Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Contrerime XXX

This contrerime first appeared in Les Marges in 1912 under the title La Cigale.

Contrerime XXX

Quand nous fûmes hors des chemins
     Où la poussière est rose,
Aline, qui riait sans cause
     En me touchant les mains ; -

L' écho du bois riait. La terre
     Sonna creux au talon.
Aline se tut : le vallon
     Était plein de mystère...

Mais toi, sans lymphe ni sommeil,
     Cigale en haut posée,
Tu jetais, ivre de rosée,
     Ton cri triste et vermeil.


With the roads left behind
     Where the dust is rose,
Aline laughed without cause
     As our hands intertwined.
 The woods echoed. The ground
     Rang with a hollow sound.
Aline hushed; the valley
     Was full of mystery…

Careless of sloth and rest,  
     Cicada perched on high,
Tipsy with dew, you test
     Your sad and strident cry.

In this poem each verse in the translation has a different rhyme scheme. (ABBA; AABB; ABAB) Inelegant, but unavoidable!

According to Hippocrates' theory of humours, a lymphatic (or phlegmatic) temperament is cold, and associated with winter.
I translate lymphatique as lethargic, or sluggish. In the comic novel Clochemerle by Gabriel Chevalier, the term appears thus:
« il y avait dans ce grand corps trop le lymphe et pas assez d’esprit » p 165
« C’est une lymphatique, une inerte » p. 214

The online French dictionary ATILF (Analyse et traitment informatique de la langue Française) gives the following definition of vermeil in the above context: 

a) Rire, sourire vermeil. Rire, sourire éclatant, radieux. Chacun de son côté, malice ou maladresse, M'applique son sabot sur mon plus frêle orteil, Sans cesser de me rire un gros rire vermeil (SAINTE-BEUVELivre d'am., 1843, p. 139). Je coulais doucement ma jeunesse éternelle; Les sourires vermeils sur mes lèvres flottaient(LECONTE DE LISLEPoèmes ant., 1852, p. 19).
b) [En parlant d'un bruit, d'un son] Éclatant, cristallin, vif. Se peut-il que j'évoque avec des cris vermeils Autant que des arbouses, La splendeur des matins, la chaleur des soleils, La gaîté des pelouses? (NOAILLESÉblouiss., 1907, p. 27). Et je dis que  n'est-ce pas, Soleil? Le seul devoir d'un coq est d'être un cri vermeil!(ROSTANDChantecler, 1910, III, 4, p. 169).

Contrerime XXVIII

Apropos nothing at all, it is interesting to note that in the Middle Ages, it was believed that the sound of a bell could disperse thunder. A large number of bell-ringers were electrocuted as a result. In France between the years 1753 and 1786, 103 bell-ringers were killed during thunderstorms as a result of holding on to wet bell ropes. The Parlement of Paris enforced an edict in 1786 to forbid the practice. Deaths probably continued into the 19th century, until the lightning rod came into general use.

Contrerime XXVIII

Le sonneur se suspend, s' élance,
     Perd pied contre le mur,
Et monte : on dirait un fruit mûr
     Que la branche balance.

Une fille passe. Elle rit
     De tout son frais visage :
L' hiver de ce noir paysage
     A-t-il soudain fleuri ?

Je vois briller encor sa face,
     Quand elle prend le coin.
L' Angélus et sa jupe, au loin,
     L' un et l' autre, s' efface.


The bellringer on the rope gangles,
     Pulls, slides against the wall,
And ascends: a fruit primed to fall
     From the branch dangles.

A girl passes by. Her laughter
     Lights her fresh face:
Did winter in this gloomy place
     Bloom thereafter?

I can still see her shining face,               
     As she rounds the bend.
The Angelus, and her dress, blend
     Into the evening, erase.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Contrerime XXXIV

Who was Faustine?
It remains an enigma. Although Marie Vergon, the woman who was to marry Toulet, is sometimes identified with that name, according to Jacques Dyssord  Faustine is called Rose P., and is said to have worked at the Auberge Lesquerré at Jurançon.
 Dyssord leaves this description:
 "Elle était brune, bien en chair et un sang généreux empourprait ses lèvres sensuelles dont in léger duvet ombragait la supérieure."
Apparently she married a wealthy hotelier and after a somewhat unsettled life she died in 1914, at the Saint-Luc Asylum, at Pau. Toulet saw her there in 1909, not far from the Dominican convent where he went to school. She spotted him from her open window, despite the dusk of an autumn evening:
"De sa fenêtre ouverte, elle m'a reconnut malgré le crépuscule, et, quelque souvenir frivole lui montant à la tête, elle laissa soudain s'égrener jusqu'à moi la perle mélodieuse de son roucoulement."
Clearly Rose P. existed. But there were other candidates for Faustine, including the aforementioned Marie Vergon, a certain Marie-Louise B, and other, unidentified. Faustine may very well be a conflation.

