Belle ” à damner les saints ” , à troubler sous l’aumusse

This is a funny portrait by Verlaine of “une grande dame” – how would we best portray that idea in English, since the concept is ironic, not literal? I’m not sure exactly, but perhaps the type of rich, entitled, woman of a certain age used to dominating all around her in a totally self-centred way, I’d better not give any real life examples. The poem skewers the looks, deportment and behaviour of the aging super-model, the patrician aristocrat, the fading trophy wife of a powerful politician… I hope Verlaine had someone real in mind when he wrote this, but we can all substitute our own candidates.

 
Une grande dame

Belle ” à damner les saints ” , à troubler sous l’aumusse
Un vieux juge ! Elle marche impérialement.
Elle parle – et ses dents font un miroitement –
Italien, avec un léger accent russe.

Ses yeux froids où l’émail sertit le bleu de Prusse
Ont l’éclat insolent et dur du diamant.
Pour la splendeur du sein, pour le rayonnement
De la peau, nulle reine ou courtisane, fût-ce

Cléopâtre la lynce ou la chatte Ninon,
N’égale sa beauté patricienne, non !
Vois, ô bon Buridan : ” C’est une grande dame ! ”

Il faut – pas de milieu ! – l’adorer à genoux,
Plat, n’ayant d’astre aux cieux que ses lourds cheveux roux
Ou bien lui cravacher la face, à cette femme !

Paul Verlaine

From <http://www.toutelapoesie.com/poemes/verlaine/poemes_saturniens/caprices/une_grande_dame.htm&gt;

This woman could lead a saint to damnation, and make a judge tremble under his wig. She has an imperial presence and her accent is exotic, it could be italian or it could be Russian, a bit like the evil woman in most James Bond movies. Here eyes are cold, Prussian blue, and hard as diamonds (of which she undoubtedly must have a vast collection), her breasts and skin put Cleopatra in the shade. So what must we do? Either get down on our knees and worship her, taking her red hair for our north star, or spit in her face…

I’m sure this great woman would have plenty of people ready to do both. Thank you, Verlaine.

The Poetry Dude

 

 

 

Voici des fruits, des fleurs, des feuilles et des branches

I really like the scene portrayed in this short poem by Verlaine, a touching moment of the expression of love between two young lovers. Simple and touching… A good poem for the springtime when love and optimism is in the air.

Green
(Paul Verlaine)

 

Voici des fruits, des fleurs, des feuilles et des branches
Et puis voici mon coeur qui ne bat que pour vous.
Ne le déchirez pas avec vos deux mains blanches
Et qu’à vos yeux si beaux l’humble présent soit doux.

J’arrive tout couvert encore de rosée
Que le vent du matin vient glacer à mon front.
Souffrez que ma fatigue à vos pieds reposée
Rêve des chers instants qui la délasseront.

Sur votre jeune sein laissez rouler ma tête
Toute sonore encor de vos derniers baisers ;
Laissez-la s’apaiser de la bonne tempête,
Et que je dorme un peu puisque vous reposez.

From <http://lyricstranslate.com/en/green-paul-verlaine-green.html&gt;

We can envision the poet out early in the morning to gather flowers and foliage to bring back to his lover, still asleep. He can think only of her, presumably after night of passion, which has now given way to tenderness. The poet thinks of his lovers gentle eyes welcoming him back with his floral offering.

In the second stanza it is as if we are with the poet in the cool morning air with fresh dew covering his face; he now wants to rest a while again with his lover – sleep with her again in loving togetherness.

Our equivalent today might be to go out early to Starbuck’s and bring back our lover’s favourite latte while she still sleeps – that can be romantic too.

The Poetry Dude

La cour se fleurit de souci

Today we have a very interesting poem from Paul Verlaine, describing a group of men walking around a prison courtyard during their daily exercise period. This is not stated overtly but can be inferred from the descriptions of the people and of what the poet says about his own participation in this. The poem is mostly fairly sad but the final stanza seems to bring a kind of reconciliation between the poet and these unfortunate circumstances – a reconciliation which is probably helpful to coping with this situation.

