Three Translations of Rimbaud

Antique

Arthur Rimbaud

Gracieux fils de Pan! Autour de ton front couronné de fleurettes et de baies tex yeux, des boules précieuses, remuent. Tachées de lies brunes, tes joues se creusent. Tes crocs luisent. Ta poitrine ressemble à une cithare, des tintements circulent dans tes bras blonds. Ton cœur bat dans ce ventre où dort le double sexe. Promène-toi, la nuit, en mouvant doucement cette cuisse, cette seconde cuisse et cette jambe de gauche.


Antique

trans. John Ashbery

Graceful son of Pan! Around your forehead crowned with small flowers and berries, your eyes precious spheres, are moving. Spotted with brownish wine lees, your cheeks grow hollow. Your fangs gleam. Your chest is like a lyre, jingling sounds circulate between your blond arms. Your heart beats in that belly where the double sex sleeps. Walk at night, gently moving that thigh, that second thigh and that left leg.


Ancient

trans. Wallace Fowlie

Graceful son of Pan! Under your brow crowned with flowers and berries, your eyes, precious balls, move. Spotted with dark streaks, your cheeks look hollow. Your fangs glisten. Your chest is like a lyre and tinklings move up and down your white arms. Your heart beats in that abdomen where your double sex sleeps. Walk at night and move gently this thigh, then this other thigh and this left leg.


Against

trans. Joseph M. Gerace

Beats in the belly! Whereas your bat dans tes pan! Autour heart beats in the abdomen where your fangs glisten. Your eyes, remuent. Tachées de gauche. Ancient trains walk at night, gently moving sound. Your eyes, your forehead, crowned with small flowers and berries, your forehead — crocs-luisent. Tachées de les tes yeux, des boules précieux fils de pan! Under your fangs gleam brilliant blond arms. Your double, à une cithare, des tes yeux, des boules précieux, fils de pan! Autour forehead crocs luisent. Tachées de pan! Autour hearts beat in your thigh.

‘Royalty’ by Arthur Rimbaud, trans. John Ashbery

First published in 1886, Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations, the work of a poet who had abandoned poetry before the age of twenty-one, changed the language of poetry. Hallucinatory and feverishly hermetic, it is an acknowledged masterpiece of world literature, still unrivaled for its haunting blend of sensuous detail and otherworldly astonishment. In Ashbery's translation of this notoriously elusive text, the acclaimed poet and translator lends his inimitable voice to a venerated classic.
He died of cancer in a Marseilles hospital in 1891, still young — having in effect compressed what for others would have been a long lifetime of artistic revolution and exotic adventure into just 37 years.
Arthur Rimbaud was born in 1854 in Charleville, in the northeast of France close to the Belgian border, to a sour-tempered, repressively pious mother and a mostly absent soldier father who disappeared for good when Rimbaud was 6.

Royauté

Un beau matin, chez un peuple fort doux, un homme et une femme superbes criaient sur la place publique. «Mes amis, je veux qu’elle soit reine!» «Je veux être reine!» Elle riait et tremblait. Il parlait aux amis de révélation, d’épreuve terminée. Ils se pâmaient lun contre l’autre.

En effet ils furent rois toute toute une matinée où les tentures carminées se relevèrent sur les maisons, et toute l´après-midi, où ils sávancérent du côté des jardins de palmes.

Royalty

One fine morning, in the country of a very gentle people, a magnificent man and woman were shouting in the public square. “My friends, I want her to be queen!” “I want to be queen!” She was laughing and trembling. He spoke to their friends of revelation, of trials completed. They swooned against each other.

In fact they were regents for a whole morning as crimson hangings were raised against the houses, and for the whole afternoon, as they moved toward the groves of palm trees.

Source: Rimbaud, Arthur, and John Ashbery. Illuminations. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012, pp. 52-53.

‘Forgive Her’ by Forough Farrokhzad

Forough Farrokhzad

Forgive her.
Sometimes she forgets
she is painfully the same
as stagnant water,
hollow ditches,
foolishly imagines
she has the right to exist.

Forgive
a portrait’s listless rage,
whose longing for movement
melts in her paper eyes.

Forgive
this woman whose casket is washed over
by a flowing red moon,
her body’s thousand-year sleep
perturbed by night’s stormy scent.

Forgive
this woman who’s crumbling inside,
but whose eyelids tingle still with dreams of light,
her useless hair quivering hopelessly,
infiltrated by love’s breath.

People of the land of plain joys,
you who have opened your windows to the rain,
forgive her,
forgive because your lives’ fertile roots
burrow into her exiled soil and pound
with envy’s rod her naive heart,
until it swells.

Source: Farrokhzad, Forugh, Sholeh Wolpé, and Alicia Ostriker. Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad. , 2007, pp. 39-40. Print.*

*With minor edits by me, with insincere apologies to the imagined reader.

The most beautiful sentence I’ve ever read.

“It was hot,
the flies were persistent and teasing,
and it was pleasant to reflect
that it would soon be evening.”

 

“Ballad of the Savage Tiger” by Li He

grown.jpeg

No one attacks it with a long lance,
No one plies a strong cross-bow.
Suckling its grandsons, rearing its cubs,
It trains them into savagery.
Its reared head becomes a wall
Its waving tail becomes a banner.
Even Huang from the Eastern Sea,¹
Dreaded to see it after dark,
A righteous tiger, met on the road,²
Was quite enough to upset Niu Ai.
What good is it for that short sword
To hang on the wall, growling like thunder?
When from the foot of Tai mountain
Comes the sound of a woman weeping,
Government regulations forbid
Any official to dare to listen.³

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Notes from The Collected Poems of Li He:

A satire on oppressive government, of which the tiger was the symbol. Caught between the Central Government and the warlords, the people are harassed as though by tigers.

