Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Contrerime XLIV


Vous qui retournez du Cathai
     Par les Messageries,
Quand vous berçaient à leurs féeries
     L' opium ou le thé.

Dans un palais d' aventurine
     Où se mourait le jour,
Avez-vous vu Boudroulboudour,
     Princesse de la Chine,

Plus blanche en son pantalon noir
     Que nacre sous l' écaille ?
Au clair de lune, Jean Chicaille,
     Vous est-il venu voir,

En pleurant comme l' asphodèle
     Aux îles d' Ouac-Wac,
Et jurer de coudre en un sac
     Son épouse infidèle,

Mais telle qu' à travers le vent
     Des mers sur le rivage
S' envole et brille un paon sauvage
     Dans le soleil levant ?

You who return from Cathay
     By mailboat, when rocked on the sea
By the magic alchemy
     Of opium or tea.

In a palace of aventurine
     In the waning hour
The princess, Boudroulboudour,
     By you was she seen

Whiter in her black pants 
     Than nacre in the shell?
By moonlight, Jean Chicaille,
     Is it you he wants,

Weeping like the asphodel
     In the Islands of Ouac-Wac,
And swearing to sew in a sack
     His wife, unfaithful,

And untamed as a peahen
     That flies away, ablaze
In the onshore winds and the rays
     Of the rising sun?


Badroulbadour (Arabic بدر البدور, badru l-budūr, "full moon of full moons") is an Asian princess from China whom Aladdin married in the story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. (The full moon as a metaphor for female beauty is common throughout the Arabian Nights).
She is also mentioned in a poem by Wallace Stevens called The Worms at Heaven's Gate in his book Harmonium.

The Worms at Heaven's Gate
Out of the tomb, we bring Badroulbadour,
Within our bellies, we her chariot.
Here is an eye. And here are, one by one,
The lashes of that eye and its white lid.
Here is the cheek on which that lid declined,
And, finger after finger, here, the hand,
The genius of that cheek. Here are the lips,
The bundle of the body and the feet.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Out of the tomb we bring Badroulbadour.

The name Badroulbadour also appears in the novel Come Dance with Me by author Russell Hoban.

Toulet has fashioned Jean Chicaille from the Chinese Yuan-Tché-Kaï , or Yuan Shikai.

The provisional government of the Republic of China was formed in Nanjing on March 12, 1912 with Sun Yat-sen as President, but Sun was forced to turn power over to Yuan Shikai, who commanded the New Army and was Prime Minister under the Qing government, as part of the agreement to let the last Qing monarch abdicate (a decision Sun would later regret). Over the next few years, Yuan proceeded to abolish the national and provincial assemblies, and declared himself emperor in late 1915. Yuan's imperial ambitions were fiercely opposed by his subordinates; faced with the prospect of rebellion, he abdicated in March 1916, and died in June of that year.

Ouac-Waco : Imaginary islands in 1001 nights inhabited only by women. 

Aventurine: reddish variety of quartz, found by chance, hence its name, containing tiny flakes of mica that reflect the light.

Contrerime XLIII

Ainsi, ce chemin de nuage,
     Vous ne le prendrez point,
D'où j'ai vu me sourire au loin
     Votre brillant mirage ?

Le soir d'or sur les étangs bleus
     D'une étrange savane,
Où pleut la fleur de frangipane,
     N'éblouira vos yeux ;

Ni les feux de la luciole
     Dans cette épaisse nuit
Que tout à coup perce l'ennui
     D'un tigre qui miaule.

So you state your resistance
     To taking the cloudy way,
Where I saw your shining fay
     Smile at me from a distance.

The gold of eve on the pools of blue
     Of a strange savannah
That rains frangipane
     Will not dazzle you;

Nor the light of fireflies
     In the night’s depth
That abruptly is ripped
     By a bored tiger’s cries.

The section of Behanzigue entitled "le cri dans la nuit" gives details of the impressions that inspired this poem: "From Hue to go to Tourane, instead of railroad, if we prefer to stick to the the ancient road of the Col des Nuages, we rent one of these black-bellied sampans ". Further on Toulet speaks of "a thousand fireflies leading in the air their luminous dance" and shows the appearance of a tiger. The Col des Nuages also merits a mention in his Journal.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Contrerime LVIII

C'était sur un chemin crayeux
       Trois châtes de Provence
Qui s'en allaient d' un pas qui danse
       Le soleil dans les yeux.

Une enseigne, au bord de la route,
 -     Azur et jaune d' oeuf,  - 
Annonçait : Vin de Châteauneuf,
       Tonnelles, Casse-croûte.

Et, tandis que les suit trois fois
       Leur ombre violette,
Noir pastou, sous la gloriette,
       Toi, tu t'en fous : tu bois...

C' était trois châtes de Provence,
       Des oliviers poudreux,
Et le mistral brûlant aux yeux
       Dans un azur immense.


Under Provencal skies
Three girls on a chalk road
Went dancing abroad
With the sun in their eyes. 

By the side of the track, 
Blue, egg yellow, a sign
Said : Chateauneuf wine
Arbours, snacks.

While their violet shadow
Followed all three
You, dark shepherd, carefree
Were drunk in the meadow. 

Three girls in Provence, 
Powdery olive trees,
An eye-searing breeze,
The skies azure, immense.