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Thrust and riposte (abridged)

...The time has come, now, to suspend the suspension
of every worldly deception -
wished for by you for me...

Living on memories - I can no longer.
Better the bite of the ice than your sleepwalker's
lethargy, O late awakener!

Scarcely emerged from adolescence,
for half my life I was thrown
into the Augean stables.

I did not find two thousand oxen,
nor did i see any animals - ever -
and yet in the pathways,
thicker and thicker with dung,
walking was difficult,
breathing was difficult -
The human bellowing grew from day to day.

Then from year to year - who counted the
seasons any more in that thick mist? - a hand
feeling for the tiniest openings
worked in its memorial...until from the crevices
the fanning fire of a machine-gun pushed us back,
tired shovellers caught in the act
by the foreign police chiefs of the mud.

And at last the fall - beyond belief!

What did that new mire mean?
and the breathing of other, but similar, stenches?
and the whirlpool-whirling on rafts of dung?
Was that the sun, that filthy grub from a sewer
over the chimney pots?

...(I think
that perhaps yoùve stopped reading me.
But now you know all of me,
of my prison and my life afterwards;
now you know that the eagle can't be born
of a mouse.)

(Eugenio Montale,"Botta e risposta I", Satura
The translations are from the
edited by Jon Silkin)