Monday, December 24, 2012

The long wait for the angel

After four years I have decided to read my fourth book in Italian in thirty years. It's a powerful "incandescent" novel on the life of the Venetian Reneaissance painter Jacomo Tintoretto. The details, the atmosphere are vibrant, the colour red dominates with that sense of peculiar closeness the stones and walls of my city can create. The stones' stare. And the water lapping your breath.
"The long wait for the angel" is the English translation of the title of this novel. A novel my wife praised to me probably more than any other. What is interesting is that "The long wait for the angel" is not really the translation of the title since it is the translation in Italian of a line from a 1956 Sylvia Plath's poem which I have just found. I felt it so close to me when I read it that I received that jolt any reader of poetry I think knows well when each line he or she has just taken in is on target. This is probably the best poem I have ever read on miracles and on the wait for them.



Black Rook in Rainy Weather
by Sylvia Plath


On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, not seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Leap incandescent

Out of the kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then ---
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largesse, honor,
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); sceptical,
Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait's begun again,
The long wait for the angel.
For that rare, random descent.
 

2 comments:

Dave King said...

This has really whetted my appetite. Thank you so much for the steer. Have a Fab' New Year!

Crafty Green Poet said...

wow, I probably read more books in Italian than you do!

Wonderful poem, from Plath, i only recently discovered her work, but she was a great writer