Tag Archives: poetry

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…

Blame me, if you have never been melancholic…

Yes, do blame me… If only words and expressions like ‘blue is my favourite colour’, ‘hey, all of you, just leave me alone (and I mean it)’, ‘every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence (Beckett)’ etc. – do not ring any bell, and never did – it’s OK… Just leave now and enjoy yourself somewhere else (there are thousands of places!) where sanguine, talkative, easy-going guys entertain visitors with fascinating stories about Obama, how to save this planet or how a baby can be born with two faces… Here is a sophomoric, flamboyant, esoteric and just sooo boring space of a pathetic, self-absorbed little bastard with artistic ambitions. Whatever I do, I do it for myself and you are a senseless, petty prick if you think otherwise. You are coming here thinking that you’ve just made me jumping up to the stars by your silent, ignorant, shallow presence… That I should treat you like a half-god grabbing your attention with attractively-written, stimulating posts and flirting with you by colourful images and stupidly smiling little yellow fellows… Just forget, this is an abuse post and it’s you who should be grateful that I devote my priceless time, energy and a skill to you – you anonymous, spongy, wooden-headed brat.

Here is Ewa Demarczyk (‘eva demartchik’, called ‘Polish Piaf’) signing a poignant to insanity poem by Julian Tuwim (‘tuvim) to the music by Z. Konieczny, translation mine (sorry master Tuwim):

Julian Tuwim ‘At the round table’

Would you consider, my darling
To go to Tomaszow for a day?
Maybe that very same September silence,
Still can be found there, in the golden dusk…
In that white house, in that room,
Which strangers filled up with their furniture,
We have to finish our conversation,
That from the past, sadly uncompleted…

It’s there where at the round table, still
We are sitting very still, like bewitched!
Who will rescue us from that spell?
Who will shake us awake out of cruel oblivion?

The salty little drop is still flowing
To my lips from my fair eyes,
And you answering me nothing
And you are eating white grapes…

And yet, my eyes are signing to you:
‘Du holde Kunst…’, and my heart is cracking!
And I have to go, so you are saying goodbye,
But your hand doesn’t tremble in mine…

And I went, I left
That conversation broke like a dream,
And I blessed and cursed you:
‘Du holde Kunst! So – without a word?’

That white house, that dead room
Even today is surprised, doesn’t believe…
The strangers had put their furniture there,
And they were leaving it in thoughtful sadness…

But – everything has been left there!
Even that very same September silence…
So, would you consider, my dearest,
To go to Tomaszow for a day again?


Uploaded to Youtube by abudab – thank you.

Marek Grechuta – Kantata

This is one of these almost-impossible-to-translate poems, when all the charm and even meaning of the text is being jeopardised by an attempt to find the proper expressions in a different language. And a translator (doomed to clumsiness and frustration) has to choose between being literally ‘loyal’ to the original (which will result in a terrible mess-in-writing) or trying a daunting task of ‘playing’ a poet him/herself – just in order to catch the essence of ‘what I think the author tried to say”… And if I am about to suicidally apply the second option I am doing it out of my deep regret that there is much too much forgotten or unaccessible art – that the artists’ names and their vision of the world, which should stir souls of international crowds remain, at best, national curiosities merely…

Marek Grechuta (‘grehuta’) – a poet, composer and a signer (died in 2006) was originally trained as an architect, but quite quickly and fortunately he allowed himself to become what he seemed to be born for. His artistic style was unique – an elegant, playful yet full of mystery; his sensitive yet intense, charismatic presence on a stage (one may say the he looked like ‘the poetry personified’) was bringing in mind artistic performances. Then his distinctive voice, perfectly controlled and full of expression, and the sublime lyrics (his own or adopted from Polish poets) arranged with always clever music into a one piece, which one can call ‘the synthesis of arts’.

Here, he sings “Kantata” (the ‘almost-impossible-to translate’) – a poem by Jan Zych (barely known, what a shame!), music by excellent Jan Kanty Pawluskiewicz (borowka7 has originally uploaded it to the Youtube service, thank you). I admire this piece for its ability to portray the extremes – dark and light, icy cold and golden warm, drama and perfect harmony…


I’ve dreamed about birds without the sky…
I’ve dreamed about horses without the land…

There is no other season here, only winter,
Here is the place heavy like a stone and confusing like a labyrinth,
Here a wall meets a wall, both are alien to each other,
And a fair flower of the sky dies on a stalk of a yard.

But somewhere there, they are sowing their land with seeds,
And drowsy hay is being carried into wide open barns,
Summer is ruling there with its golden sceptre.

And the last apple on the apple tree
Shines at the distance in that Kingdom.

Here is the place heavy like a stone and confusing like a labyrinth,
Here nobody will care if I fall among all this mechanical jungle,
And they will sweep me up, the alien man, like old snow before spring,
Four sides of the world and four seasons will unite in that one moment.

And everything I’ve experienced will rush to my heart,
And my memories will fight which one of them I belong to,
And let it be a sort of a confession, but without the absolution,
I don’t want to be robbed of anything I went through in my life.

Few words on poetry…

I just couldn’t help myself with that… I had to share my amazement with you… Quite recently I’ve came across Damien’s Rice ‘9 Crimes’ hugely popular song, which – being nicely performed with some sublime moments (especially the original video does have a visual impact) – is nothing more than one more piece about love. What stunned me was the ‘buzz’ around the lyrics – people launching discussions (on e-forums) and struggling to interpret one simple metaphor from that song (metaphor of a gun ‘being loaded’ and ‘shoot’). What had happened to us – ‘modern people’ – that we appear to be so analphabetic when it comes to digesting language only a little bit more ‘sophisticated’ that that informal one?… That we hit the wall and get excited when someone uses popular, mass-poetry – diluted and bleached in order to not to intimidate us too much by some ‘snobby’ messages?… O, yes… We tend to label as ‘snobby’ and ‘pretentious’ anything that reaches even few inches above the average. And the ‘beautiful’ word evokes the most repulsing reactions (I have them myself when someone refers to my art) – no, no, just don’t call it ‘beautiful’, it’s so old-fashioned and ‘cliche’ that sounds like a degradation rather than appreciation… call it ‘cynical’, call it ‘modern’, call it ‘difficult’… Don’t call it ‘poetic’, don’t you dare to call it ‘artisitc’ and never ever call it ‘beautiful’…

Right, something went in the wrong direction then… But, there is the light in a tunnel, there seems to be a great starvation for a meaningful (or, at least, ambiguous) message, we know that we are in a great need of that ‘metaphysical thrill’ which only true art – true beauty can deliver. To start with a simple metaphor from a hit song it’s OK, but we have to go further, much further… There are undiscovered worlds of written messages so astonishing that you are likely to fall of your chair if you perceptive enough…

So there my story goes on… Being provoked by the above-mentioned social observation I ended up immersing myself for hours in Polish poetry being sung by some outstanding artists… And I must say, I feel of my chair… Not only because (please, absolve me if it sounds too narcissistic for you) Polish seems to be perfect to convey sublime yet powerful – with all its whispering yet brisk sounds and not only due my native land’s innate love and a gift of poetic expression (before 2004 when Czeslaw Milosz sadly passed away, Poland was blessed by two living poets-Nobelists and dozens of those excellent, yet unknown broader abroad)… Simply, I’ve experienced anew how profoundly BEAUTIFUL is to be a man, a human being – to able to create and perform, to perceive and appreciate the pure transcendence caught in words and sounds.

I don’t mind being called the most ‘snobby’ creature on this planet – just try it yourself, just help yourself to BE, to be more…

In my next post – one of my favourite pieces I can listen to endlessly…

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