Paul Archer - photo Paul Archer - poet, translator



The eel

(English translation of 'L'anguilla' by Eugenio Montale)

The eel, the siren
of cold seas leaves the Baltic
to arrive in the Mediterranean,
in our estuaries, in our rivers,
returns deep down, against the current,
from branch to branch and then
from capillary to capillery, ever thinner,
deeper and deeper, ever onward into the core
of the rock, infiltrating
slimy rills until one day
a light fired from chestnut trees
ignites a flicker in the stagnant puddles,
in the ravines that descend
from the cliffs of the Apennines to the Romagna;
the eel, flickering flame, whip,
the earthbound arrow of Love
that only our Italian gullies or dried-up
Pyrenean streams lead back
to paradises of spawning;
the green spirit that searches
for life where there’s only
grinding drought and desolation,
the glint that says
everything starts where everything seems
incinerated, a buried stump;
fast-fading rainbow, twin
to the iris framed by your eyelashes
shining out, pristine, among the sons
of Man - immersed in your own mud, can you
not see her as your sister?

For more translations of poems by Eugenio Montale, go to Translations.

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