He kept an inn in the Béarn, and was perhaps the husband of Faustina. According to Dyssord, "the kitchen of gleaming copper pots, the spit like a Toledo blade turning under the broad mantle of the high chimney, before a fire of great oak logs, would not have failed to attract, had he been lost in this vicinity, the good Father Jerome Coignard, a character of Anatole France his novel La Rotisserie de la Reine Pédauque."

Contrerime XXXIV

Ce fut par un soir de l'automne
     A sa dernière fleur
Que l'on nous prit pour Mgr
     L'Evêque de Bayonne,

Sur la route de Jurançon.
     J'étais en poste, avecque
Faustine, et l'émoi d'être évêque
     Lui sécha sa chanson.

Cependant cloches, patenôtres,
     Volaient autour de nous.
Tout un peuple était à genoux :
     Nous mêlions les nôtres,

Ô Vénus, et ton char doré,
     Glissant parmi la nue,
Nous annonçait la bienvenue
     Chez Monsieur Lesquerré.


One evening with autumn 
     On its very last flower 
We were taken for Monseigneur 
     The Bishop of Bayonne,  

On the road to Jurançon.
     I was in the mail coach
With Faustine, when her promotion
     Stifled her song.

Meanwhile bells, pater nosters, 
     Were flying around. 
A parish kneeling on the ground: 
     Add two imposters.

Ô Venus, with your gilded ferry, 
     Slipping deftly ahead,
It was you who warmed the bed
     At M. Lesquerré’s


Contrerime XXXV

I have been remiss - no posts to this blog for more than a year. And now I am skipping ten poems to go to XXXV. I will go back, but this one is the most recent to have been translated and versified. So here it is.

Contrerime XXXV
Un Jurançon 93
     Aux couleurs du maïs,
Et ma mie, et l'air du pays :
     Que mon coeur était aise.

Ah, les vignes de Jurançon,
     Se sont-elles fanées,
Comme ont fait mes belles années,
     Et mon bel échanson ?

Dessous les tonnelles fleuries
     Ne reviendrez-vous point
A l'heure où Pau blanchit au loin
     Par-delà les prairies ?

The Jurançon 93 
     The colour of corn, 
And bread, and the country morn -
     How my heart was free!   

Is the Jurançon atrophied
     Perished with drought, 
Just like my gilded youth,
     And my fair Ganymede?   

‘neath the flowering shadows
      Will you not come again
At the hour when Pau grows faint
     Far beyond the meadows?

A note on the wine
The vine is cultivated in Jurançon and in the nearby hills, on extremely steep slopes at the foot of the Pyrenees. The quantity of wine produced is limited. It is white, a golden colour, sweet with a hint of Madeira. According to legend, the grandfather of Henry IV rubbed the lips of his grand-son with a clove of garlic and had him swallow a few drops of Jurançon a few moments after birth. When the baby did not protest too much, he exclaimed: "You will be a true Béarnais! "

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Contrerime XXV

This poem has a play on words in the last two lines that depend on the fact that French adverbs, like French adjectives, may possess a masculine and feminine form. Since this situation does not exist in English, the translator must work around it and express the sense in as near a manner as possible. What lends piquancy to Toulet's "feminisation" of Enfin to Enfine, is that there is no feminine version of enfin. So I required that there would be a sense of women's vulnerability being equal to men's; plus a little dark humour to go with the helplessness of the opium addict - a state with which Toulet was unfortunately all too familiar. I have also deliberately used the words "smack" and "crack" for their value as puns in the context of the poem. To "crack" is to joke, for my non-English readers; there is also the added association of "cracked ribs" together with the reference to the story of Eve's creation in Genesis .

