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The Desolate

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AC Benus

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Here's a poem and my translation of it.

 

El Desdichado

de Gérard Labrunie, ou Gérard de Nerval

 

Je suis le Ténébreux – le Veuf – l’Inconsolé,
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la Tour abolie:
Ma seule Etoile est morte – et mon luth constellé
Porte le Soleil noir de la Mélancolie.

 

Dans la nuit du Tombeau, Toi qui m’as consolé,
Rends-moi le Pausilippe et la mer d’Italie,
La fleur qui plaisait tant à mon coeur désolé,
Et la treille où le Pampre à la Rose s’allie.

 

Suis-je Amour ou Phébus ?… Lusignan ou Biron?
Mon front est rouge encor du baiser de la Reine;
J’ai rêvé dans la Grotte où nage la sirène….

 

Et j’ai deux fois vainqueur traversé l’Achéron:
Modulant tour à tour sur la lyre d’Orphée
Les soupirs de la Sainte et les cris de la Fée.

 

 

The Desolate

by Gérard Labrunie, aka Gérard de Nerval

 

I am the tombs – the widower – the unconsoled, 

The prince of Aquitaine in his tower abandoned: 

My one and only star is dead – my strings unfold  

Melancholy's black light whose sun is most weakened.

 

In the night of the graves, your tears held me controlled, 

So now return Posillipo, Naples' fair wind, 

The flower my afflicted heart liked so much of old,

And the trellis where grape and rose were jointly pinned.

 

Am I Venus or the Sun...? Brave king or coward?  

My brow is still flushed from the kiss of the sovereign; 

I dream yet of the grotto where swims the siren….

 

Twice crossing the river of the dead, I scoured

For my turn on Orpheus' lyre to play

For saintly sighs, and the cursed screams of the fey.

 

 

 

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Note:  The poem was published in 1853 as part of a series of twelve Sonnets written while the man was incarcerated for mental instability. The title is Spanish means “the desolate”; “the wretched”; “the unfortunate” etc. For some interesting and detailed analysis of the poem and its images, see here: https://everything2.com/title/El+Desdichado

 

 

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Sobering AC. Mental instability - i've been there many times, scary knowing i could have been locked away for it.  It is very lonely this poem and sad. Thank you for your excellent work, AC. It's beautiful though very painful.

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28 minutes ago, Mikiesboy said:

Sobering AC. Mental instability - i've been there many times, scary knowing i could have been locked away for it.  It is very lonely this poem and sad. Thank you for your excellent work, AC. It's beautiful though very painful.

Yes, as I understand it, Nerval was known as quite an artistic type. He's still remembered today as the one who used to walk his pet lobster around Paris on a leash. :) 

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You never cease to amaze me. This is a fantastic poem. Given the unhappy history of Aquitaine, the line about the prince in his desolate tower surely resonates. But the third stanza opens up  some very interesting ideas and possibilities. Bravo, my friend. 

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8 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

You never cease to amaze me. This is a fantastic poem. Given the unhappy history of Aquitaine, the line about the prince in his desolate tower surely resonates. But the third stanza opens up  some very interesting ideas and possibilities. Bravo, my friend. 

Thank you, Parker. You mention Aquitaine. That is one of several medieval/chivalrous allusions in the poem; and about the only one I kept by name. 

 

It's always hard in a translation to know when an allusion will resonate or not. I had to look up several that Nerval cites, and was impressed at how closely they all enforced a story with local connections to Aquitaine, the part of France he was from. However, that fascination is not enough to render the poem in another language, and we English-speakers are a little less well versed on French history than our Gallic cousins. So, Aquitaine made it in my translation, but others did not. They got reduced to the image a contemporary reader with the poem might think, thus 'king or coward' instead of family names used to evoke these sentiments. 

 

It's always tricky to shape a poem in a language not its own. I hope I have conveyed the beauty and mystery surrounded Je suis le Ténébreux

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AC, i am amazed at the things you offer up. it's beautiful. i love that fact you share, i get exposed to so many new and different things i never would have if not for you. i know i don't comment on everything, mainly because i'd be repeating myself a lot. cool, beautiful... you get the drift

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6 hours ago, mogwhy said:

AC, i am amazed at the things you offer up. it's beautiful. i love that fact you share, i get exposed to so many new and different things i never would have if not for you. i know i don't comment on everything, mainly because i'd be repeating myself a lot. cool, beautiful... you get the drift

Thank you, Moggy. Your comments mean a lot to me. Your encouraging me to be me means a lot to me too. Thanks for any and all thoughts you wish to share :)

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Here's a comment I received from Lyssa via email :)

 

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Dear AC,
your translation is magnificent. The mourning of the author is palpable in each line, the loss and the luring madness. The pictures and allusions are translated masterly.
I understand the choosing of Venus and sun, and I like it. Even I still think it is Amor and Apollo. Looks like I am an old-fashioned Victorian. ;-)

Every time I read the line about the grotto, I see the blue grotto at Capri in my mind. Thanks for this picture.

Especial the last stanza you should be really proud of. Your translation of these very complex lines brings the meaning forward and makes it more reachable for the reader than in the original and other translations.

So you gave this poem new life and energy. Bravo!

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13 minutes ago, AC Benus said:

So you gave this poem new life and energy. Bravo!

Oh that's super AC.. what a great comment!!  Thanks for sharing it

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