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.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Contrerime XXIII

Carthame chatoyant, cinabre,
   Colcothar, orpiment,
Vous dont j'ai goûté l' ornement
   Sur la rive cantabre ;

Orpiment, dont l' éclat soyeux
   Le soleil lui reflète ;
Colcothar, tendre violette
   Éclose  dans ses yeux ;

Fleur de cinabre, étroite et rare,
   Secret d' un beau jardin ;
Carthame et toi, rose soudain,
   Dont sa pudeur se pare...

Not a great poem; Toulet is playing with alchemy, with sonority, with perhaps some Rosicrucian imagery.
This is a little of what Daniel Aranjo has to say on the matter (and he has a lot to say - cf. the second volume of his work on Toulet, pp. 94-98, 154, 162-165 and 186 ff).
"Il ne faut donc pas avoir assez basse opinion, ni de Toulet, ni même de soi, pour croire que ces mots ont été employés par le Maître comme on les aurait soi-même employés à sa place : au hasard seulement ; et uniquement pour le hasard des sonorités."
Now read Jorge Jimeno on the same matter: "Este poema no se ha visto privado de interpretaciones alquímicas, aunque me parece improbable que Toulet, un paisajista consumado, se dejase llevar pos los galimatías de la alquímica, y sí por la sonoridad, belleza y resonancia de los vocablos elegidos."

Here's the Translation.

Shimmering saffron, cinnabar,
Colcothar, orpiment,
I savoured your ornament
On the Biscay shore;

Orpiment, whose silky shine
Has the sun reflect;
Colcothar, soft violet
Budding in her eyes;

Tight, rare cinnabar flower
Secret of a garden close,
Saffron and you, suddenly a rose
Whose modesty becomes her...

Notes:  Carthame: Dyers’ Carthame, or bastard saffron.
Colcothar (rouge d’Angleterre): a finely powdered form of ferric oxide produced by heating ferric sulphate, used as a pigment and as jewellers’ rouge; also called crocus.
Cinnabar is a red sulfide of mercury.
Orpiment is a yellow or orange pigment, a natural sulfur of arsenic, that presents itself in gold or orange flakes, used in painting and pharmacy.
La rive cantabre could be either Biscay or Cantabria  - le golfe de Gascogne est parfois appelé golfe cantabrique.

Fleur de cinabre, étroite et rare : façàn galante de désigner le sexe feminin.

Aranjo: "La rose était celle de la pudeur féminine : la sensualité, ce perpétuel mystère pour Toulet ; est divinisée et fournit ici … le terme de la quête et de l’alchimie poétiques"
Federico Garcia Lorca has a similar rendering in his poem Preciosa y el aire -

Niña, deja que levante
tu vestido para verte.
Abre en mi dedos antiguos
la rosa azul de tu vientre.

Contrerime VIII

This one was missing from the sequence as I was never happy with the translation. I'm still not entirely satisfied, but I am posting it nevertheless.
There is a poem by Louis MacNeice called Sunday Morning that contains the lines: 
Down the road someone is practising scales/The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tail...

Dans le silencieux automne
   D' un jour mol et soyeux,
Je t' écoute en fermant les yeux,
   Voisine monotone.

Ces gammes de tes doigts hardis,
   C' était déjà des gammes
Quand n' étaient pas encor des dames
   Mes cousines, jadis ;

Et qu' aux toits noirs de la Rafette,
   Où grince un fer changeant,
Les abeilles d' or et d' argent
   Mettaient l' aurore en fête.


In the silent autumn
Of a soft and silky day,
Eyes closed, I hear you play
A monotonous run.

You rehearse with quick fingers
The scales that my cousins
Would perform by the dozen -
The memory lingers.

On the black roofs of La Rafette
where the weathervane squeals
the gold and silver bees
put the dawn en fête