Saturday, April 6, 2013

Contrerime XXV

This poem has a play on words in the last two lines that depend on the fact that French adverbs, like French adjectives, may possess a masculine and feminine form. Since this situation does not exist in English, the translator must work around it and express the sense in as near a manner as possible. What lends piquancy to Toulet's "feminisation" of Enfin to Enfine, is that there is no feminine version of enfin. So I required that there would be a sense of women's vulnerability being equal to men's; plus a little dark humour to go with the helplessness of the opium addict - a state with which Toulet was unfortunately all too familiar. I have also deliberately used the words "smack" and "crack" for their value as puns in the context of the poem. To "crack" is to joke, for my non-English readers; there is also the added association of "cracked ribs" together with the reference to the story of Eve's creation in Genesis .

Contrerime XXV
O poète, à quoi bon chercher
des mots pour son délire ?
Il n' y a qu' au bois de ta lyre
que tu l' as su toucher.

Plus haut que toi, dans sa morphine,
chante un noir séraphin.
Ma nourrice disait qu' Enfin
est le mari d' Enfine.


O poet, in her drug-induced gyre
Mere words cannot leech her.
You have only been able reach her
with a smack of your lyre.

Tougher than you, in her opiate crib
hums a dark demon.
My nurse liked to crack that woman
is but man’s spare rib.

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