More Where Do Poems Come From – Translation

Posted: January 18, 2014 in Home
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

baudelaire cover

When you want to write and nothing will come there is always (loose) translation.  It gives something of the pleasure of crossword puzzling along with filling the void when  there seems to be nothing to write about.  And what could be more fun  than Baudelaire and  Les Fleurs du Mal?  My French is poor but I had a lot of fun!


Je  suis comme le roi d’une pays pluvieux

Mine is a sodden country and I’m its king,
old in my youth, rich yet lacking.
Tired of the croaks of my pedagogues,
sick of my animals, I hate my dogs.
I no longer soar in my love of falconry,
I ignore my dead beneath this balcony,
I am deaf to the song of my capering jester,
my frowning sickness makes me fester.
My garlanded bed is gravestone dust
and those dancing whores have killed my lust.
Nothing they wear now makes me smile
baring the rictus of my skull. Vile
as my base nature, no gold from lead
transforms my nature, all corrupted.
The alchemists and baths of roman blood
cannot make me young or good.
My blood runs cold and waters of death,
green as Lethe, steal away my breath.*

Thanks to Wikipedia for this introduction to the bad boy of French poetry.

baudelaire3Who among us has not dreamt, in moments of ambition, of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical without rhythm and rhyme, supple and staccato enough to adapt to the lyrical stirrings of the soul, the undulations of dreams, and sudden leaps of consciousness. This obsessive idea is above all a child of giant cities, of the intersecting of their myriad relations.

—Dedication of Le Spleen de Paris

Baudelaire is one of the major innovators in French literature. His poetry is influenced by the French romantic poets of the earlier 19th century, although its attention to the formal features of verse connect it more closely to the work of the contemporary “Parnassians”. As for theme and tone, in his works we see the rejection of the belief in the supremacy of nature and the fundamental goodness of man as typically espoused by the romantics and expressed by them in rhetorical, effusive and public voice in favor of a new urban sensibility, an awareness of individual moral complexity, an interest in vice (linked with decadence) and refined sensual and aesthetical pleasures, and the use of urban subject matter, such as the city, the crowd, individual passers-by, all expressed in highly ordered verse, sometimes through a Thomas Couture of Charles Baudelaire with one of his lovers on his lap.cynical and ironic voice. Formally, the use of sound to create atmosphere, and of “symbols”, (images which take on an expanded function within the poem), betray a move towards considering the poem as a self-referential object, an idea further developed by the Symbolists Verlaine and Mallarmé, who acknowledge Baudelaire as a pioneer in this regard.

Beyond his innovations in versification and the theories of symbolism and “correspondences”, an awareness of which is essential to any appreciation of the literary value of his work, aspects of his work which regularly receive (or have received) much critical discussion include the role of women, the theological direction of his work and his alleged advocacy of “satanism”, his experience of drug-induced states of mind, the figure of the dandy, his stance regarding democracy and its implications for the individual, his response to the spiritual uncertainties of the time, his criticisms of the bourgeois, and his advocacy of modern music and painting (e.g., WagnerDelacroix).


Je suis comme le roi d’un pays pluvieux,
Riche, mais impuissant, jeune et pourtant très vieux,
Qui, de ses précepteurs méprisant les courbettes,
S’ennuie avec ses chiens comme avec d’autres bêtes.
Rien ne peut l’égayer, ni gibier, ni faucon,
Ni son peuple mourant en face du balcon.
Du bouffon favori la grotesque ballade
Ne distrait plus le front de ce cruel malade ;
Son lit fleurdelisé se transforme en tombeau,
Et les dames d’atour, pour qui tout prince est beau,
Ne savent plus trouver d’impudique toilette
Pour tirer un souris de ce jeune squelette.
Le savant qui lui fait de l’or n’a jamais pu
De son être extirper l’élément corrompu,
Et dans ces bains de sang qui des Romains nous viennent,
Et dont sur leurs vieux jours les puissants se souviennent,
II n’a su réchauffer ce cadavre hébété
Où coule au lieu de sang l’eau verte du Léthé


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s