A nice love sonnet from Apollinaire in which the poet’s strength of feeling competes for attention with his erudition and somewhat unusual poetic point of view. The erudition comes right up front with the title, and sends the reader to either try and remember a bit of schoolboy Latin, or more likely these days to write a query in Google translate. Whatever the route, we find that the poet’s lover is revealed through the agency of a soothsayer (forsooth…) And the poet’s unconventional point of view is that he has actually created his lover, a bit like a sculptor creates a statue and like a poet creates a magical poem. That reminds me of Shakespeare, in many of whose sonnets he makes the preservation of his lovers youth and beauty the responsibility and achievement of the poet.
Per te prasentit aruspex
Ô mon très cher amour, toi mon oeuvre et que j’aime,
A jamais j’allumai le feu de ton regard,
Je t’aime comme j’aime une belle oeuvre d’art,
Une noble statue, un magique poème.
Tu seras, mon aimée, un témoin de moi-même.
Je te crée à jamais pour qu’après mon départ,
Tu transmettes mon nom aux hommes en retard
Toi, la vie et l’amour, ma gloire et mon emblème;
Et je suis soucieux de ta grande beauté
Bien plus que tu ne peux toi-même en être fière:
C’est moi qui l’ai conçue et faite tout entière.
Ainsi, belle oeuvre d’art, nos amours ont été
Et seront l’ornement du ciel et de la terre,
Ô toi, ma créature et ma divinité !
The first and last lines of the sonnet are symmetrically addressed to the poet’s lover, but both underscore the central role of the poet himself in creating her as if she is a work of art, or a divinity (or a divinity represented in a work of art I suppose. And her role is not just to receive the poet’s homage as an idealised version of herself, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to act as a vehicle conveying Apollinaire’s talent to posterity (lines 6 and 7).
In fact, the idea of the poet’s lover as a woman of flesh and blood, capable of returning his feelings, never takes off here, here existence is solely dependent on the whim and talent of Apollinaire himself.
Somehow I doubt that this was one of her favourite poems.
The Poetry Dude