To lie in shadow on the lawn
By a crumbling wall, pale and withdrawn
And spy in the weeds the gliding snake
And hear the rustle blackbirds make –
To watch in the cracked earth and the grass
Battalions of red ants at drill,
That break and form ranks, pass and repass
In busy marches on some tiny hill –
To catch, each time the leaves blow free,
The faint and pulsing motion of the sea,
While ceaseless, tremulous and shrill,
The cicadas chatter on the bald hill –
Rising, to wander in bewilderment
With the sun's dazzle, and the sorry thought
How all our life, and all its labors spent,
Are like a man upon a journey sent
Along a wall that's sheer and steep and
With bits of broken bottles on its crest.
"The Wall" By Eugenio Montale, translated by Maurice English, from SELECTED POEMS, copyright ©1965 by New Directions Publishing Corp.
Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Excerpt selected by the Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy.