Paul Verlainetrans. Alan Marshfield
(À Charles Morice)

De la musique avant toute chose,
Et pour cela préfère l'Impair
Plus vague et plus soluble dans l'air,
Sans rien en lui qui pèse ou qui pose.

Il faut aussi que tu n'ailles point
Choisir tes mots sans quelque méprise:
Rien de plus cher que la chanson grise
Où l'Indécis au Précis se joint.

C'est des beaux yeux derrière des voiles,
C'est le grand jour tremblant de midi,
C'est, par un ciel d'automne attiédi,
Le bleu fouillis des claires étoiles!

Car nous voulons la Nuance encor,
Pas la Couleur, rien que la nuance!
Oh! la nuance seule fiance
Le rêve au rêve et la flûte au cor!

Fuis du plus loin la Pointe assassine,
L'Esprit cruel et le Rire impur,
Qui font pleurer les yeux de l'Azur,
Et tout cet ail de basse cuisine!

Prends l'éloquence et tords-lui son cou!
Tu feras bien, en train d'énergie,
De rendre un peu la Rime assagie.
Si l'on n'y veille, elle ira jusqu'où?

Ô qui dira les torts de la Rime?
Quel enfant sourd ou quel nègre fou
Nous a forgé ce bijou d'un sou
Qui sonne creux et faux sous la lime?

De la musique encore et toujours!
Que ton vers soit la chose envolée
Qu'on sent qui fuit d'une âme en allée
Vers d'autres cieux à d'autres amours.


(to Charles Morice)

Music before everything; and for that
Prefer what is odd, the more frail,
More diffuse in the air, not a note
That is likely to pull or impale.

You must also take care not to choose
Words that may not be read differently twice:
Nothing more precious than the distant song
Where Precision meets with the Imprecise.

It is fine eyes under a veil;
It is the full day at quivering noon;
It is the blue tangle of bright stars
In the autumn, and the warm moon.(1)

For we want Nuance again, not
Colour, only Nuance! O scorn
The rest, only Nuance can shade
Dream into dream, flute into horn.

Fly from these murderous Conceits,
The Wit thatís cruel and the Laugh thatís crude:
They make the very eyes of Heaven weep;
Fly them, and this gravy in scullery food.

Take Rhetoric and wring its neck;
You will do well, when you treat it so,
To tame Rhyme too; if you donít take care,
There is no saying how far it will go.

O who will tell of the faults of Rhyme?
What wild child, mad black man shapes
This tuppenny-haípenny trinket for us
Sounding hollow and false as his file scrapes!

Music now and forever! Let your line
Be something that flits in the blue above
Which one feels to escape from the soul
To another sky and another love.


(1) Iíve added: Ďand the warm mooní. Such additions, and the different rhyme-scheme,
make this as an imitation rather than a translation. Long before Lowellís Imitations had
been written I must have favoured licences like this (and so had most other translators).
The originality of Lowellís approach was that he took some poems off into completely new
realms, using originals as springboards. Generally, he translated at one moment with acute
accuracy and then would shoot off into something twisted and perversely (or boldly, take
your pick) different, even personal.

Click here 5 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. copyright © Alan Marshfield 2003

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