A Woman and Her Cat


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english translation

A Woman and Her Cat

She was playing with her little cat
—a female, black. From where I sat

in the shadows, it was entrancing,
watching the dancing

bat-bat back and forth
of their white hand-paws, by the hearth.

One of them had hidden away
—wicked thing!—inside her kitty-

mittens, the murderous
curved agates of her claws,

sleek and slicing as razors.
The other, too, was like so much sugar,

and only seemed to have withdrawn
her own stinging talons.

The Devil—never far away—
would not go cheated of his daily pay:

later, in the bedroom,
where it was heavier, the gloom,

with her every laugh, light
and bell-like in the night

but also sure and sonorous,
were four bright points of phosphorus.


      — Translated from the French of Paul Verlaine
              by Diane Furtney



original French poem

Femme et chatte

Elle jouait avec sa chatte;
Et c’était merveille de voir
La main blanche et la blanche patte
S’ébattre dans l’ombre du soir.

Elle cachait—la scélérate!—
Sous ces mitaines de fil noir
Ses meurtriers ongles d’agate,
Coupants et clairs comme un rasoir.

L’autre aussi faisait la sucrée,
Et rentrait sa griffe acérée,
Mais le diable n’y perdait rien. . .

Et dans le boudoir où, sonore,
Tintait son rire aérien,
Brillaient quatre points de phosphore.