Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Salt sea wind
One of Eugenio Montale’s most famous poems, in his first collection Ossi di seppia (‘Cuttlefish Bones’) describes a sunflower, which the narrator wants to plant in a field ‘parched by the salt sea wind’. This phrase is Jonathan Galassi’s translation of ‘bruciato dal salino’ and in his note to the poem he explains that ‘salino’ is a dialect term in Liguria for the wind impregnated with salt from the sea. There seems to me to be so much condensed poetry in that word ‘salino’…
The beauty of local language is not just a question of individual words. In Arctic Dreams (1986) Barry Lopez says that young people struggle to be fluent in Inukituk because it really only comes alive out on the land. For Lopez, language is not imposed on the landscape, it evolves from a conversation, and “a long-lived enquiry produces a discriminating language”.