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Monday, October 07, 2013

A poem by Montale

In Retrospect
1 January, 1969

Maybe
you are no longer what you have been
and rightly so. The glass-paper
has scraped us too, and the line that was left
gets thinner.
Yet something was written on the pages of our life.
To hold them up against the light is to magnify that sign,
form a hieroglyph bigger than the diadem
that used to dazzle me.
No more shall I see you emerge
from the hovercraft or from the seaweed’s depth
– skin-diver amidst muddy rapids –
to give meaning to the living. You would walk
down the Woolworth’s escalator,
the only living person among
masked corpses, and wouldn’t even ask
if it was encounter, choice or message,
and which of us two was the bull’s eye
they shoot at in the fairground booths.
Nor would I ask, since
I have seen for an instant.
and that’s enough for those walking in a crowd,
as it happens with us, if we are still alive,
or thought we were. All’s uncertain.

Eugenio Montale

Translated by G. Singh (1969)

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