January 24, 2004

L’Invitation au voyage [Filed under: Baudelaire, Charles]

Laura reminded me that a CD I was listening to quoted this poem in the liner notes. I believe it was originally published in Les Fleurs du mal. As it is simple enough for me to understand, even with my weak French, I thought I’d post it. I’m working on torturing my translation into rhyme, and am meeting with some success—it is tortured, to be sure. I’m not proposing this for a Sunday session, necessarily… just for our enjoyment.

L’Invitation au voyage

Mon enfant, ma sœur,
Songe à la douceur,
D’aller là-bas, vivre ensemble!
Aimer à loisir,
Aimer et mourir,
Au pays qui te ressemble!
Les soleils mouillés,
De ces ciels brouillés,
Pour mon esprit ont les charmes,
Si mystérieux,
De tes traîtres yeux,
Brillant à travers leurs larmes.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

Des meubles luisants,
Polis par les ans,
Décoreraient notre chambre;
Les plus rares fleurs
Mêlant leurs odeurs
Aux vagues senteurs de l’ambre,
Les riches plafonds,
Les miroirs profonds,
La splendeur orientale,
Tout y parlerait
A l’âme en secret
Sa douce langue natale.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

Vois sur ces canaux
Dormir ces vaisseaux
Dont l’humeur est vagabonde;
C’est pour assouvir
Ton moindre désir
Qu’ils viennent du bout du monde.
—Les soleils couchants
Revêtent les champs
Les canaux, la ville entière
D’hyacinthe et d’or;
Le monde s’endort
Dans une chaude lumière

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

(Read more…)

January 22, 2004

Thanks, Mike, for that post. [Filed under: General Discussion]

Thanks, Mike, for that post. I enjoyed it very much. I’d like to launch a few brief volleys on the topic of death.

First, I, myself, don’t make the leap to permanence when I think about how death bears on question of whether life is meaningful. I don’t think life would only be meaningful if it lasted forever—I believe that this is actually incoherent.

I do find myself thinking a lot about how many more dead people there are than living ones. And how narrow the way is for we, the living. Just a little nudge and we are nothing, just an infinitesimal voice in the cacophonous choir of the dead. And, being dead, the world just trudges on, full of the still living, the barely living waiting for their nudge. I am not even sure it factors into my thinking that the world forgets us; that we would be lucky to have our footprint in the world persist as long as it takes the flesh to come off the bone. That’s just talk, though. What really makes a difference to me is the thought that so much consciousness (culture, sound, fury) is so fragile. And that it couldn’t be any other way.

Here is Achilles on death and the meaning of life:

from The Iliad

Fate is the same for the man who holds back, the same if he fights hard.
We are all held in a single honour, the brave with the weaklings.
A man dies still if he has done nothing, as one who has done much.
Nothing is won for me, now that my heart has gone through its afflictions
in forever setting my life on the hazard of battle.

January 19, 2004

System upgrade in process [Filed under: Admin]

I’ve started upgrading the WordPress system to a new version (it’s supposed to fix a bunch of problems with the database and make it more “user-friendly”), and it seems that the internal structure has changed quite a bit, so all my original tweaking has to be readjusted. It’s going to take me some time to get everything back to normal.

(Read more…)

January 18, 2004

Silence and the Bogey of the Ideal [Filed under: General Discussion]

There were two points of discussion today (neither drawing directly from the poems we discussed, unfortunately) that I’d like to ruminate for a bit. We ate together—I hope you’ll pardon me this bit of public digestion. The first was Alan’s suggestion that some people believe poetry to be handicapped as a form of expression because its aim lies chiefly in avoiding a plain and clear articulation of the ideas it is used to express. I was for some time an adherent of a similar position, and I think it may still be at the root of my resistance to modern non-representational art (if an artist is trying to convey something to me, why can’t he articulate it in a way that I might more clearly understand?). The second is the idea that only the permanent is valuable; that the prospect of death might indict our attempts to achieve happiness as ultimately futile. I’m having difficulty with both of these ideas (and the difficulty will be apparent in what I write, I’m sure), so I’m going to “think aloud” a bit to see if I can begin to make sense of some vague notions that have been clouding my brain since this afternoon.

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Auden has an essay on Frost that I like. [Filed under: Auden, W.H..Frost, Robert]

Auden has an essay on Frost that I like. Here’s how it ends:

Hardy, Yeats, and Frost have all written epitaphs for themselves.

Hardy
I never cared for life, life cared for me.
And hence I owe it some fidelity…

Yeats
Cast a cold eye
On life and death.
Horseman, pass by.

Frost
I would have written of me on my stone
I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.

Of the three, Frost, surely, comes off best. Hardy seems to be stating the Pessimist’s Case rather than his own feelings. I never cared… Never? Now, Mr. Hardy, really! Yeats’ horseman is a stage prop; the passer-by is much more likely to be a motorist. But Frost convinces me that he is telling neither more nor less than the truth about himself. And, when it comes to wisdom, is not having a lover’s quarrel with life more worthy of Prospero than not caring or looking coldly?

I realize looking over this that it’s not clear that any of those are necessarily on any of the poets’ headstones. Still, I thought I’d mention it. If only because I like the essay.