On Translation With an Example

Elsewhere  I promised to discuss my philosophy of translations.    First and foremost, my goal has always been to produce a satisfactory poem in English that represents to the best of my ability the meanings, nuances and rhythms of the original poem.   If the original poem has an underlying rhyme scheme, I attempt to produce that as well.  A secondary, but very important factor, is my affinity for the poet him or herself.   I have, in my time, tried my hand at translating three important nineteenth century French poets – Mallarme, Rimbaud, and Baudelaire.  My Mallarme translations all remain unfinished; I have one satisfactory Rimbaud translation, which I may choose to share at some point.   Almost all my translations are of Charles Baudelaire, and I have begun to reflect on what my affinity for his work says about me.

Baudelaire’s imagery is overripe; mine sometimes verges on the nonexistent.   Baudelaire was frank about what he called his nostalgia for the gutter; I have tended to suppress and hide my scarier emotions.   As I begin to work with the techniques I have learned from my friend and business partner Cathy Wild , who specializes in helping writers and other artists to bring out their full creative powers, I have come to realize that I have ripeness inside me, and that my scarier emotions can be turned into art,   We shall see in the months to come.

Oh, yes, and here is another example from Les Fleurs du Mal:

A Little Chat
(Causerie)

The sky is pink and clear – a perfect day,
But sadness sadness rises in me like a tide,
Which then flows out, and when it’s gone away,
–The stinging taste of bitterness inside.

You stroke in vain my swooning breast,
You search, sweet friend, for a hollow core,
Woman has sunk her claws into my chest,
My hear is eaten; search no more.

My heart’s a palace for crowds to wreck.
They drink and pillage, sack and kill.
–A perfume swims about your neck.

Oh, Beauty, scourge of souls, oh, work your will,
With your eyes of fire, shining like a torch.
The mob has left some scraps for you to scorch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *