Eugenio Montale


Celebrating a new volume, The Collected Poems (1920-1954), published by Farrar Straus Giroux. Both works are translated by Jonathan Galassi.


Winter lingers on. The sun is doled out
with a dropper. Isn't it strange that we,
lords and perhaps inventors of the universe,
to understand a piece of it, must trust
the charlatans and soothsayers mushrooming everywhere?
It seems obvious the Gods
are beginning to tire of their presumptive
children or wards.
Even clearer that, Gods or demigods,
they in turn have quit
their employers, if they ever had any.
But. . .


I was giving a lecture
to the "Friends of Cacania"
on the subject "Is Life Likely?"
when I remembered I
was totally agnostic,
love and hate in equal parts and the outcome
unsure, depending on the moment.
Then I decided five minutes
were enough--
two and a half for the thesis
two and a half for the antithesis
this was the only homage possible
for a man without qualities.
I spoke exactly thirty-five sconds.
And when I said
that yes and no were look alikes
shouts and whispers interrupted my talk
and I awoke. It was the most laconic dream
of my life, maybe the only one not devoid
of "quality."