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Translated from the Italian by Mary Jane White
Published: Sun Jul 1 2007
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.
Café at Rapallo

Translated from the Italian by Mary Jane White


Season of The Nativity in this tepidarium,
Polished, fixed in the vapors
Unwinding from these cups, veiled
Trembling of lights beyond these locked
Crystals, female profiles
Against the grey, among the flashing of jewels
And friction of silks . . .

_                                                 _They are come
Even to these, your native beaches,
The new Sirens! And you are missed,
Camillo, my friend, you, our raconteur
Of cupidity and sweet delay.

With a great noise in the street,

At a glance outside,
The indescribable music
Of bugles
And children’s sharp cymbals:
That innocent music is gone by.

And a gnomish world is gone with it,
With the rattling of little mules and wheelbarrows,
Between the long-drawn mountains
Of paper-mache and fascist glitter
Of sabers bound up in tinfoil.
Gone, too, are the Generals
With their cocked hats of cardboard,
Brandishing their spears of nougat;
Gone are their furious supporters
With their dripping candle-ends and pikes,
And their trail of empty cans
That, for a year or more, minced along so nicely,
That feeble stream that can charm
A doubting soul:
(Astounding the very sense of hearing).
That horde is gone, with its clamor
And its stampede of crudities,
Brought on by the most recent thunderings.
And there will be pastures to receive them,
That are, for us, no longer green.


Eugenio Montale (1896-1981) was an Italian poet, prose writer, editor, and translator, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975. “Café at Rapallo” reflects Montale’s experience as an infantry office during World War I.

Mary Jane White lives with her son, Ruffin, in Waukon, Iowa, where she has practiced law for twenty-seven years. She is a recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, one for poetry and one for translation. Her MFA is from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her book Starry Sky to Starry Sky (Holy Cow! Press, 1988) includes translations of M. Tsvetaeva. Her translation of Tsvetaeva’s elegy for Rilke, “New Year’s” is forthcoming from Adastra Press. Other new poems and translations appear in The New England Review, Epicenter, and The Iowa Review. (12/2007)

Eugenio Montale (1896–1981) was a contemporary Italian poet. He published over eleven volumes of poetry, as well as four books of prose, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975.

Mary Jane White is the author of the poetry collection Dragonfly. Toad. Moon. (Press 53, forthcoming 2022). Her translations of Marina Tsvetaeva appear along with original poems in Starry Sky to Starry Sky (Holy Cow! Press, 1988). She has also translated Tsvetaeva’s New Year’s: An Elegy for Rilke (Adastra Press, 2007) and After Russia: Poems of an Emigrant (bilingual edition; Adelaide Books, forthcoming 2021). Recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, one in poetry and one in translation, White is a retired trial lawyer who holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. (updated 10/2021)
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