  1. Huang, of Dong-hai, had magical powers which enabled him to control snakes and tigers. Unfortunately for him, he lost these powers through drinking to excess and was eventually killed by a tiger.
  2. The zhou-yu was a white tiger with black markings which appeared only when a state was perfectly governed. It would not tread on grain nor eat living things. Niu Ai was a duke turned were-tiger, who ate his own elder brother. He is pointing out that some tigers are worse than others.
  3. Confucius found a woman weeping at the foot of Mount Tai. Though her whole family had been killed by tigers she refused to leave the district, because there was no oppressive government there. This caused Confucius to remark that an oppressive government was more savage than any tiger.

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More about Li He from The New York Review of Books:

Li He is the bad-boy poet of the late Tang dynasty. He began writing at the age of seven and died at twenty-six from alcoholism or, according to a later commentator, “sexual dissipation,” or both. An obscure and unsuccessful relative of the imperial family, he would set out at dawn on horseback, pause, write a poem, and toss the paper away. A servant boy followed him to collect these scraps in a tapestry bag.

Long considered far too extravagant and weird for Chinese taste, Li He was virtually excluded from the poetic canon until the mid-twentieth century. Today, as the translator and scholar Anne M. Birrell, writes, “Of all the Tang poets, even of all Chinese poets, he best speaks for our disconcerting times.” Modern critics have compared him to Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Keats, and Trakl.

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Source: Li He, Ballad of the Savage Tiger. “The Collected Poems of Li He.” Translated by J.D. Frodsham, New York Review Books, 2016.

 

‘Transformed Creature’ by Liu Xia

Translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern

You have a strange pet—
one eye is a cat’s, the other a sheep’s.
Yet, it won’t socialize with felines,
will attack any flock of sheep.
On moonlit nights,
it wanders on roofs.

When you’re alone,
it will lie in your lap,
preoccupied,
slowly studying you until—
on its face—a challenge.

6/1988

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Source: Liu, Xia, Di Ming, Jennifer Kronovet, Herta Müller, and Yiwu Liao. Empty Chairs: Selected Poems. 2015.

Begin reading about Liu Xia here and then Google her name and pay attention to learn more. 

I encourage readers to purchase the book here, and listen to a conversation between poet Rachel Zucker and translator Jennifer Kronovet on a recent episode of the Commonplace Podcast. You can financially support (as I do) Commonplace Podcast—a brilliant, important project exploring the work of influential working artists—on Patreon.

‘We have passed through the night without deliverance’

Columbus692-sm

these might be bad translations
but at this moment they are
the only translations available in english

Nous avons traversé la nuit sans délivrance
translated as
We have passed through the night without deliverance

sure it’s accurate but
the translator must also be
a most loving octopus

No Echo No Light (Sorted)

Wikipedia Poem, No. 808

noecho

without echo
this is arguable
the new edition
no echo no light
no echo no light
no echo no light
echo without tongue
a soft clumsy argument
departments and programs
new edition of the borrowed text
the new edition of the translation
the new edition of the new edition
in this it is arguable: in his preface
this preface to a treat without echo
departments and pronouns continue to
continue to tongue without imagination
west relates how many university translators
treat the translator’s invisibility without echo
to the new edition departments and programs
of soft clumsy giants this is arguable in his preface
kanye west relates how many university programs
imagine a soft clumsy giant ingrown in a mountain
as a linguistic brick rather than a humanity of fields
continue to treat the translator’s invisibility as a liability

Print Formatting with Strings

Wikipedia Poem, No. 795

w795

black of 
    warmth 
  of a 
   truce 
      in 
          warmth of death i 
      live in black of death i 
live in that disappearing apparition 
you and the black bough
      of black of 
moments only 
i 
          am the 
   apparition that 
disappears 
believes without noticing you ask me with strings 
      black moments 
on an order of space 
of the apparition you and 
the 
         cleric in 
favor of 
  death i 
      live 
in 
    what disappears 
and space 
and 
black 
          the black of you under moments 
only i am sacerdotal of  
  apparition 
         your 
         caresses but 
i 
do not confess you ask me forever 
print forever print forever print forever

‘There Are No Innocent People in Gaza’

Wikipedia Poem, No. 752

tamim-3-sm

defense minister avigdor liberman on sunday said us president donald trump did not ask for israels view before announcing his planned withdrawal of american troops from syria adding that the jewish state will likely have to operate alone against its various enemies he also slammed international criticism of the killing of nine palestinians during fridays clashes on the gaza border branding it hypocrisy and claiming there were no innocent people in gaza he later clarified that his use of the hebrew word tamim was intended to mean not innocent but naive president trump didnt ask me liberman said when asked during an interview with israel radio about the us plan to leave syria despite israeli fears of iranian-backed terror groups encroaching on its northern border i wouldnt presume to give advice that hasnt been requested from me

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Source: Bachner, Michael. “Liberman Signals Trump Didn’t Consult with Israel on Syria Withdrawal.” The Times of Israel, 8 Apr. 2018. 10:15 a.m. Web.