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Gwen John drawing

The poem below is the coda to Elsa Morante's Menzogna e sortilegio -- badly translated in English as House of Liars, a text which omits 200 pages of

the original. There has been an excellent article on Elsa Morante by Jenny Turner in the LRB for 20 April 2017. Turner comes closer to

underestanding and sympathizing with Morante than most though she quotes Pasolini and Parkes who both savage Morante's Historia as a mess when it

is a brilliantly effective l'ecriture femme account of the ravages of WW2 from the perpsective of a powerless working or lower middle class woman

who gives birth to an epileptic child.

Elena Ferrante's work is heavily indebted to Elsa Morante.


For Alvaro the Cat

Your nest is in my arms,

Indolent flame-like spirit, shining one.
High noons and the shadows of night are yours

You change from dove to owl and take your flight
From darkened tombs to the smoky netherworld

When every light is spent, the pupils of your eyes

Shine in the darkness, companion of my sleeplessness

The solemn truce is broken, a thousand torches

Burn briefly in the night, as little tigers
Follow each other in the sweet delirium.

Then your blank lamplike eyes
Are closed in rest, lights which will
be in the morning

The glory of my windowsill, my double flower

Of lovely eyes.

And I was once your equal!

Your equal ... Do you recall that ancient time,
Creature of arrogant sorrow? Under dark leaves
We dwelt together in the shining garden

Among the simple tribes of Paradise.

My fate was exile; but your home is there
How then can you grant me your love
o savage one?

While your peers, the animals of heaven:

Live like the gods at ease, before the dawn

Holding their feasts and wars and heartless chase,
Why do you stay by my side, you who are free,

Deathless and innocent, while in my very breath
Live the three dooms of prison, sin, and death?
Among the moons and suns there, glistening thorns

and fleeting shades,

Leap the immortal young, proud in their strength
In the splendid hurricane of breaking day --
All your gallant brothers with the lovely names:
Atropos, Viola, Passion Flower, Palomba.

Is it for love of me you stay?

No answer? You hide all longed-for secrets

As the Damascene sword conceals its shining blade
In a sheath of velvet, zebra-striped. The secrets of the


Are not for women's ears. Then close your eyes and


Sing me sweet flatteries in your PUTTS and sighs,
Sing praises, make your honey, 0 my bee.

The memory of all my questions fades,

Crows shadowy, and I would rest.

The simple joy of having you for friend

Fills my heart to the brim; my agonies and fancies
Die in your kisses and your sweet laments,

So deeply you console me,

a cat of mine

A very worthwhile book on Cats: Dr Nicholas Dodman's Attitudes, Emotions, and the Psychology of Cats: The cat who cried for help: this is an excellent study in the mode of Oliver Sacks: a cat whose behavior is inconveniencing or troubling its owner is taken to Dodman who diagnoses the ill often mistreated cat and then extrapolates out from there. It will help you understand your cat, treat him or her more humanely, have a good relationship on both sides.  It will also show you how cruel and thoughtless owners are: how they do not see the cat for itself but as an adjunct of their own existence. I do this too, I am as guilty, and like many try to find some compromise between the way I want to spend my minutes, hours, days and what the cat wants as well as what is good for it. The great controversy is whether to let the cat go out. It's too late for mine as they are over 8 and have never been out.  They sit by the window and look longingly and I know were I to leave the door open eventually they would go out. They would probably be quickly killed - run over, starve (as they have never been taught to eat what they hunt). It's too late for them; for others the outdoor life shortens theirs, but I understand from the book that British cats mostly are indoors/outdoors. Sigh. They have as many cars as Americans, as many diseases.

Following Dodman I know Ian cries because he needs more play and I am now playing with him more and he is yet more enjoying life. This book can make for less suffering and loneliness in the world as so many own cats or care for them if only we will listen to, heed Dr Dodman.

Miss Drake


May. 11th, 2017 10:38 am (UTC)
The original Italian
The software refused to put both languages on the blog side-by-side; the continual software reply was the blog was too large: the above blog has also given me a lot of trouble. I could not get the latter half of the verses to come with clear typography. However, I so loved the poem and felt it meaningful in context that I sent it out imperfect. Here is the extraordinary Italian:

Fra Ie mie braccia e il tuo nido,
pigro, 0 £ocoso genio, 0 lucente,
mio futile! Mezzogiorni e tenebre /son tue magioni, e ti trasformi
di colomba in gufo, e dalle tombe
voli aile regioni dei fumi.
Quando ogni luce e spenta, accendi al nero
Ie tue pupille, 0 doppiero
el mio dormiveglia, e s'incrina
Ia tregua solenne, ardono effimere
mille torce, tigri infantili
s'inseguono nei dolci deliri.
Poi riposi Ie fatue lampade
che saranno al mattino i1 vanto
del mio davanzale, il fior gemello
E t'ero uguale!
Uguale! Ricordi, tu,
arrogante mestizia? Di foglie
tetro e sfolgorante, un giardino
abitammo insieme, fra i1 popolo
barbaro del Paradiso. Fu per me l'esilio,
ma la camera tua la rimane,
e nella mia terrestre fugace passi
giocante pellegrino. Perche mi concedi
i1 tuo favore, 0 selvaggio?
Mentre i tuoi pari, gli animali celesti
gustan Ie folli indolenze, le antelucane feste
di guerre e cacce senza cuori, perche
'tu qui con me? Perenne, tu, libero, ingenue,
ed io tre cose ho in sorte:
prigione peccato e morte.
Fra lune e soli, fra lucenti spini, erbe e chimere
saltano Ie immortali giovani fiere,
i galanti fratelli dai bei nomi: Ricciuto,
Atropo, Viola, Fior di Passione, Palomba,
nel fastoso uragano del prirno giorno ...
E tu? Per amor mio?
Non mi rispondi? Le confidenze invidiate
imprigioni tu, come spada di Damasco Ie storie d'oro
in velluto zebrato. Segreti di fiere
non si dicono a donne. Chiudi gli occhi e cantami
lusinghe lusinghe coi tuoi sospiri ronzanti,
ape mia, fila i tuoi mieli.
Si ripiega la memoria ombrosa
d'ogni domanda io voglio riposarmi.
L'allegria d'averti amico
basta al euore. E di mie fole e stragi
coi tuoi baci, coi tuoi dolci lamenti,
tu mi consoli,
o gatto mio!

Edited at 2017-05-11 11:17 am (UTC)

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