A map of Verona is open, the small strange city;
With its river running round and through, it is river-embraced,
And over this city for a whole long winter season,
Through streets on a map, my thoughts have hovered and paced.
I still wake up some nights, thinking about the streets of Verona and of Henry Reed’s “A Map of Verona,” the title poem of his first volume of verse. I was lucky enough to acquire the volume many years before I had ever been to “the small strange city” or noted how the river’s embrace served as a natural moat for the city’s old castle.
Reed’s poem strikes a chord with me, perhaps because I have spent so much of my time preparing for travels in Italy, reading history and poetry, studying maps and timetables, taking notes on places to eat and streets to wander down. Reed understood as well as anyone that maps can only tell so much:
And all was useless that I thought I learned:
Maps are of place, not time, nor can they say
The surprising height and colour of a building,
Nor where the groups of people bar the way.