The title is a bit mysterious, I can’t really make much of a connection between it and the rest of the poem.

Autre (Impression fausse)
Paul Verlaine

 
La cour se fleurit de souci
Comme le front
De tous ceux-ci
Qui vont en rond
En flageolant sur leur fémur
Débilité
Le long du mur
Fou de clarté.

Tournez, Samsons sans Dalila,
Sans Philistin,
Tournez bien la
Meule au destin.
Vaincu risible de la loi,
Mouds tour à tour
Ton coeur, ta foi
Et ton amour !

Ils vont ! et leurs pauvres souliers
Font un bruit sec,
Humiliés,
La pipe au bec.
Pas un mot ou bien le cachot
Pas un soupir,
Il fait si chaud
Qu’on croit mourir.

J’en suis de ce cirque effaré,
Soumis d’ailleurs
Et préparé
A tous malheurs.
Et pourquoi si j’ai contristé
Ton voeu têtu,
Société,
Me choierais-tu ?

Allons, frères, bons vieux voleurs,
Doux vagabonds,
Filous en fleurs,
Mes chers, mes bons,
Fumons philosophiquement,
Promenons-nous
Paisiblement :
Rien faire est doux.

Paul Verlaine, Parallèlement

From <http://www.poetica.fr/poeme-1246/paul-verlaine-autre-impression-fausse/&gt;

The opening line is quite striking – “the courtyard blooms with cares” the juxtaposition of an optimistic verb with a pessimistic noun, introducing nicely the progression of the poem from misery to peace.

The first three stanzas describe the poor inmates limping forlornly around the courtyard, ragged, downcast and humiliated. If they speak they will be thrown into solitary confinement. The day is hot.

In the fourth stanza the poet puts himself into the centre of this company, willing to submit to the misery of the circumstance. But then in the final stanza the poet realises that all is not so bad – the company can have a smoke, have a gentle stroll around and in fact, doing nothing can be very agreeable.

But of course you don’t have to be locked up to be able to do nothing.

The Poetry Dude

Les sanglots longs

Here is a gently wistful and softly melancholic autumnal poem from Verlaine. The season seems to inspire self-pity and recollections of sadness for the poet.
It is a very simple poem, easy to read, easy to understand, easy to digest – so demanding a high level of poetic art to seem so straightforward.
A poem to read and enjoy.

 
“Chant d’Automnede Paul Verlaine

 
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.

From <http://www.frenchtoday.com/french-poetry-reading/poem-chant-d-automne-verlaine&gt;

Lost in sad memories the poet is swept along by the autumn wind like the dead leaves.
Poor Verlaine…

The Poetry Dude

Votre âme est un paysage choisi

Here is a poem by Verlaine giving an impression of a romantic scene in the moonlight, tinged with a hint of melancholy or world-weariness. It is set in a garden and as such reminds me a bit of one of those poems by Anne de Noailles.

 
Clair de lune

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.
Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune,
Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,
Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

From Fêtes galantes (1869)

From <http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/853446.html&gt;

There is some kind of masked ball going on in a garden, with musicians and dancers under the moonlight, all playing to charm the soul of the poet’s lover. But they are half-hearted, they don’t fully believe in what they are doing or in the possibility of happiness. There is a dream-like quality to the scene, with birds and water fountains somehow in sympathy with the jaded languour of the declarations of love.

It’s an exercise in style, with no great depth, but the poem has its charm and I think a good representation of the somewhat self-satisfied mood of its time, the latter part of the 19th century.

The Poetry Dude

J’ai peur d’un baiser

Despite the title, you might notice that Verlaine’s “A poor young shepherd” is actually written in French. But the French is fairly simple and straightforward, so maybe even an English speaking reader can understand it. So it is an updating of a standard theme of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to the late nineteenth century – the idyll of a shepherd in love. But this shepherd seems to be unusually shy and reticent – perhaps because he is supposed to be English?

