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Don't ask us for the word

(English translation of 'Non chiederci la parola' by Eugenio Montale)

Don't ask us for the word that scrutinises
our shapeless soul, and in letters of fire
declaims and displays it like a crocus
lost in the middle of a dusty field.

Ah, the man who is self-confident,
a friend to others as well as himself,
and doesn't care that the hot sun
stamps his shadow on a crumbling wall!

Don't demand the magic word that opens worlds,
some syllable that's distorted and dry as a stick.
All that we can tell you today is this:
what we aren't, and what we don't wish for.


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

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