April 14, 2010

1866 - Paul Verlaine, "Poèmes saturniens"

The following is a repost of one of my comments. My apologies to those who read this the first time (but at least you get to listen to the audio). I'm probably pushing down today's original piece (tea in samsara) but I suppose it doesn't matter.

Today's post on Terressa's blog invited commenters to share a poem. But the one I wanted to share was french and I couldn't find a good translation. Either they were pretty but too far removed from the original, or stuck doggedly to the original words like a machine translation. None of them respected the structure, though some of them did try to reproduce some kind of rhyming pattern.
It's true that translation is (barring a few exceptions Baudelaire translating Poe to french for instance) a terrible thing to do to poetry, but here is my best try at it, feel free to brand me a criminal:
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1866 - Paul Verlaine, "Poèmes saturniens"

"My Familiar Dream"
I often have this dream, strange and engrossing dream
An unknown woman, whom I love and loves me, and
Every time, she is never quite the same it seems
Nor wholly different, she loves me and understands.

She sees within me, for her, my heart is crystal
Just for her, alas! It’s no longer an issue
Not for her, and when my pale brow beads with hot dew
She alone knows how to cool it, as her tears fall.

Brunette, blonde, or auburn? – I can’t say, don’t ask me.
Her name? It’s sonorous and sweet, as I recall
Like the names of loved ones, whose brimming cups were spilled.

Her gaze, like that of a statue, veiled in mystery.
Her voice, is distant, quiet and grave when she calls,
Echoing tones of beloved voices now stilled.
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And for those who can grok the original here's the french (for those who can't but want to hear it, scroll down):
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1866 - Paul Verlaine, "Poèmes saturniens"

"Mon Rêve familier"
Je fais souvent ce rêve étrange et pénétrant
D'une femme inconnue, et que j'aime, et qui m'aime,
Et qui n'est, chaque fois, ni tout à fait la même
Ni tout à fait une autre, et m'aime et me comprend.

Car elle me comprend, et mon coeur transparent
Pour elle seule, hélas ! cesse d'être un problème
Pour elle seule, et les moiteurs de mon front blême,
Elle seule les sait rafraîchir, en pleurant.

Est-elle brune, blonde ou rousse ? --Je l'ignore.
Son nom ? Je me souviens qu'il est doux et sonore
Comme ceux des aimés que la Vie exila.

Son regard est pareil au regard des statues,
Et pour sa voix, lointaine, et calme, et grave, elle a
L'inflexion des voix chères qui se sont tues.
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Here's a sung version by Julos Beaucarne, a multi-talented Belgian artiste. I grew up hearing this interpretation of the poem, it was one of my mother's many favourites... it wasn't until I got interested in classical poetry (much much later) that I realised it wasn't originally a song.

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I'm not above aping a good idea. Do any of you readers (all four of you) have pieces of well loved poetry you'd be kind enough to share?








A picture from the Père Lachaise cemetery I found online