He would be a smothering cloak

stupidascimmia

New Member
Italian
Hello everybody.
I'm trying to translate the quoted sentence (from Patti Smith's biography) in Italian but I've some difficulties in understanding it, and the Italian-English forum cannot help me, neither the poetical context.

Talking about her dying friend, she said:
He would be a smothering cloak, a velvet petal.

In this case is "would" used as a kind of past tense of "will" or "going to"? Or in this case is "would" meant to work as a synonym of "used to"? Maybe she is telling us about an "habitual past behaviour" of her dying friend: he felt in that way more than once... :confused:


many thanks
a.
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Could you give us some more context, please, stupidascimmia?

    What are the sentences immmediately before and after this (up to a maximum of 4 sentences in all)? What's happening at this part of the story?

    PS: Welcome to the forums:)
     

    stupidascimmia

    New Member
    Italian
    the paragraph begins with the quoted sentence. here it is:

    "He would be a smothering cloak, a velvet petal. It was not the thought, but the shape of the thought that tormented him. It entered him like a horrific spirit and caused his heart to pound so hard, so irregularly, that his skin vibrated and he felt as if he were beneath a lurid mask, sensual but suffocating."


    many thanks
     

    stupidascimmia

    New Member
    Italian
    ops. :eek:
    I've forgotten to say that at this point of the story her friend (Robert Mapplethorpe) is dying of AIDS.


    (thanks for the welcoming!!)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Thanks, ascimmia:) (I'm sure you're not stupid <eek>!)

    So it's the dying friend talking, and picturing his death - is that right?

    If so, it seems pretty clear that "would" here is a "future in the past": what he's actually saying to himself, in direct speech, is "I will be a smothering cloak, a velvet petal".
     

    stupidascimmia

    New Member
    Italian
    thank you much Loob

    I'm not sure it's the dying friend talking, here. (but I'm a stupidASCIMMIA!)

    But the most important question for me is whether or not that "would" can express a past habit. Was he already feeling like a smothering cloak, a velvet petal? (If not, I'm not having trouble with the translation.)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm as sure as I can be without more context that this is "future in the past", for two reasons.

    First, it looks very much, whether or not it's the friend speaking/thinking, as if the speaker/thinker is picturing the future.
    So:
    She said/thought "He will be a smothering cloak, a velvet petal" or
    He said/thought "I will be a smothering cloak, a velvet petal"
    >
    [(s)he said/thought that] he would be a smothering cloak, a velvet petal.

    Secondly, whenever you use "would" to refer to habitual action in the past, you always need an explicit time reference (eg when I was young, I would climb trees with my brothers). You haven't got one here.
     
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