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Old 08-07-2018, 07:56 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Default Baudelaire's "The Fiend" (L'Ennemi)

The Fiend

My youth was nothing but a dark storm, shot
through, now and then, by brilliant bursts of sun.
Thunder and flooding worked such total ruin
that ripe fruit’s tough to come by in my plot.

Here in my Fall, my mental harvest time,
I have to rake and shovel to regain
bits of the sodden soil in which the rain
dug holes (each one as spacious as a tomb).

Who can say if the flowers of which I dream
will find in dirt washed like an ocean shore
the mystic nurture that would make them bloom?

The pain! The pain! Time eats our lives. What's more:
a secret Fiend, our hearts’ devourer, grows
stronger by feeding on the blood we lose.


. . . . .

L8: current line for "dug channels--each one spacious as a tomb"
L10: "washed like" for "drenched as"
. . . . .

Original

L'Ennemi

Ma jeunesse ne fut qu'un ténébreux orage,
Traversé çà et là par de brillants soleils;
Le tonnerre et la pluie ont fait un tel ravage,
Qu'il reste en mon jardin bien peu de fruits vermeils.

Voilà que j'ai touché l'automne des idées,
Et qu'il faut employer la pelle et les râteaux
Pour rassembler à neuf les terres inondées,
Où l'eau creuse des trous grands comme des tombeaux.

Et qui sait si les fleurs nouvelles que je rêve
Trouveront dans ce sol lavé comme une grève
Le mystique aliment qui ferait leur vigueur?

— Ô douleur! ô douleur! Le Temps mange la vie,
Et l'obscur Ennemi qui nous ronge le coeur
Du sang que nous perdons croît et se fortifie!

. . . . .
Crib

The Enemy

My youth has been nothing but a tenebrous storm,
Pierced now and then by rays of brilliant sunshine;
Thunder and rain have wrought so much havoc
That very few ripe fruits remain in my garden.

I have already reached the autumn of the mind,
And I must set to work with the spade and the rake
To gather back the inundated soil
In which the rain digs holes as big as graves.

And who knows whether the new flowers I dream of
Will find in this earth washed bare like the strand,
The mystic aliment that would give them vigor?

Alas! Alas! Time eats away our lives,
And the hidden Enemy who gnaws at our hearts
Grows by drawing strength from the blood we lose!

— William Aggeler, translator

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 08-11-2018 at 06:43 PM.
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  #2  
Old 08-07-2018, 10:51 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

Yup, I think CB would have been happy with your Englishing of his great poem. I enjoyed a series of your choices here. I read a critic once talking about how lovely the fragile conditional is in L11: ferait. Glad to see you've kept that. And I think ripe fruit is right for fruits vermeils.
In L2, you're missing an r in through.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-07-2018, 11:01 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Thank you, John. I have fixed the typo. Yes, I preserved le subjonctif. I think I'm just going to read Baudelaire all month.
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Old 08-07-2018, 11:06 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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What do you think--should make the subjunctive even frailer with a "might"?

the mystic nurture that might make it bloom?
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Old 08-08-2018, 01:20 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

Well, yes, might would take you into the subjonctif; but what you have here is the conditionnel, ferait not fasse. English tenses and moods are I think messier than French, but any of could, would, or might could likely work here. Ferait lifts as if into the future - fera - and then breaks, with the conditional ending, so maybe might after all best captures that in English.
Could you have the flowers in this tercet plural as in French? Sorry I missed that earlier!
"the mystic nurture that might make them bloom"

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-08-2018, 04:19 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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John, if I make the flowers plural, I create all kinds of pronoun problems. Still, I can do it. It comes down to this which concluding tercets are better:

Who can say if the flowers of which I dream
will find in dirt drenched as an ocean shore
the mystic nurture that would make them bloom?

The pain! The pain! Time eats our lives. What's more:
a secret Fiend, our hearts’ devourer, grows
stronger by feeding on the blood we lose.

Or

Who can say if the flower of which I dream
will find in dirt as soaked as ocean shores
the mystic nurture that would make it bloom?

The pain! The pain! Time eats our lives. Still worse:
a secret Fiend, our hearts’ devourer, grows
stronger by feeding on the blood we lose.

. . . . .

Best,

Aaron
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Old 08-08-2018, 05:58 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I have to say option B is better to my ear - it's lovely. But I think when CB writes fleurs, he is in part thinking of Les Fleurs du Mal, his collection itself. So that has to weigh in the balance. Your call obviously in the end.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-08-2018, 11:33 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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John, you're right. I need the flowers plural. With a few changes to option A, that's what I will go with for now.

Thank you,

Aaron
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Old 08-09-2018, 05:43 AM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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I think you've done some good things with this translation.

A few notes/issues:

Why is the rhyme-scheme different from the original?

I'm not fond of "shot" being at the end of the first line, seperating it from the preposition it grammatically goes with. It is really not that different from if you were to split an infinitive at such a position because the words are semantically supposed to work as a unit when used together. I don't see any justification for it or anything in the original that resembles it.

"bursts of sun"? I don't see how you get "bursts". It sounds like you are just trying to inject drama here, instead of be faithful to the original.

"Ruin" and "sun" don't seem close enough to be a good rhyme, not just having different vowel sounds, but the former being disyllabic instead of monosyllabic.

"Plot" also seems quite a weak wordchoice for "garden". I don't usually find "plot" on its own meaning "garden", instead of having a vaguer meaning; and I am not sure I ever saw a translator translate a word from another language that means "garden", as "plot". It sounds more like you used it under the pressure to get the rhyme.

"Here in my Fall, my mental harvest time" is redundant as "fall" and "harvest" are basically the same thing, and one generally implies the other. It looks like you missed translating "j'ai touché", and translated l'automne twice instead (as "fall" and "harvest time").

Why not "oh pain!" instead of "the pain!"? The original has "oh", and "oh" is completely acceptable in English idiom, so how can you really not use "oh" unless you are going by your own preference instead of the author's?

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 08-09-2018 at 05:52 AM.
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Old 08-09-2018, 09:32 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Thank you, Kevin. Gosh, I did the best I could.
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