Three Translations from Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire: Invitation to the Voyage

………….My child, my, sister, dream
………….How sweet things would seem
To go and live together somewhere,
………….To loaf at ease,
………….To die as you please
In a country resembling you!
………….Suns damp like a brew
………….Of nebulous skies
For my spirit now with charm
………….So mysterious
………….From your treacherous eyes
Glistening through tears with no alarm.

There, all is merely order, beauty,
Wealth, calm and sensuality.

………….Some furniture that wears
………….A polish of the years
Would decorate our chamber
………….With flowers of rare bloom
………….Mingling their perfume
With vague whiffs of amber,
………….The plush ceilings glare,
………….The mirrors’ deep stare,
The oriental magnificence,
………….All these things call
………….Cryptically to the soul
Their sweet native speech.

There, all is merely order, beauty,
Wealth, calm and sensuality.

………….See on those canals
………….The sleeping vessels
Whose daydream is to roam
………….And to gratify
………….All that meets an eye
Even from the world’s far home
………….With sun closing day
………….Feeding fields bright loam,
Canals, whole city, fields of hay,
………….Of hyacinth and gold sweep.
………….The world is asleep
In hot light of day.

There, all is mere order and beauty,
Wealth, calm, and sensuality.

 

Charles Baudelaire: Autumn Song

Soon we shall plunge into a frigid gloom.
Goodbye, brilliance of our summers so short!
I already hear with funereal doom
The logs resounding on the stony court.

The whole winter will batter me. I go
From hate, shivers, horror to plodding work.
Then, like sun in its arctic inferno,
My heart will be merely a red frozen block.

I shiver hearing every log that drops.
Constructing a gallows has no bleaker sound.
My being is like a crashing tower as it plops
Down below a battering ram’s boundless pound.

To me it seems, rocked by monotonous blows
As if one is swiftly nailing up a coffin somewhere.
For whom? Yesterday was summer. Autumn shows!
This mysterious noise sounds like a departure.

 

Charles Baudelaire: Evening Twilight

Here is the charming evening, a felon’s comrade,
Coming like an accomplice in a wolf’s tread. The sad
Sky slowly closes like a great tomb, all
Where an impatient man becomes a wild animal.

O night, friendly night, desired by sneakthief
Whose arms do not lie and say, “Today is relief.
We have worked!” Then evening will unchain
Our spirits eaten by outrageous pain.
The stubborn scholar with a heavy forehead,
The bent over worker who regains his bed.
But corrupt demons in the atmosphere
Slowly wake like businessmen in a grand affair,
Bang the shutters and crash against the eave.
Glimmering gas-jets are tortured by a weave
Of prostitution blazing through a street.
Like a colony of ants, she finds how to beat
Despair. Everywhere she sweeps away each occult
Road like an enemy planning an assault.
She burrows through the city heart of mud
Like a worm filching our daily food.
We hear an odd kitchen’s hiss and roar.
The theatres yelp and the orchestras snore.
The tables at a joint where gambling is sport
Fills with swindlers and whores, crooks who consort
With them. The villains find no rest or mercy.
They leave early to start a day’s duplicity
In adroitly cracking safes and doors
To live a few days more and dress their whores.

Gather yourself, my soul, in this grave time,
And close your ear to clamor of the slime.
This is the moment patients’ pains increase!
The black Night grabs their throats and will not cease
Their destiny that will be the common grave.
By the fireside with a beloved all might extol.
The hospital fills with their sighs; few will rave.
About an evening with a fragrant soup bowl
Most of them have never known the call
Of hearth pleasures and have never lived at all!

Willis Barnstone

Willis Barnstone

Willis Barnstone, born in Lewiston, Maine (1927), and educated at Bowdoin, the. Sorbonne, SOAS, Columbia and Yale PhD, taught in Greece at the end of the civil war (1949-1951), in Buenos Aires during the Dirty War, and during the Cultural Revolution he went to China where he was later a Fulbright Professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University (1984-1985). Former O’Connor Professor of Greek and Latin at Colgate University, he is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Spanish at Indiana University.

A Guggenheim fellow, he has also received the NEA, NEH, ACLS, Emily Dickinson Award of the PSA, Auden Award of NY Council on the Arts, Midland Authors Award, four Book of the Month selections, and four Pulitzer nominations. His work has appeared in APR, Harper’s, NYRB, Paris Review, Poetry, New Yorker, TLS. Some of his 90 books are The Poems of Antonio Machado:, Life Watch (BOA), Poetics of Translation (Yale), Ancient Greek Lyrics (Indiana), Restored New Testament (WWNorton), and The Gnostic Bible (Shambhala). Recent books are Stickball on 88th Street (Red Hen Press), Dawn Café in Paris (Sheep Meadow Press), and The Poems of Jesus Christ/from The Restored New Testament (WW Norton), Poets of the Bible (WW Norton), and Mexico in My Heart: Selected Poems (Carcanet).
Willis Barnstone

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Author: Willis Barnstone

Willis Barnstone, born in Lewiston, Maine (1927), and educated at Bowdoin, the. Sorbonne, SOAS, Columbia and Yale PhD, taught in Greece at the end of the civil war (1949-1951), in Buenos Aires during the Dirty War, and during the Cultural Revolution he went to China where he was later a Fulbright Professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University (1984-1985). Former O’Connor Professor of Greek and Latin at Colgate University, he is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Spanish at Indiana University. A Guggenheim fellow, he has also received the NEA, NEH, ACLS, Emily Dickinson Award of the PSA, Auden Award of NY Council on the Arts, Midland Authors Award, four Book of the Month selections, and four Pulitzer nominations. His work has appeared in APR, Harper’s, NYRB, Paris Review, Poetry, New Yorker, TLS. Some of his 90 books are The Poems of Antonio Machado:, Life Watch (BOA), Poetics of Translation (Yale), Ancient Greek Lyrics (Indiana), Restored New Testament (WWNorton), and The Gnostic Bible (Shambhala). Recent books are Stickball on 88th Street (Red Hen Press), Dawn Café in Paris (Sheep Meadow Press), and The Poems of Jesus Christ/from The Restored New Testament (WW Norton), Poets of the Bible (WW Norton), and Mexico in My Heart: Selected Poems (Carcanet).