[Here’s another translation I did a long time ago of a poem by Italian “crepuscular” poet Guido Gozzano (1883-1916). I discovered it in a volume called The Poem Itself edited by Stanley Burnshaw that contained several non-English poems along with detailed glosses and some words translated. Another little homage to the decadence of the fin-de-siècle European male.]


Toto Merumeni

from Guido Gozzano


With its rambling gardens, vast rooms, and its
seventeenth century balconies overrun with verdure,
this villa seems like something from my verses,
yes, the typical villa from a Book of Letters.

The villa thinks, sadly, of better times. It thinks
of gay parties beneath century old trees, of
illustrious banquets in immense dining rooms,
the festive salons raped for their antiques.

But where, in olden times, came the House of Onsaldo,
House of Ratazzi, House of Azeglio, House of Odone, now stops
a sputtering automobile, trembling, twitching,
and some hairy stranger walks to knock the Gorgon.

A barking is heard, a passing… cautiously the door
opens… in this cloistral and barrackish silence
Toto Merumeni lives with his “convalescent” mother,
his schizophrenic uncle, his gray-haired great aunt.


Toto is twenty-five years old, melancholic,
quite cultured, with a taste in the inkwell works;
slight in brains, slight in morals, and scary
in his hunches… he is a true child of our times.

Not rich, one day he decided to “peddle my wordlings”
(there’s his Petrarch!), an embezzler, a gazetteer…
He chose exile. Liberated, he reflects presently
on his follies. We’re safer not to print them here.

Oh, he’s not bad. To the poor, he sends money
to keep them going… to his friends, a basket of fruit.
He’s not bad. Students come to him for a topic;
for connections… he’s a service to most emigrants.

Cold, conscious of his self, his faults,
oh, he’s not bad. He’s the Good Man sketched by Nietzsche:
“…in truth, I must the deride that fawning creature
called good… simply because he lacks claws…”

After draining studies, he runs to his garden, plays
with his sweet friends, the earth inviting…
His sweet friends are: a caterwauling blue jay,
a pussy cat… and Makakita his little monkey.


Life had taken from him all his early promise.
For years he dreamed of loves that would not call.
Despairing, he conjured a princess, an actress;
today he loves the cook… she is eighteen years old.

When the house sleeps, this girl, barefoot,
a fresh chill plum in the day’s first light,
comes to his room, with lips to his bounces
onto him… he possesses her blesséd and supine.


Toto cannot feel. Some latent, untamed illness
dried up the prime founts of his sentiments;
analysis and sophistry have made of this man
what flames make of a house in healthy winds.

As that ruin, however, that has seen fire
produces gladiolas with colorform flowers,
his parched soul loosens, oh little by little,
a scattered efflorescence of consolatory verses.


So Toto Merumeni, after sad events,
is near grace. He alternates research and rhyme.
He is locked in, meditates, expands, explores, understands
the Life of the Spirit which he never understood.

For the voice is small, and his treasured art
immense… and because Time (even as I write!) flies…
Toto writes apart, he smiles, sees a future.
He lives. One day he was born. One day he dies.