was raining copiously. Farther than the inner court-yard, farther than
a painful zigzag of roofs the tangle of a very high and stripped tree
raises up. In gusts the rain veil and reveals it and makes a hardly
engraved etching or a faded pastel of it. Now a black point fallen from
the sky perch on the highest branch, a little crooked thin branch which
immediately bows under that weight. It's a big bird not a small one
considering the branch decline and the dark stain the bird prints on
the grey sky. Some other birds cutting rain yarns -sparrow or swallows?-
are points much smaller.
No, the bird over there is not a sparrow nor a pigeon; it came down
diving by a stormy fly, discovering light points among feathers of its
fringed wings. It turns on itself pecking its tail that seems very long;
and the branch serves as a swing for it. Looking carefully it get bigger
and bigger while the tangle of branches can't almost been seen anymore.
The tree is giant , it must be secular; from how many hundreds of windows
is possible to look at it? Perhaps I'm the only one who noticed the
celestial visitor, perhaps I'm not the only one. In fact if I stretch
my inner ear, it seem to me to catch many other voices I'm listening
to for the first time and I'll never hear anymore.
"It's a travelling pigeon, it's a lost magpie, it's a duck"
say almost in chorus the inhabitants of the fourteenth floor of a brick
"It may be a kestrel. But I can't see its beak. Adalgisa can you
give me binoculars?" say the naturalist harboured in a raising
of Borgospesso street.
"It's Edgar Poe's crow" says the old painter of 17 Bigli street
who illustrated that poem thirty years ago.
"'You can't die, immortal bird!'" says from an attic in Pietro
Verri street a bold-headed man who has been rejected twice at the English
literature free teaching. "Who wrote these words? Keats or Shelley?
Pasqualina, please, can you give me the yellow book on the fireplace.
Lark or nightingale? But that one is as big as a hen. 'You can't die...'.
Damn it! If I think I've been ill-treated exactly with this poem..."
"It seems a peacock. But is it possible for it to get over there?"
says a house-steward in Saint' Andrea street. "Come on Annie, don't
be fastidious, stay here with me a while; masters went out. Have you
ever eaten a peacock?"
A more confused noise, a snap (maybe a kiss?), a little squabble can
"It's a sparrow-hawk" says a woman's voice coming from a roof
beside mine. "A young, happy sparrow-hawk...and free. It can go
everywhere it likes the most. Storm can't hurt it; it doesn't know bores,
engagements and worries. It flies and lives. In a little time it will
reach Codogno, than Parma, than Sicily. It goes down on a tree it hasn't
been asked identity card. It eats whatever it finds, grasses, mice,
bugs; it drinks a rose leaves elixir, sweetest than Chablis. It's a
god dressed with feathers, but always a god. It's a sparrow-hawk, I
say. I wish I could be it."
"Are you mad?" says the voice of the man who must be close
to her. "Sparrow-hawks live on the mountain, they are embalmed
and they aren't happy at all. I guess it's only a jay, an old poor jay
which perhaps will be killed by a hunter. Uneatable in addition. What
are you mumbling? Is it better an hour of freedom than a life of slivery?
Stupid romanticism! Can't you see if you don't go to office, on Sunday,
you feel lost, more dead than alive? People invent for themselves unfinished
obligations, they get in a lot of troubles to enjoy in overcoming them.
People cultivate their own unhappiness for the fancy they get in fighting
against it in little doses. Being always unhappy, but not too much,
is the condition sine qua non of little intermittent happiness. Am I
speaking like a teacher? She-ass! What would you do over there on the
tree? Are you going to leave to Codogno, to Sicily? Oh yes? Do you dare
to say that? Try to do, stupid! Fly! Try to fly, poor wretch!".
A gust makes the window glasses tremble and shakes the tree too. with
a pitch, the sparrow-hawk flew up from the branch, it's silhouetted
against the sky as like as an heraldic emblem, than it disappears with
a dive among highest roofs. It resumes its journey. The branch it perched
on shakes for a long while. The rain pelts stronger. I'm reached by
voices of a brawl that I can't distinguish. Than I hear the voice of
the man I heard little ago saying: "you are right, I'm sorry, it
was a sparrow-hawk, a strong free wonderful sparrow-hawk. You wish you
could be it...I understand. I wish I could be it too...but with you.
Here is the difference, the little difference. What are you saying?
Isn't it a little difference? It was a sparrow-hawk, forgive me, I don't
know why I got to deny it into my head. I don't know much about birds.
Now it should be at Casalpusterlengo, perhaps on the Po river.
It was a sparrow-hawk; I'm saying yoùre right, I'm saying it
on my knees, for pity shake..."
Another blow of wind a strange sound (maybe a kiss). Than a last voice
thread: "added with milk or lemon? I can never remember it. We
stay so little at home...What a beautiful bird! I think it may be at
Piacenza in the Horses square by now."
(Eugenio Montale, La farfalla di Dinard,
translated by I.V.)