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The Black Angel

O great soot-black
angel, shelter me
under your wings,
let me scrape past
the bramble spikes, the oven's shining jets,
and fall to my knees
on the dead embers if perchance
some fringe of your feathers

o small dark angel,
neither heavenly nor human,
angel who shines through,
changing colors, formless
and multiform, equal
and unequal in the swift lightning
of your incomprehensible fabulation

o black angel reveal yourself
but may your splendor not consume me,
leave unmelted the mist that haloes you,
stamp yourself in my thought,
since no eye resists your blazings
coal-black angel sheltering
under the chestnut peddler's cape

great ebony angel
angel dusky
or white
if, weary of my wandering,
I clutched your wing and felt it
I could not know you as now I do,
in sleep, on waking, in the morning
since between true and false no needle
can stop biped or camel,
and the charred residue, the grime
left on the fingertips
is less than the dust
of your last feather, great angel
of ash and smoke, mini-angel
chimney sweep.

  (Text of the poem in the original Italian)

Eugenio Montale

The Collected Poems of Eugenio Montale 1925-1977
W. W. Norton

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