Poetry Translations

Evening Harmony (Harmonie du soir)

by Charles Baudelaire

Now is the time; on their stems gently wheeling,
The flowers, like censers, dissolve in the air,
Embalming the evening with perfume and prayer;
Desolate waltzes and languorous reeling!

The flowers, like censers, dissolve in the air;
Violins wail like a heart that wants healing;
Desolate waltzes and languorous reeling!
The sky’s like an altar, both mournful and fair.

Violins wail like a heart that wants healing,
A soft heart that shrinks from the void’s endless stare!
The sky’s like an altar, both mournful and fair;
The sun has now drowned in its blood that’s congealing.

A soft heart that shrinks from the void’s endless stare,
Of the radiant past each last vestige is stealing!
The sun has now drowned in its blood that’s congealing…
Your memory as in a monstrance I bear!

************************

When Death Comes, It Will Have Your Eyes (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi)

by Cesare Pavese

When death comes, it will have your eyes-
This death that is always with us,
From morning till evening, sleepless,
Deaf, like an old remorse
Or some senseless bad habit. Your eyes
Will be a pointless word,
A stifled cry, a silence;
The way they appear to you each morning,
When you lean into yourself, alone,
In the mirror. Sweet hope,
That day we too shall know
That you are life and you are nothingness.

For each of us, death has a face.
When death comes, it will have your eyes.
It will be like quitting some bad habit,
Like seeing a dead face
Resurface out of the mirror,
Like listening to shut lips.
We’ll go down into the vortex in silence.

*********************************

Meeting (Incontro)

by Cesare Pavese

These hard hills that made my body,
And stir within it so many memories, have revealed to me the miracle
That is this woman, who doesn’t know she lives in me, and whom I can’t understand.

I met her one evening: A lighter patch
Under the ambiguous stars, in the haze of summer.
The scent of these hills was all around,
Deeper than shadows. And suddenly, a voice
Rang out, as if from the very hills, at once clear
And strident, a voice from long gone by.

Sometimes I see her, and she lives in my eyes,
Definite and immutable, like a memory.
I’ve never been able to grasp her: Her truth
Eludes me every time, and carries me far away.
Is she beautiful? I don’t know. Among women, she’s very young:
So young that, when I think of her, I am surprised by a distant memory
From a childhood spent among these hills.
She’s like the morning, her eyes hinting
At all the faraway skies of those distant mornings.
And there’s a firm purpose in her eyes: The clearest light
The dawn ever cast forth over these hills.

I’ve fashioned her from the depths of all things
That I hold dearest, and I can’t understand her.

*********************************

The Death of Tantalus (La morte di Tantalo)

by Sergio Corazzini

We sat by the edge
Of the fountain in the vineyard of gold.
We sat in silence, weeping.
My sweet friend’s eyelids
Swelled up behind her tears
Like two sails
In a gentle sea breeze.

Our pain was not the pain of love,
Nor the pain of nostalgia,
Nor the pain of the flesh.
We were dying every day,
Seeking out a divine cause,
My dear sweet one and I.

But the day was already at a close,
And the cause of our death
Had not been found.

And the evening descended over the vineyard of gold,
And it was so dark
That a snowfall of stars
Appeared before our souls.

All night long we feasted
On the wondrous clusters.
We drank the water of gold,
And the dawn found us sitting
By the edge of the fountain
In the vineyard that was no longer of gold.

Oh my sweet love,
Confess to the passerby
That we have not known how to die
By denying ourselves the flavoursome fruit
And the water of gold, like the moon.

And say too that we will never die again,
That we will go through life
Wandering forever.

*********************************

On The Palace Steps (Aux marches du palais -traditional French ballad)

On the palace steps
There’s a would-be bride,

Whom so many love
That she can’t decide.

In the end she chose
A poor cobbler, who

Laid out his claim
As he fit her shoe:

“By your leave, fair maid,
We could share a bed,”

“With a big square frame,
And a linen spread.”

“And hung from each post
Of this bed of ours,”

“A fresh-picked bouquet
Of wild violet flowers.”

“And a mattress soft,
In whose sag we’d sink,”

“River so deep all
The King’s steeds could drink.”

“Yes, a mattress soft
That’s as rivers deep;”

“Till the world’s end
In its depths we’d sleep.”

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4 Responses to Poetry Translations

  1. boemipoetra says:

    Charles Baudelaire’s “Evening Harmony (Harmonie du soir)” is a pantun/pantoum, a traditional oral poetry form from Southeast Asian archipelago, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. But Baudelaire used the “pantun berkait” variation, that is a pantun that consist of a series of interwoven quatrains. This follows the abab rhyme scheme with the second and fourth lines of each stanza becoming the first and third lines of the following stanza. Finally, the first and third lines of the first stanza become the second and fourth lines of the last stanza, usually in reverse order so that the first and last lines of the poem are identical. (see Wikipedia)

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  2. Saut Situmorang says:

    Charles Baudelaire’s “Evening Harmony (Harmonie du soir)” is a pantun/pantoum, a traditional oral poetry form from Southeast Asian archipelago, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. But Baudelaire used the “pantun berkait” variation, that is a pantun that consist of a series of interwoven quatrains. This follows the abab rhyme scheme with the second and fourth lines of each stanza becoming the first and third lines of the following stanza. Finally, the first and third lines of the first stanza become the second and fourth lines of the last stanza, usually in reverse order so that the first and last lines of the poem are identical. (see Wikipedia)

    Like

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