Jul. 4th, 2013 05:20 pm
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] liv
Middle of last night, I couldn't sleep until I'd written down this verse. I've been trying to translate Verlaine's poem Clair de lune for about 20 years, and never got anywhere at all. This still isn't right, partly because it's too metrical and doesn't capture the very complex rhythms of the original. But much of my poetry suffers from being too metrical, too tum-te-tum.

The original:
Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques,
Jouant du luth, et dansant, et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune,
Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres.
Paul Verlaine, 1869

My translation:
Your soul is like a distant land
Where charming revels and ravels are,
Lutenists, dancers, players and
All somehow sad beneath their robes bizarre.

Singing jolly songs in a minor key
Of love triumphant and fortune fair,
They don't believe in joy, it seems to me,
As their music mingles with the moonlit air,

With this serene moonlight, beautifully sad,
That bids the birds in the treetops dream
And the fountains sob, ecstatic, mad,
The great slender fountains where the statues gleam.

A literal translation is hard because even having had this poem by heart since I was a young teenager, I still don't entirely know what it means. Approximately:
Your soul is a certain landscape
Suited by charming masquerades and folk dances,
Playing the lute, and dancing, and almost
Sad beneath their fancy disguises.

While they sing in a minor key
Of love victorious and a life of good fortune,
They don't seem to believe in their happiness
And their song mixes with the moonlight,

With the calm moonlight, sad and beautiful,
Which makes the birds dream in the trees
And the water-jets sob with ecstasy,
The great, slim water-jets among the marble sculptures.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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