“Any hope of ever seeing you again” by Eugenio Montale

Eugenio Montale was an Italian poet awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975. His work occasionally seems difficult, but the apparent obscurity often arises from references to events in his life of which the reader has no knowledge. The following poem, for example, alludes to an event both poet and former lover Irma Brandeis witnessed some time earlier in the city of Modena.

Any hope of ever seeing you again

Any hope of ever seeing you again
was slipping away;

and I wondered if that which cut off for me
all sense of you, that screen of images,
contained signs of death or if from the past
there was within it, though distorted and tenuous,
some glimmer of you:

(through Modena, under the arcades,
a liveried servant dragged
two jackals on leashes).

—translated by David Bowles
July 14, 2014

The original Italian:

La speranza di pure rivederti
m’abbandonava;

e mi chiesi se questo che mi chiude
ogni senso di te, schermo d’immagini,
ha i segni della morte o dal passato
è in esso, ma distorto e fatto labile,
un tuo barbaglio:

(a Modena, tra i portici,
un servo gallonato trascinava
due sciacalli al guinzaglio).

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