|The bridge over the lily pond|
Claude Monet's garden at Giverny in its Enid Haupt Conservatory. Each of us drew from the rich archive of Verlaine's works. I elected to read both in French and in English, with the translations all by Martin Sorrell. Patrick Phillips focused on Verlaine's romantic poems, while Charles Ruas explored Verlaine's work after he was sentenced to prison for his 1873 shooting of Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), the young seer among poets with whom Verlaine fell madly, crazily in love, one of several amours fous that marked Verlaine's life.
Here is one of the poems I read, certainly one of Verlaine's most famous and exquisite, "Chanson d'automne," or Autumn Song. It is nearly untranslatable, in part because in any other language, including French's Romance cousins, it loses so much of its innate homophonous, rhyming, and assonant music, beginning with the first stanza's vowel sounds ("automne," "monotone"), some very nasal ("sanglots longs"), but all of which mimic and embody the "monotonous" music of (Autumn's) violins. Nevertheless, here is the poem, and my admittedly crude translation. Autumn nevertheless is upon us, and so Verlaine's gem feels right. If you are in New York and are thinking of an interesting trip outside Manhattan and Brooklyn, the Botanical Garden is only 20 minutes by train from Grand Central Station, about $3.75 (I think) each way, and recreating Monet until October 21, 2012!
CHANSON D'AUTOMNE Les sanglots longs Des violons De l’automne Blessent mon cœur D’une langueur Monotone. Tout suffocant Et blême, quand Sonne l'heure, Je me souviens Des jours anciens Et je pleure Et je m'en vais Au vent mauvais Qui m'emporte Deçà, delà, Pareil à la Feuille morte.
Poem by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896). It initially appeared in his first collection,Poèmes Saturniens, in 1866. AUTUMN SONG The drawn-out sobs Of the violins Of autumn Wound my heart With a languorous Boredom. All worked up And pale, when The hour nighs I recall Days of old And I cry And I'm off On an ill wind That carries me Hither, thither Just as with a Fallen leaf.
Copyright translation © by John Keene, 2012.
Here are a few photos from the Monet's Garden exhibit. Enjoy!
UPDATE: A photo from Charif Shanahan/PSA:
|A listener, Phillips, me, Ruas, at the event|
Photos (by me)