Tag Archives: flowers of evil

Baudelaire’s lesson of French… (Whilt 7)

L’Homme et la mer08

Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer!
La mer est ton miroir; tu contemples ton âme
Dans le déroulement infini de sa lame,
Et ton esprit n’est pas un gouffre moins amer.

Tu te plais à plonger au sein de ton image;
Tu l’embrasses des yeux et des bras, et ton coeur
Se distrait quelquefois de sa propre rumeur
Au bruit de cette plainte indomptable et sauvage.

Vous êtes tous les deux ténébreux et discrets:
Homme, nul n’a sondé le fond de tes abîmes;
Ô mer, nul ne connaît tes richesses intimes,
Tant vous êtes jaloux de garder vos secrets!

Et cependant voilà des siècles innombrables
Que vous vous combattez sans pitié ni remords,
Tellement vous aimez le carnage et la mort,
Ô lutteurs éternels, ô frères implacables!

Charles Baudelaire

Forever love the ocean, free man!
For in its eternal unrolling of the power
You can contemplate your soul as if in a mirror;
Neither less bitter is the abyss of your spirit.

You would plunge into your image emerging there,
Ready to dive your eyes, arms and heart into it
And if something makes you to forget that vanity of yours,
It can be only that wild, untameable lament of waves.

You both tend to be dark and mysterious:
Man, no one has ever searched through your gulf;
Ocean, no one knows your hidden riches,
So jealous you are of your secret depths!

And yet, for countless ages, remorselessly and
Without a pity, you have fought each other,
For so strong is your fascination with carnage and death,
Twin wrestlers, for ever in a struggle!

Interesting, how we tend to translate the same poem differently in different decades/generations zooming in on, digging into varying tones and shades of meaning…  There is something really truthful in what Matisse said that: Each age brings its own light, its particular feeling for space… – it brings also its very own understanding of what has been written/said decades or hundreds years ago.

I’ve bumped into Baudelaire’s “Flowers of Evil” 1857 (so gorgeous this title is!) on this well-edited site, yet the four various translations provided there had annoyed me so much – I just had to try my own ‘voice’. Interestingly again, I’ve found the oldest version from 1931  the most appealing, maybe due its naturally (time-wise) closer sense/feeling for the author’s intentions. Maybe… My attempt (can be read as a joke, I wouldn’t mind) is meant to care much less for the literal deciphering word after word, yet – it aims at capturing the sense of freedom, the dark power and the combat spirit of the both – ‘free man’ and the ocean. This is my light, my feeling of space as I marvel over this 19th c. French poem in this first decade of 21st c. – seen through the English-shaded glasses put on my Eastern-European eyes…

Any comments?… You are all pretty silent out there. Sometimes I feel like writing for myself and my Muse (if she is available) only…


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