Thursday, August 24, 2006

Baroque Convents

How would you describe a baroque convent?

Well you might lean towards physical description in painstaking detail. Or you might try a psychological approach contrasting spiritual and material values. Or you could go for shape, contour, colour etc...
Eugenio Montale goes for “foam and biscuit”, and already I think I can see this place. Although I didn't see the dachshund coming, until it came.
This was written in the 1930s (my translation, blasted down this evening):

Towards Vienna

The baroque convent
of foam and biscuit
blocked off sight of slow waters
and ready tables, scattered here and there
with leaves and ginger.

A swimmer emerged beneath
a raincloud of midges,
asked about our trip,
spoke long of his own from beyond the border.

He pointed to the bridge ahead that we could cross
(he informed us) with a single toll.
He waved his hand, sank,
was the current itself…
And in his place,
a happy dachshund
sprang frantically from a kennel,
and barked,

a unique, fraternal voice in the humid air.

- Eugenio Montale

3 comments:

C. E. Chaffin said...

I don't translate so I can't comment on your translation, but I really like the poem. I love the magical realism.

Cailleach said...

It reminds me of Hansel and Gretel somehow and seems to capture a surrealist stroke too. I like this a lot.

Rob Mackenzie said...

It is a very fine poem. I'll have to tighten up the translation a bit. It's not too bad, but a little loose in places. Thanks.