 
Paul VERLAINE   (1844-1896)

A poor young shepherd
J’ai peur d’un baiser
Comme d’une abeille.
Je souffre et je veille
Sans me reposer :
J’ai peur d’un baiser !

Pourtant j’aime Kate
Et ses yeux jolis.
Elle est délicate,
Aux longs traits pâlis.
Oh ! que j’aime Kate !

C’est Saint-Valentin !
Je dois et je n’ose
Lui dire au matin…
La terrible chose
Que Saint-Valentin !

Elle m’est promise,
Fort heureusement !
Mais quelle entreprise
Que d’être un amant
Près d’une promise !

J’ai peur d’un baiser
Comme d’une abeille.
Je souffre et je veille
Sans me reposer :
J’ai peur d’un baiser !

From <http://www.poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/paul_verlaine/a_poor_young_shepherd.html&gt;

The poor young shepherd is afraid to ask for a kiss from his lover, despite the fact that he loves her, that she is pretty, that it is St. Valentine’s Day, and that she is betrothed to him. Poor young shepherd indeed, what more is he waiting for?

The Poetry Dude

Chose italienne où Shakspeare a passé

Without counting, I suppose the most common form of poem that I have posted on this blog is the sonnet, that incredibly versatile and powerful, elegant and intellectually satisfying 14 line verse form. Well, as they say, every new generation of creators and innovators is standing on the shoulders of the giants that went before, so here is Verlaine, writing as the nineteenth century rolled over into the twentieth, paying tribute to those giants. And, of course, it is a sonnet.

So from Petrarch to Verlaine to the present day, poets use the sonnet to compose some of their finest verse. Here is Verlaine looking back to Petrarch and reminding us of the continuity of this poetic tradition.

 
A la louange de Laure et de Pétrarque

Chose italienne où Shakspeare a passé
Mais que Ronsard fit superbement française,
Fine basilique au large diocèse,
Saint-Pierre-des-Vers, immense et condensé,

Elle, ta marraine, et Lui qui t’a pensé,
Dogme entier toujours debout sous l’exégèse
Même edmondschéresque ou francisquesarceyse,
Sonnet, force acquise et trésor amassé,

Ceux-là sont très bons et toujours vénérables,
Ayant procuré leur luxe aux misérables
Et l’or fou qui sied aux pauvres glorieux,

Aux poètes fiers comme les gueux d’Espagne,
Aux vierges qu’exalte un rhythme exact, aux yeux
Epris d’ordre, aux coeurs qu’un voeu chaste accompagne.

Paul Verlaine, Jadis et naguère

From <http://www.poetica.fr/poeme-1242/paul-verlaine-a-la-louange-de-laure-et-de-petrarque/&gt;

The first two lines immediately bring out the universality of the appeal of the sonnet. The “chose italienne” is, of course, the sonnet form itself, as developed by Petrarch, but then we go straight into Shakespeare and Ronsard, two of the masters of the form, as we have seen in a number of posts on this blog. Lines 3 and 4 relate the form to the great basilica of St. Peter, both immense and concise – the sonnet dominates poetry as St. Peter’s in Rome towers over the Catholic church.

We then go back to Petrarch – in the fifth line “elle, ta marrraine” is Laura, the great Italian poet’s muse and “Lui qui t’a pense” is Petrarch himself. The sonnets indeed comparable to religious dogma, enduring over time, robust to being used by many different poets, and cumulatively yielding a massive treasure.

The power of the sonnet is captured in the final six lines – its enduring appeal, its ability to enrich poor and miserable lives, its rhythm and order which can be brought to bear by many different poets.

The sonnet is indeed one of the wonders of human creativity, like the pyramids, the steam engine and the paper clip.

The Poetry Dude