me the sunflower, I’ll plant it here
in my patch of ground scorched by salt spume,
where all day long it will lift the craving
of its golden face to the mirroring blue.
Dark things are drawn to brighter,
bodis languish in a flowing
of colors, colors in musics. To vanish,
then, is the venture of ventures.
Bring me the flower that leads us out
where blond transparencies rise
and life evaporates as essence.
Bring me the sunflower crazed with light.
See Conrad’s post for the Italian original….