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Le Chat/The Cat by Charles Baudelaire

February 22, 2011 5 comments

translated by Florence Major

Viens, mon beau chat, sur mon coeur amoureux;
Retiens les griffes de ta patte,
Et laisse-moi plonger dans tes beaux yeux,
Mêlés de métal et d’agate.
Lorsque mes doigts caressent à loisir
Ta tête et ton dos élastique,
Et que ma main s’enivre du plaisir
De palper ton corps électrique,
Je vois ma femme en esprit. Son regard,
Comme le tien, aimable bête
Profond et froid, coupe et fend comme un dard,
Et, des pieds jusques à la tête,
Un air subtil, un dangereux parfum
Nagent autour de son corps brun.

*

Come my beautiful cat, rest on my amorous heart.
Restrain the sharp claws of your passage;
I will plunge into the hearth
Where your agate eyes burn with savage
Metal. While my fingers move lazily
To stroke your head and yielding spine,
My hands pulse with a frisson that fills me
And guides me; I remember my divine
Mistress. I see her in essence, her look
Just like yours, dear personable beast.
Profound and cold, it pierced and shook
Me, a captive from her head to her feet.
What perilous perfume her dusky body gives;
The brown opium of my desire still lives.


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Charles BaudelaireCharles Baudelaire (1821-1867) was a poet, art critic, essayist and a pioneering translator of Edgar Allen Poe. He is famous for Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers Of Evil) from which he gained both notoriety and acclaim. Like Edouard Manet, the painter who was a close friend of Baudelaire, his work was a transition from the romanticism and classical idioms of the day. Baudelaire brought a sensual realism into poetry, and urban settings that were far from the bucolic or mythological allegories so prevalent in the poetry and painting of the time.

Florence Major is an artist and poet born in Montreal, Quebec, and living in New York City. She has poems in The Chaffey Review and Cerise Press. See her Rilke translations earlier in the issue for a note on her approach to translation.

Two from Rilke

January 6, 2011 9 comments

translated by Florence Major

Porträt des Rainer Maria Rilke (1906) by Paula Modersohn-Becker

Porträt des Rainer Maria Rilke (1906) by Paula Modersohn-Becker (public domain image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons)

 

Herbsttag

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr gross.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren lass die Winde los.
Befiehl den letzten Fruchten voll zu sein;
gieb innen noch zwei sudlichere Tage,
drange sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Susse in den schweren Wein.
Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blatter treiben.

Autumn Day

Lord: Approach. Summer was everywhere,
Lay your dark hands across the sundials,
And across the open fields, free the coursing air.
Compel the last bounty holding to the vine:
Engorge. Permit two more balmy days’ reprieve,
Then press them to fulfillment, drive
Crowning fragrance into the heady wine.
Those without homes are too late.
Those without company will remain alone,
With books, with pen in hand till night is gone
Or searching, in the city’s corridors, a state
Of mind, as dead leaves when they blow.

 

Sonnets to Orpheus, II. XV

O Brunnen-Mund, du gebender, du Mund,
der unerschöpflich Eines, Reines, spricht,–
du, vor des Wassers fließendem Gesicht,
marmorne Maske. Und im Hintergrund

der Aquädukte Herkunft. Weither an
Gräbern vorbei, vom Hang des Apennins
tragen sie dir dein Sagen zu, das dannam
schwarzen Altern deines Kinns

vorüberfällt in das Gefäß davor.
Dies ist das schlafend hingelegte Ohr,
das Marmor-Ohr, in das du immer sprichst.

Ein Ohr der Erde. Nur mit sich allein
redet sie also. Schiebt ein Krug sich ein,
so scheint es ihr, daß du sie unterbrichst.

O fountain mouth, unceasing passage
of eternal oneness, inviolate, your speech
flows through the marble mask to reach
across distant peaks; a timeless message

brought descending from distant graves.
The steep aqueduct of the Apennines
inclines from a pressure as of laves
through blackened pipes that sing of time

and falls arising in your marble bowl
with lips that curl round as a waiting ear;
you awaken to hear her godlike whisper.

Earth, it is you who speaks, the ear the soul
laid down to wait for waters cleared,
for you to stir and Orpheus to linger.

 

Translator’s note: These translations are not literal, but true to the meaning of the poems as I read and experienced them. I find that when translations are dogmatically literal, the poem often falls flat as the essence of what one feels on reading the poem is no longer in evidence. How words are spaced and arranged creates timing as in music. Compulsive rhyming in translations creates “dead meter,” and eludes the inner musical resonance of a poem that was rhymed in the original. Tricky stuff, but as the French say, à chacun son goût (to each his own taste).


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Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a Bohemian/Austrian poet and art critic, famed for his critique of Auguste Rodin. He is considered to be one of the greatest lyric poets of the German language and in the lexicon of poetry. He is best known for the Duino Elegies, the Sonnets to Orpheus and a semi-autographical prose work, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Florence Major is an artist and poet born in Montreal, Quebec, and living in New York City. She has poems in The Chaffey Review and Cerise Press.

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