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Subject:

Re: "Contains"/The balcony: essential clarifications

From:

Erminia Passannanti <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Poetryetc provides a venue for a dialogue relating to poetry and poetics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 15 Mar 2002 21:05:18 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

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On Fri, 15 Mar 2002 15:30:22 -0500, Candice Ward <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>What a strange, disturbing poem this is, Henry. To whom is it addressed,
>Mussolini or Montale himself, I wonder--Candice
>
>
>


Please, do not misunderstand this very ebautiful poem by Montale. Here are
a few lines toe xplain its content and what subject is at its core. Il
balcone (The balcony) has been said to be an important poem in the
collection Le Occasioni (The Occasions) inspired by a decisive and most
mysterious encounter which Montale kept secret throughout his life  (see
dedication:" to I.B " believed to be Irma Brandeis,  belonging to one of
the most illustrious Hebrew mitteleuropean families than  emigrated in
America (with Luigi Brandeis being the first Jewish who entered the
Supreme Court of the United States, and who was a courageous defender of
freedom).

The name of this Jewish woman who converted to the Christianity represents
only a mere curiosity if its enigmatic references did not cover all
something more profound. Montale's sibylline attitude about unnamed women
(see for instance " Vixen " as Marialuisa Spaziani): the same happens also
for this evoked instigator whose name is turned into anagrams.

Composed in 1933, Il Balcone (The Balcony) is a " Mottetto ", type of
short composition derived from sacred music. Montale entrusts this lyric
with the burdensome task to open the collection. The poem is constituted
of 3 quatrains of 'ottonari'  rich in rhymes - inner and imperfect - The
text is constructed on the antithesis between the poet (loaded with  -
tedio malcerto - emptiness - ) and this new human presence, this Irma.

For the Montale, this woman, leaning on the balcony, towards the light and
full of vitality, while he observes her with the eyes fixed on her
body 'proteso' (leaning forward) emphasized the chiasm between Montale's
void and the woman's desire for and fullness of life, a bridge between the
darkness of the human night and the fullness of the divine luminosity of
the cosmos. The hope is activated by this female presence: the inner space
is no longer closed but  opens up  to the otherness (in this case Montale
speaks of his room, turned towards the woman who is leaning on the balcony
representing for Montale what 'Silvia' represented for Leopardi, a woman
symbolic of the " open space ".
I hope this helps a little, if not we can keep talking about this poem.

Best , Erminia


>on 3/14/02 8:29 AM, Henry Gould at [log in to unmask] wrote:
>
>> This poem, which opens Montale's volume Le Occasioni, seems to comment
on
>> several of the assertions people have been making on this thread.
There is
>> a historical-political aspect - it was written during the Mussolini era.
>>
>> THE BALCONY
>>
>> It seemed child's play
>> to change the void yawning before me
>> into nothingness, your certain fire
>> into tedious uncertainty.
>>
>> Now to that nothingness I have bound
>> my every sluggish motive,
>> that arduous void blunts my yearning
>> to serve you while I live.
>>
>> You have no eyes for any life
>> but that shimmering you alone can see.
>> You lean out toward it
>> from this window, now unlit.
>>
>> (tr. Wm. Arrowsmith)
>>
>>
>> I have trouble thinking of poetry as either a redundancy, or as
exceeding
>> meaning.  Nor do I think of meaning as comfortable.  Nor as the
difference
>> of shifting signifiers.   But poetry is many things at the same time to
>> many people. . .
>>
>> Henry

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