Twentieth Century Poetry: Selves and Situations

By Peter Robinson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Charles Tomlinson in the
Golfo dei Poeti

I

Charles Tomlinson first went to Italy in the autumn of 1951. He had gone there as a secretary to Percy Lubbock, the author of The Craft of Fiction. Lubbock lived in a villa between Lerici and Fiascherino. It is a literary coastline, with many poetic associations. Across the bay from Lerici, at Portovenere, is Byron’s Grotto. Shelley lived in a villa at San Terenzo, up the coast towards La Spezia. D. H. Lawrence was staying in Fiascherino in 1914, reading I Poeti Futuristi (1912).1 Travel northward up the Ligurian coast and there is Monterosso, where you can walk along the Lungomare Eugenio Montale, and further up towards Genoa is Rapallo, where Yeats and Pound had homes. Go southward down the coast to Bocca di Magra. There, Vittorio Sereni’s family rented a holiday house. Across the river, at Fiumaretta, Franco Fortini spent his summers. Inland is Sarzana, the town where Guido Cavalcanti was exiled from Florence, where he was thought to have written the ballata whose opening, ‘Perch’ i’ no spero di tornar giammai’,2 was rendered into English as ‘Because I do not hope to turn again’.3

Tomlinson had not been at Lubbock’s villa Gli scafari4 for a month when he was sacked because of his accent. The incident with its explanation is given in the memoir Some Americans. Percy Lubbock

had been legislating on the pronunciation of the English a as in past and castle,
insisting that it should be long also in ants. Clearly he had not revisited the island

1 See D. H. Lawrence, The Complete Poems, ed. V. de Sola Pinto and W. Roberts (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), 9.

2 Guido Cavalcanti, Rime, ed. G. Cattaneo (Turin: Einaudi, 1967), 61.

3 T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems 1909–1962 (London: Faber & Faber, 1963), 95.

4 See Charles Tomlinson, Collected Poems (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 26–7, and, for his ‘Fiascherino’, 12–13. Page numbers in parentheses refer to this volume.

-164-

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