Eugenio Montale

The Mirages

Not always or almost never does our personal identity coincide
with time measurable with the instruments we have.
The room is big, it has friezes and baroque stuccos,
and the large back window reveals a golden park of Styria,
with some wisps of mist the sun is dissolving.
The interior is pure Vermeer, smaller and more realistic
than reality but with an incorruptible enamel.
On the left, a young girl dressed as a page,
all lace and fine embroidery down to her knee,
is playing with her beloved little monkey.
On her right, her older sister, Arabella,
is consulting a black fortune-teller
who is revealing the impending future to her.
A man of noble lineage is about to join them,
the invincible hero she was waiting for.
It is a question of little time, of minutes, seconds,
soon the stamping of his horses’ hooves will be heard
and then someone will knock at the door…
here my eye tires and withdraws itself
from the keyhole. I have already seen too much
and the temporal ribbon is rewinding itself.
Whoever has worked the miracle is a beer-soaked sponge,
or so he seems, and his companion is the last
Knight Errant of Christianity.


but now
if I re-read myself I think that only anonymity
rules the world, creates it and destroys it
so as to forever re-fashion it more ghost-like
and unrecognizable. There remains the peep-hole
of the almost photographic painter to warn us
that if something once was there is no distance
between the millennium and an instant, between who
appeared and did not appear, between who lived
and he who did not achieve focus of his spyglass. It is
not much and, perhaps it is all.

— translated from the Italian by Giovanni Malto