EUGENIO MONTALE (CUTTLEFISH BONES) Don’t Ask Me for Words
from: Cuttlefish Bones
Don’t Ask Me for Words
Eugenio Montale (12 October 1896 – 12 September 1981)
was an Italian poet, prose writer, editor and translator, and recipient of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Literature. He is widely considered the greatest Italian lyric poet since Giacomo Leopardi.
Don’t Ask Me for Words
Don’t ask me for words that might define
our formless soul, publish it
in letters of fire, and set it shining,
lost crocus in a dusty field.
Ah, that man so confidently striding,
friend to others and himself, careless
that the dog day’s sun might stamp
his shadow on a crumbling wall!
Don’t ask me for formulas to open worlds
for you: all I have are gnarled syllables,
branch-dry. All I can tell you now is this:
what we are not, what we do not want.
Eugenio Montale – Don’t Ask Me for Words
(Poem from Cuttlefish Bones, 1920-1927, trans. by William Arrowsmith, W. W. Norton, New York, 1994)
List of works
1925: Ossi di seppia (“Cuttlefish Bones”), first edition; second edition, 1928, with six new poems and an introduction by Alfredo Gargiulo; third edition, 1931, Lanciano: Carabba.
1932: La casa dei doganieri e altre poesie, a chapbook of five poems published in association with the award of the Premio del Antico Fattore to Montale; Florence: Vallecchi.
1939: Le occasioni (“The Occasions”), Turin: Einaudi.
1943: Finisterre, a chapbook of poetry, smuggled into Switzerland by Gianfranco Contini; Lugano: the Collana di Lugano (June 24); second edition, 1945, Florence: Barbèra.
1948: Quaderno di traduzioni, translations, Milan: Edizioni della Meridiana.
1948: La fiera letteraria poetry criticism.
1956: La bufera e altro (“The Storm and Other Things”), a first edition of 1,000 copies, Venice: Neri Pozza; second, larger edition published in 1957, Milan: Arnaldo Mondadore Editore.
1956: Farfalla di Dinard, stories, a private edition.
1962: Satura, poetry, published in a private edition, Verona: Officina Bodoni.
1962: Accordi e pastelli (“Agreements and Pastels”), Milan: Scheiwiller (May).
1966: Il colpevole.
1966: Auto da fé: Cronache in due tempi, cultural criticism, Milan: Il Saggiatore.
1966: Xenia, poems in memory of Mosca, first published in a private edition of 50.
1969: Fuori di casa, collected travel writing.
1971: Satura (1962–1970) (January).
1971: La poesia non esiste, prose; Milan: Scheiwiller (February).
1973: Diario del ’71 e del ’72, Milan: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore (a private edition of 100 copies was published in 1971).
1973: Trentadue variazioni, an edition of 250 copies, Milan: Giorgio Lucini.
1977: Quaderno di quattro anni, Milan: Mondadori.
1977: Tutte le poesie, Milan: Mondadori.
1980: L’opera in versi, the Bettarini-Contini edition; published in 1981 as Altri verse e poesie disperse, publisher: Mondadori.