Notturno (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Translated by Stephen Sartarelli
Composed during a period of extended bed rest, Gabriele D'Annunzio's Notturno is a moving prose poem in which imagination, experience, and remembrance intertwine. The somber atmosphere of the poem reflects the circumstances of its creation. With his vision threatened and his eyes completely bandaged, D'Annunzio suffered months of near-total blindness and pain-wracked infirmity in 1921, and yet he managed to write on small strips of paper, each wide enough for a single line. When the poet eventually regained his sight, he put together these strips to create the lyrical and innovative Notturno.
In Notturno D'Annunzio forges an original prose that merges aspects of formal poetry and autobiographical narrative. He fuses the darkness and penumbra of the present with the immediate past, haunted by war memories, death, and mourning, and also with the more distant past, revolving mainly around his mother and childhood. In this remarkable translation of the work, Stephen Sartarelli preserves the antiquated style of D'Annunzio's poetic prose and the tension of his rich and difficult harmonies, bringing to contemporary readers the full texture and complexity of a creation forged out of darkness.
torment has formed and grown in a matter of seconds. I remain immobile. I hear the ticking of the clock like a stabbing pain in the ear, then like a ﬂickering star. There is no ﬁre in my eye. Only, from time to time, a ﬂuttering ring that ﬂoats and fades westward. My mind is seized by the same immobility as grips my bones. No life stirs within me. I have utterly lost the strength to move and shift the great, incoherent masses of lyric substance of which my melancholy consists. I have a single
cunning won’t I use to overcome my diminished sight! I shall keep the enemy always on my left or in front, so help me God. Like my wild Malatestino, I shall say: ‘‘Io vedo pur con l’uno.’’≥∏ I can see just the same, even with one. My fervor will be as before, but my daring shall be schooled by experience and whetted by patience. Second Offering 121 Nothing today has any bounds. Man’s bravery has no bounds. Heroism is limitless. At the pinnacle of lyric power is the poet-hero. Pindar cut his
longer hear the other noises. Then the drip resumes, alas! It passes through the cotton, like the troublesome watering of my bandaged eye. Second Offering 125 Today the demon has put out the ﬁres and invented a new torture. The nurse comes in and says: ‘‘All the hyacinths have fallen in the rainstorm. They’re all on the ground.’’ This grieves me. She adds: ‘‘My ﬁngers got all gooey when I picked up the prettiest ones. The broken stalks give off a ﬂuid that sticks to your hands.’’ She further
enthralling me. In my sleeplessness Alexander Scriabin’s prelude passes back and forth through my brow, which feels as light and transparent as a glass visor on an iron helmet. My entire head weighs heavy, sunken deep in the pillow. I am helmeted with what foot soldiers used to call a cervelliera. But the front part is made of glass, full of cracks and bubbles, and hot as a goblet just fashioned by a glassblower. It is the only faintly luminous part of my sleepless body, just above the blindfold.
grasses and azure with ponds like the fairest of Saint Mark’s daughters, recumbent in the October evening, in you I have left my passion’s innermost mystery, my music’s most secret pulse. I envy the humble twenty-year-old hero of my same stock who ﬁnds peace in you, beneath his little cross of rough-hewn wood. He may not hear, but were I lying in that mound of fresh earth I made him with a nameless sexton’s shovel, I should hear indeed your poplars’ golden melody resonate forever in my eternity.