This is my favorite poem to read when I’m going through a rough time. It is a translation by Robert Lowell of the Italian poet Eugenio Montale. It is lost to many because it is not online, but it is beautifully written and perfectly translated. I hope it finds an audience through me.
Its narrator is likely deceased and certainly away, but that hardly matters. This is about the ceaseless reach and protection provided by unconditional love, in even the worst of circumstances.
Keep my spectrum in your pocket-mirror. It’s going to be OK.
Words to carry you, when you need them.
This thing the night flashes
like marshlight through the skull of my mind,
this pearl necklace snail’s trail,
this ground glass, diamond-dust sparkle—
it is not the lamp in any church or office,
tended by some adolescent altar boy,
Communist or papist,
in black or red.
I have only this rainbow
to leave you, this testimonial
of a faith, often invaded,
of a hope that burned more slowly
than a green log on the fire.
Keep its spectrum in your pocket-mirror,
when every lamp goes out,
when hell’s orchestra trembles,
and the torch-bearing Lucifer
lands on some blowsprit
in the Thames, Hudson or Seine—
rotating his hard coal wings,
half lopped by fatigue, to tell you, “Now.”
It’s hardly an heirloom or charm
that can tranquillize monsoons
with a transparent spider web of contemplation—
but an autobiography can only survive in ashes,
persistence is extinction.
It is certainly a sign: whoever has seen it,
will always return to you.
Each knows his own: his pride
was not an escape, his humility
was not a meanness, his obscure
was not the fizzle of a wet match.