Another French Translation

This is my translation of the famous introduction to the Flowers of Evil, just as I wrote it some twenty years ago.   My goal was to reproduce the rhyme scheme of the original  ( so much easier in French) and to give the English reader a sense of the poet’s overripe imagery.   You can judge for yourself how well I succeeded.

 

TO THE READER
By
CHARLES BAUDELAIRE

Tr. Guy Conner

Drunkenness and error, stinginess and vice
Occupy our spirits and make us sweat.
And we feed on our oh-so-sweet regret
Like beggars nourishing their lice.

Our sins are stubborn; cowardly our regret.
Our vows exact a handsome price.
Our innocence makes the muddy road seem nice,
For we believe that tears can make us cleaner yet.

Satan, the Great Alchemist, from Evil’s bower
Enchants our spirits, makes them still
And the rich metal of our free will
Is vaporized by his magic power.

The Devil holds our puppet strings,
He leads us through the murk and mire
Nearer to Eternal Fire,
And makes us like disgusting things.

Just like the whoremonger who’s paid for the night
To suckle a poor martyred breast,
Our clandestine pleasures are carefully pressed,
Like an orange that has shriveled up tight.

Like a million maggots, swarming and packed tightly,
Our brains are filled with demons, and our breath
Breathes into our lungs that greater Demon, Death,
Flowing like an unseen river, groaning lightly.

If rape and poison, the dagger and the flame
Have not yet embroidered our poor fate,
There is a reason! We hang back and wait.
Our lack of boldness puts our soul to shame.

But among the jackals, panthers, monkeys, lice
The scorpions, vultures, serpents and the ape
The monsters crawling, screeching, howling, mouths agape
The infamous menagerie of our vice,

There is one of them, Oh, foulest and least fair!
Although it neither howls nor makes a fuss,
It gladly makes its environment a muss,
And with a yawn, it sucks up all the air.

Boredom! He smokes his hookah; it is the Mother
Of Dreams. Guillotines descend; his eyes are filled with tears.
You’ve known him, Reader, for, lo, these many years.
Hypocrite Reader! My Look-Alike! My Brother!

Parody

A parody is an imitation of a serious work of art for comic effect.   In general, I avoid true parodies; when I imitate a poet as, for example, here, I usually have some other purpose than simply making fun.   In 1967, however, I did write a parody of Edward Fitzgerald‘s  most famous quatrain from his translation of Omar Khayyam, the one that goes:

A Book of Verses underneath the bow,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou,
Beside me in the Wilderness.
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

My version follows:

Oh, come, my dear, you must drink of the cup.
Be calm – what better way is there to sup?
Why do you turn that verdant green?
I am sorry now that I brought it up.

A Poll is a Snapshot of the Electorate

In an earlier post,  I talked about how  I got into polling for local elections, and gave a ;ist of key points about polls that local candidates should know.   This is the first of several posts in which I will elaborate on that list.  (Note: In all my posts on polling, I assume that the voters polled are random se;ections from the target universe.)

A poll is a snapshot of the electorate at a given point in time; it is not, by itself, a way to predict the outcome of an election.  An experie3nced political adviser, who understands the background of the poll and the local political situation may be able to use the information obtained from a poll to make an informed guess as to whom the winner or winners might be, but the poll itself merely tells you who might be ahead at the time of the poll.  Of course, if a candidate is twenty points ahead of his or her  opponent two weeks before election day, one can reasonably infer that that candidate will win, but the poll is not really doing the prediction; it is the context.

Polls have other uses for local candidates besides calling the horse race.   Polls can tell a candidate which campaign themes resonate with the voters; they can also tell which of your supporters are more attractive to the electorate.   The wise candidate for, say, City Council, will focus on these aspects of polling and not on the question of who is the frontrunner.

Second Translation

And this is my second translation from Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal:

Very Far From Here
by C.  Baudelaire
(tr. 1967)

This is the sacred chamber where
That much bejeweled maiden fair
Tranquil and ever-ready there
Raising her breasts to the skies aloft
Hears the drainpipes crying oft.
It is the room of Dorothy,
Then breeze and the water sing to her then
Their song of sighs contradictory,
Caressing her so soothingly.
From tip to toe, her delicate skin
Is drenched and rubbed so carefully
With sweet-smelling oil and benzoin.
Some flowers wither in a bin.

Translations

For many years, I have been interested in the art of translation.   In the future, I will post my thoughts on the approach one should take to translation.   Meanwhile, here is the first I  ever did:

The Giantess

(La Géante)

by Charles Baudelaire

Trans 1967

When Nature, with artistic inspiration

Conceived a giantess each day,

Then did I love to live near her creation

Curled cat-like at her feet I lay.

Then did the spirit flourish in her form,

Which grew each time she played her fearful game

Mist danced behind her eyes, mist wet and warm.

I wondered: did her heart conceal a flame?

I felt her bounteous form at ease,

Entwined myself among her knees,

And sometimes in summer, when the suns do their best

To lay her out, fatigued and still.

I sleep unafraid in the shade of her breast

Like a town at the foot of a hill.

_____________

You can compare to other translations here.