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Old 01-04-2018, 02:33 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 996
Default Verlaine

Rev. 1
The Faun

A crumbling faun of terra cotta
laughs in the center of the lawn,
foreseeing, certainly, discord
in this instant, still so serene,

that has escorted me and you
—both such melancholy pilgrims—
to this moment, which melts into
the tambourines’ whirling rhythms.

The Faun
.....After Verlaine

A crumbling terra cotta faun
laughs in the center of the yard;
in this very moment, still calm,
he no doubt foresees the discord

that has led both me and you
(we are such melancholy pilgrims)
to this moment, which melts into
the tambourines’ whirling rhythms.


Un vieux faune de terre cuite
Rit au centre des boulingrins
Présageant sans doute une suite
Mauvaise à ces instants sereins

Que m’ont conduit et t’ont conduite,
—Mélancholiques pèlerins,—
Jusqu’à cette heure dont la fuite
Tournoie au son des tambourins.


An old faun of terra cotta laughs in the center of the lawn, portending, without doubt, a bad/dangerous continuation to this serene moment

which has led you and me—melancholy pilgrims—just to this hour whose flight whirls to the sound of tambourines.


I know this particular Verlaine is a bit obvious, but I'm working my way through some of my favorites and trying to get the sound and rhythms right. For me the poem works on "une suite" which has the secondary meaning Verlaine is playing with of a musical suite. So I didn't want to lose the rhymes, but wanted to play with the idea of "discord" as well.

Last edited by Andrew Szilvasy; 01-07-2018 at 01:14 PM.
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Old 01-04-2018, 05:55 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Yay! A new translation to look at. Though you add “After Verlaine” I am going to assume you intend a translation not an adaptation.

I am happy with everything except lines three and four and the repetition of “moment.”

The sense of the original lines 3 and 4 is lost in your translation—it’s the “serene instant” and not the “suite” “that has led you and me to this moment.” I think you will have to give up your rhyme-words for stanza 1 and try new ones. This poem presents an odd problem for English translation because there is an obvious rhyme (“faun”/”lawn”) that is to be avoided.

To give you some more rhyme-words to work with:

A old faun made of clay and glaze
laughs in the center of the lawn,
foreseeing, no doubt, calamitous
developments from the serene

instant that has escorted you
and me—such melancholy pilgrims—
to this pass, which melts into
the tambourines’ whirling rhythms.

Please take no offense. I needed a translation to play with today.

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 01-04-2018 at 06:01 PM.
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Old 01-04-2018, 06:16 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 996


Thanks for the thoughts. And no offense taken. Really ever.

I always do "after" (or, at least I do in my own notes), but yes, it is meant as a translation.

I like your suggested rhymes. I'm going to play with them and see what I can do to make sure I'm not losing the sense.
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Old 01-05-2018, 04:43 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 5,253

I enjoyed this very much, Andrew. You see something different in the poem than I do, which is always interesting, even if I'm not quite ready to surrender my own perspective.

A wee typo in the original: ces instant sereins should be ces instants sereins. There's no requirement to keep the noun plural in the verse translation, of course. But the literal prose crib should probably preserve that plurality.

I worry a bit that the construction "in this very moment, still calm, / he" implies that the faun is calm, rather than the moments that have led up to this meeting.

I think it's absolutely fine for your translation to use "moment" rather than "hour" (as in the crib) for "heure." In the context it clearly doesn't mean a literal hour. But I wonder if repeating the same English word--"moment"--in the translation is the best way of handling the contrast between the serene "instants" in S1 that have led the man and woman to this point, and the fleeting "heure" that they occupy in S2.

The literal prose crib might also preserve the plurality of the lawns (boulingrins). That plural noun in the original makes me picture the faun statue at the intersection of carefully groomed walkways, which--like the serene moments--have nonetheless steered (ont conduit/ont conduite) these two melancholy travelers--perhaps from different directions--to this point of Dionysian release.

Given the multiple mentions of time, I further picture the faun at the center of a formal garden laid out radially, like a clock. But of course that would be much too grand for an old terra cotta statue, so I know that that's in my own mind rather than in the poem.

Still, I'm reminded somewhat of the formality of the garden in Amy Lowell's "Patterns", and the way sexuality breaks free of its constraints in that poem. That Dionysian abandon is the sort of "Mauvaise suite" (bad outcome) to the calmness that I imagine in the Verlaine poem, too, rather than "discord" between this man and woman, although I understand your desire to keep the possible musical connotation.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 01-05-2018 at 04:51 AM. Reason: OCD
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Old 01-05-2018, 04:45 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 2,501

Good morning Andrew,

For now, I'll just focus on boulingrin. I've just confirmed my hunch that the word derives from the English bowling green, which is a whole thing. Littre describes it as a "parterre de gazon pour l'ornement d'un gazon" - in other words, "yard" won't really do. The word dates from Mme de Sevigne. Lawn I think is your best monosyllable, but I agree with Aaron, don't rhyme it with faun. Green might also work.
Not a bad Verlaine poem, though I'm no real fan of his poetry. Too misty for me.

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Old 01-07-2018, 01:17 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 996

Julie and John,

Thank you so much for your thoughts. I'm thoroughly convinced on lawn, and your thoughts--along with Aaron's--have helped me reconceptualize it. I don't think it's there yet. The real issue is that I'm unwilling to give up discord, with it's musical associations, and I haven't yet gotten that first stanza where it needs to be, it think.

But it's moving in the right direction as it fixes the "yard"/"lawn" issue (I avoided the perfect rhyme of "green" though John thinks it could word), and gets the cause/effect more accurately placed.
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