Translating Verlaine

I needed a character to have won an award for French translation at high school. Anyone who suffered through French classes for five years with me would know that I had no chance of writing such a thing from experience. Fortunately, I came up with a plot twist in which the character admitted that he taken a famous translation, simply applied a thesaurus, some grammatical changes and… voila!

Paul Verlaine –  Fall Song

The endless weeping of fall’s violins

torment my heart with a single note of indolence.

When the hours are rung, smothering and colorless,

I think to myself about the old days, and I cry.

And off I go, carried in the mean wind

this way and that, no more than a dead leaf.

And here’s the foreshadowing, in the palest moonlight of watercolor foreshadowing on grey vellum that the artist can manage: The first half of the first stanza was read on radio on June 1, 1944 (in French) to let the French resistance know that invasion was likely in the coming days. the second half of the same stanza was read on June 5 as a signal to start sabotage operations. C’mon, you all knew that, right? Oh well, not to worry – the poems need to stand on their own feet (iambically speaking).

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About Ian Whatley

Ian Whatley -- British born, bred, educated, and then deported. His fiction has been published in The Legendary, Lost and Found Times, 3S and so on and so on and...

Posted on September 29, 2010, in Ian W and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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