Contrerime XXV
O poète, à quoi bon chercher
des mots pour son délire ?
Il n' y a qu' au bois de ta lyre
que tu l' as su toucher.

Plus haut que toi, dans sa morphine,
chante un noir séraphin.
Ma nourrice disait qu' Enfin
est le mari d' Enfine.


O poet, in her drug-induced gyre
Mere words cannot leech her.
You have only been able reach her
with a smack of your lyre.

Tougher than you, in her opiate crib
hums a dark demon.
My nurse liked to crack that woman
is but man’s spare rib.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Contrerime XXIII

Carthame chatoyant, cinabre,
   Colcothar, orpiment,
Vous dont j'ai goûté l' ornement
   Sur la rive cantabre ;

Orpiment, dont l' éclat soyeux
   Le soleil lui reflète ;
Colcothar, tendre violette
   Éclose  dans ses yeux ;

Fleur de cinabre, étroite et rare,
   Secret d' un beau jardin ;
Carthame et toi, rose soudain,
   Dont sa pudeur se pare...

Not a great poem; Toulet is playing with alchemy, with sonority, with perhaps some Rosicrucian imagery.
This is a little of what Daniel Aranjo has to say on the matter (and he has a lot to say - cf. the second volume of his work on Toulet, pp. 94-98, 154, 162-165 and 186 ff).
"Il ne faut donc pas avoir assez basse opinion, ni de Toulet, ni même de soi, pour croire que ces mots ont été employés par le Maître comme on les aurait soi-même employés à sa place : au hasard seulement ; et uniquement pour le hasard des sonorités."
Now read Jorge Jimeno on the same matter: "Este poema no se ha visto privado de interpretaciones alquímicas, aunque me parece improbable que Toulet, un paisajista consumado, se dejase llevar pos los galimatías de la alquímica, y sí por la sonoridad, belleza y resonancia de los vocablos elegidos."

Here's the Translation.

Shimmering saffron, cinnabar,
Colcothar, orpiment,
I savoured your ornament
On the Biscay shore;

Orpiment, whose silky shine
Has the sun reflect;
Colcothar, soft violet
Budding in her eyes;

Tight, rare cinnabar flower
Secret of a garden close,
Saffron and you, suddenly a rose
Whose modesty becomes her...

Notes:  Carthame: Dyers’ Carthame, or bastard saffron.
Colcothar (rouge d’Angleterre): a finely powdered form of ferric oxide produced by heating ferric sulphate, used as a pigment and as jewellers’ rouge; also called crocus.
Cinnabar is a red sulfide of mercury.
Orpiment is a yellow or orange pigment, a natural sulfur of arsenic, that presents itself in gold or orange flakes, used in painting and pharmacy.
La rive cantabre could be either Biscay or Cantabria  - le golfe de Gascogne est parfois appelé golfe cantabrique.

Fleur de cinabre, étroite et rare : façàn galante de désigner le sexe feminin.

Aranjo: "La rose était celle de la pudeur féminine : la sensualité, ce perpétuel mystère pour Toulet ; est divinisée et fournit ici … le terme de la quête et de l’alchimie poétiques"
Federico Garcia Lorca has a similar rendering in his poem Preciosa y el aire -

Niña, deja que levante
tu vestido para verte.
Abre en mi dedos antiguos
la rosa azul de tu vientre.

Contrerime VIII

This one was missing from the sequence as I was never happy with the translation. I'm still not entirely satisfied, but I am posting it nevertheless.
There is a poem by Louis MacNeice called Sunday Morning that contains the lines: 
Down the road someone is practising scales/The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tail...

Dans le silencieux automne
   D' un jour mol et soyeux,
Je t' écoute en fermant les yeux,
   Voisine monotone.

Ces gammes de tes doigts hardis,
   C' était déjà des gammes
Quand n' étaient pas encor des dames
   Mes cousines, jadis ;

Et qu' aux toits noirs de la Rafette,
   Où grince un fer changeant,
Les abeilles d' or et d' argent
   Mettaient l' aurore en fête.


In the silent autumn
Of a soft and silky day,
Eyes closed, I hear you play
A monotonous run.

You rehearse with quick fingers
The scales that my cousins
Would perform by the dozen -
The memory lingers.

On the black roofs of La Rafette
where the weathervane squeals
the gold and silver bees
put the dawn en fête