7 abr. 2006

Here's a game that's fun to play. Who among these three eminences does a better job with the first 8 lines of this Baudelaire poem, "Paysage":

Je veux, pour composer chastement mes églogues,
Coucher auprès du ciel, comme les astrologues,
Et, voisin des clochers ecouter en rêvant
Leurs hymnes solennels emportés par le vent.
Les deux mains au menton, du haut de ma mansarde,
Je verrai l'atelier qui chante et qui bavarde;
Les tuyaux, les clochers, ces mâts de la cité,
Et les grands ciels qui font rêver d'éternité.

--Chas. B.

More chasteness to my eclogues it would give,
Sky-high, like old astrologers to live,
A neighbour of the belfries: and to hear
Their solemn hymns along the winds career.
High in my attic, chin in hand, I'd swing
And watch the workshops as they roar and sing,
The city's masts -- each steeple, tower, and flue --
And skies that bring eternity to view.

--Roy Campbell

To make my eclogues proper, I must sleep
hard by heaven--like the astrologers--
and being the belfries' neighbor, hear in my dreams
their solemn anthems fading on the wind.
My garret view, perused attentively,
reveals the workshops and their singing slaves,
the city's masts--steeples and chimneypots--
and above that fleet, a blue eternity...

--Richard Howard

I want a bedroom near the sky, an astrologer's cave
Where I can fashion eclogues that are chaste and grave.
Dreaming, I'll hear the wind in the steeples close by
Sweep the solemn hymns away. I'll spy
On factories from my attic window, resting my chin
In both hands, drinking in the songs, the din.
I'll see chimneys and steeples, those masts of a city
And the huge sky that makes us dream of eternity.

--John Ashbery

All have pretty obvious flaws, and a good portion of the flaws have to do with rhyme and meter. Yet one seems preferable to the other two. One seems to me to be the worst.

12 comentarios:

Tony dijo...

Best: Ashbery
Worst: Howard

Stuart Greenhouse dijo...

hmm. I'll probably be in the minority, but I'd say best Howard, worst none.

Jonathan dijo...

It might be helpful for commenters to give their reasons as well as their votes.

Stuart Greenhouse dijo...

Well, I like the way masts in the penultimate line lines up with fleet in the final--and the fourth line's sound-sense; sound-sense throughout actually, 'hard by heaven' another. Ashbery's first two lines seem kind of a mash in comparison, 'cave' and 'grave' 'near the sky' with no sense of connecting the inherent discordance there. I don't know French nearly at all, so I can't speak to faith in the translations, just my sense of the English.

That said, I would rather read all three and compare them to get a better sense of the original, than just read any one of them, and I gained some understanding of what the original might be from them all.

Hope that doesn't sound like too slight criteria to judge by.

Henry Gould dijo...

I think Ashbery's is very fine, & Campbell's a close second. Ashbery manages to get the kind of tense/relaxed rhythm of the french into a clear & colloquial english, with graceful rhymes. Campbell's is closer to stilted translatorese, but it works well rhythmically & syntactically (though I'm sorry he had to toss in that "flue" there for the rhyme). Howard's seems the weakest - awkward, stilted & inaccurate all together (where did those slaves come from?).

Joseph Duemer dijo...

I'm with Henry here. The first two lines are far & away the best in Ashbery's translation.

Tim Peterson dijo...

None of these seems to me to capture an accurate sense of Baudelaire for a contemporary audience. The Howard one is probably the most unrealistic and flowery, but the Ashbery one makes Baudelaire sound like Ashbery.

Jonathan dijo...

I liked Asbhery best. The rhyme of cave and grave is a little padded--given that he has to introduce two elements that are not in Chs. B. Do we picture a cave as being an attic close to the sky? Isn't chaste and grave a redundancy here? Still, it's a nice couplet. John A. was astute enough to keep the "eternity / city" rhyme, lifting it directly from the original.

I thought at first Campbell was the worst, because of the "sky-high" and the inversion in the first couplet. "flue" is not the best rhyme for "view." Now, however, I'm leaning toward giving the booby prize to Howard. "My garret view perused attentively " scans perfectly, but sounds awful. The writing is graceless throughout. My reasoning is closest to Henry's (of all who gave their reasons.) The tension and relaxation in the rhythm in JA is very good. It's at once colloquial and a tiny bit elevated. Where I agree with Stuart is in the desirability of reading several translations.

Jonathan dijo...

I don't mind that he makes Ashbery sound like Ashbery.

Henry Gould dijo...

"limpid" is a word for a certain quality in poetry... which comes by way of a fusion of rhythm (syllabic drums), imagery, sense. Ashbery gets the limpid... the feeling of being in that attic room, like some drawings by Bonnard, which is part of the original. a nostalgic crystallization, maybe. Limpid in English has a kind of "loping" rhythm, a skipping, an extra beat, a dragging of the foot...

this may all be very local & American.

Henry Gould dijo...

"limpid" is really a very interesting word... an elusive quality, a seductive light, a lightness, a gracefulness, which ALSO recalls "limping"...

Jack dijo...

I'll write a few pastorals, pour over them,
Then sleep with astrologers, very
Close to belfries in a dream --
The winds pick up their solemnity --
I'll look out from my attic bedroom,
Watch others at work, sounds they make,
Steeples, chimneys, masts over the gloom
The city turns to keep all the sky awake.