Readers of HOM will already be familiar with my Aldo Buzzi mania
. Anyway, I was trawling the Web the other day and came across this brief poem, which appeared in La Repubblica on October 12, 2005, and was subsequently posted on this blog
. It is, I soon realized, nearly translation-proof. Why? Buzzi is toying with two different Italian cliches: la goccia che fa traboccare il vaso
(the drop that makes the vessel overflow) and the more familiar la paglia che fa stramazzare il cammello
(the straw that breaks the camel's back). But normally English translators simply substitute the second cliche for the first one, since we don't have an exact, idiomatic equivalent for la goccia che fa traboccare il vaso
. Sigh. Anyway, that didn't stop me from wading directly in and making a quick-and-dirty translation. Here it is, along with a jazzy photo of the youthful Aldo, which should probably be titled Portrait of the Artist as a Young Rake.
Look: here is the drop
That makes the camel overflow,
That breaks the vessel’s back.
The drop that breaks the vessel’s back,
The straw that makes the camel overflow,
The vessel that breaks the drop’s back,
The drop that breaks the straw’s back,
Whose immersion of the drop
Fails to break
The goddamn camel’s back.
But now, finally: peace.
The blessed drop falls,
The vessel overflows.
And you, blessed straw,
Add your burden to the staggering, cursed camel
And break its back.