November 27, 2016

Ἑαυτὸν τιμωρούμενος [Filed under: Baudelaire, Charles]

L’Héautontimorouménos

À J.G.F.

Je te frapperai sans colère
Et sans haine, comme un boucher,
Comme Moïse le rocher
Et je ferai de ta paupière,

Pour abreuver mon Saharah
Jaillir les eaux de la souffrance.
Mon désir gonflé d’espérance
Sur tes pleurs salés nagera

Comme un vaisseau qui prend le large,
Et dans mon coeur qu’ils soûleront
Tes chers sanglots retentiront
Comme un tambour qui bat la charge!

Ne suis-je pas un faux accord
Dans la divine symphonie,
Grâce à la vorace Ironie
Qui me secoue et qui me mord

Elle est dans ma voix, la criarde!
C’est tout mon sang ce poison noir!
Je suis le sinistre miroir
Où la mégère se regarde.

Je suis la plaie et le couteau!
Je suis le soufflet et la joue!
Je suis les membres et la roue,
Et la victime et le bourreau!

Je suis de mon coeur le vampire,
—Un de ces grands abandonnés
Au rire éternel condamnés
Et qui ne peuvent plus sourire!

I, too, occasionally indulge in a bit of self-torment—as when I attempt to translate Baudelaire into English verse. It is not an easy task, and I am never entirely up to it. I always want to adhere as closely as possible to Baudelaire’s grammar, rhythm and vocabulary, but the mere act of translation demands significant departures (and thus sacrifices). Still, there is no benefit to self-torment if it is not performed in public, so I here present my latest (but certainly not last) exercise in self-abuse. Would that it were only self-abuse—Baudelaire is obviously the most unfortunate victim, but my apologies, too, to anyone else who reads it!

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May 27, 2015

Plus ça change… [Filed under: General Discussion]

Penned some 18 years ago:

Juvenalia/Juvenilia

My thoughts unfold, the air grows cold
As if it knows I’ll need the snows
To quench my mental fire:
My future turns—ignites and burns
Through hope and fear—but leaves me here,
Alas, with no desire!

August 17, 2013

The Internet Is Not Yet Full: A Brief Tale of Two Poems [Filed under: Noyes, Alfred.Swinburne, Algernon Charles]

In a brief moment of quiet this afternoon, I was browsing the poetry shelf in my home library today and noticed a book I did not know we owned: Sonnets of This Century, edited and arranged, with a critical introduction on the sonnet, by William Sharp. The little volume was published by Walter Scott of Paternoster Row, London, in 1888 (though the copy at Google Books shows a publication date of 1886), and contains a reasonable selection of nineteenth century sonnets. I browsed the author index and noticed a small number of entries by Algernon Charles Swinburne, who has long been my favorite poet. I did not recognize any of the titles, so I opened the book and read one called “Hope and Fear”:

Hope and Fear

Beneath the shadow of dawn’s aerial cope,
    With eyes enkindled as the sun’s own sphere,
    Hope from the front of youth in godlike cheer
Looks Godward, past the shades where blind men grope
Round the dark door that prayers nor dreams can ope,
    And makes for joy the very darkness dear
    That gives her wide wings play ; nor dreams that fear
At noon may rise and pierce the heart of hope.
Then, when the soul leaves off to dream and yearn,
May truth first purge her eyesight to discern
    What once being known leaves time no power to appal ;
Till youth at last, ere yet youth be not, learn
    The kind wise word that falls from years that fall—
    ‘Hope thou not much, and fear thou not at all.

The poem is the first in a collection of sonnets Swinburne published in “Tristram of Lyonesse and Other Poems” in 1882. I do not have a copy of Tristram and had never seen the sonnet before. It is certainly not Swinburne’s best, but the last line is somewhat catchy. So I was rather surprised when I pulled another book off my shelf—A Letter to Lucian by Alfred Noyes, published in 1956—and quite by accident landed on the following poem:

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March 22, 2012

Antony and Cleopatra [Filed under: Lytle, William Haines]

Antony and Cleopatra

I AM dying, Egypt, dying!
  Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast,
And the dark Plutonian shadows
  Gather on the evening blast;
Let thine arm, O Queen, enfold me,
  Hush thy sobs and bow thine ear,
Listen to the great heart secrets
  Thou, and thou alone, must hear.

Though my scarred and veteran legions
  Bear their eagles high no more,
And my wrecked and scattered galleys
  Strew dark Actium’s fatal shore;
Though no glittering guards surround me,
  Prompt to do their master’s will,
I must perish like a Roman,
  Die the great Triumvir still.

Let not Cæsar’s servile minions
  Mock the lion thus laid low;
‘T was no foeman’s arm that felled him,
  ‘T was his own that struck the blow:
His who, pillowed on thy bosom,
  Turned aside from glory’s ray—
His who, drunk with thy caresses,
  Madly threw the world away.

Should the base plebeian rabble
  Dare assail my name at Rome,
Where the noble spouse Octavia
  Weeps within her widowed home,
Seek her; say the gods bear witness,—
  Altars, augurs, circling wings,—
That her blood, with mine commingled,
  Yet shall mount the throne of kings.

And for thee, star-eyed Egyptian—
  Glorious sorceress of the Nile!
Light the path to Stygian horrors,
  With the splendor of thy smile;
Give the Cæsar crowns and arches,
  Let his brow the laurel twine:
I can scorn the senate’s triumphs,
  Triumphing in love like thine.

I am dying, Egypt, dying!
  Hark! the insulting foeman’s cry;
They are coming—quick, my falchion!
  Let me front them ere I die.
Ah, no more amid the battle
  Shall my heart exulting swell;
Isis and Osiris guard thee—
  Cleopatra—Rome—farewell!

October 17, 2009

Autumnal [Filed under: Dowson, Ernest]

Autumnal

Pale amber sunlight falls across
   The reddening October trees,
   That hardly sway before a breeze
As soft as summer: summer’s loss
   Seems little, dear! on days like these.

Let misty autumn be our part!
   The twilight of the year is sweet:
   Where shadow and the darkness meet
Our love, a twilight of the heart
   Eludes a little time’s deceit.

Are we not better and at home
   In dreamful Autumn, we who deem
   No harvest joy is worth a dream?
A little while and night shall come,
   A little while, then, let us dream.

Beyond the pearled horizons lie
   Winter and night: awaiting these
   We garner this poor hour of ease,
Until love turn from us and die
   Beneath the drear November trees.