French Friday: Le Dormeur du Val

I’m not doing a traditional Vendredi de Vocabulaire, but today’s post is related to French.

Last night, I went to a reading at the Free Library of Philadelphia called La Belle Epoque: Poetry from the Banquet Years. Several speakers read poetry from the Belle Epoque: the period between the Franco-Prussian War and World War I. The poet Rimbaud (en français) featured prominently.

Most of the readings last night were of translations, although a few people read both the original French and a translation. In addition, one person read two translations of Le pont Mirabeau (one of which also happened to be the lyrics to a Pogues song). I would have liked to hear the original versions of more of the poems, but overall, it was a good evening.

I wanted to share one of the poems read (in English only). I’ve included the French text and then an English translation below it.

Le dormeur du val

C’est un trou de verdure où chante une rivière,
Accrochant follement aux herbes des haillons
D’argent ; où le soleil, de la montagne fière,
Luit : c’est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.

Un soldat jeune, bouche ouverte, tête nue,
Et la nuque baignant dans le frais cresson bleu,
Dort ; il est étendu dans l’herbe, sous la nue,
Pâle dans son lit vert où la lumière pleut.

Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant comme
Sourirait un enfant malade, il fait un somme :
Nature, berce-le chaudement : il a froid.

Les parfums ne font pas frissonner sa narine ;
Il dort dans le soleil, la main sur sa poitrine,
Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges au côté droit.

And an English translation (although I’m not sure it’s the same one that was read last night.)

The Sleeper in the Valley

It is a green hollow where a stream gurgles,
Crazily catching silver rags of itself on the grasses;
Where the sun shines from the proud mountain:
It is a little valley bubbling over with light.

A young soldier, open-mouthed, bare-headed,
With the nape of his neck bathed in cool blue cresses,
Sleeps; he is stretched out on the grass, under the sky,
Pale on his green bed where the light falls like rain.

His feet in the yellow flags, he lies sleeping. Smiling as
A sick child might smile, he is having a nap:
Cradle him warmly, Nature: he is cold.

No odour makes his nostrils quiver;
He sleeps in the sun, his hand on his breast
At peace. There are two red holes in his right side.

Note that the translation, like most translations, isn’t exactly word for word. Translation strikes me as being an art rather than a science.

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