Croquis Parisien / Parisian Sketch

November 4, 2011

La lune plaquait ses teintes de zinc
Par angles obtus.
Des bouts de fumée en forme de cinq
Sortaient drus et noirs des hauts toits pointus.

Le ciel était gris, la bise pleurait
Ainsi qu’un basson.
Au loin, un matou frileux et discret
Miaulait d’étrange et grêle façon.

Moi, j’allais, rêvant du divin Platon
Et de Phidias,
Et de Salamine et de Marathon,
Sous l’œil clignotant des bleus becs de gaz.

Paul Verlaine, Poèmes Saturniens, 1866.


/


The moon was laying her plates of zinc
on the oblique.
Like figure fives the plumes of smoke
rose thick and black from the tall roof-peaks.

In the gray sky the breeze wept loud
as a bassoon.
In a funk a stealthy tomcat miaowed,
far away, his shrill strange tune.

Dreaming of Plato, I walked on,
and of Phidias,
of Salamis and Marathon,
under winking eyes of blue jets of gas.

Trans. C. F. MacIntyre, Paul Verlaine: Selected Poems, Berkley: U of California P, 1970: 17.

[I tried translating this myself as I thought one or two parts of MacIntyre’s translation were a little imagistically clunky, but finally baulked at the difficulty of preserving the rhyme – which he seems to be able to magic out of English with enviably little effort, the dude]

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