Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Albatross and I.

She finds she doesn't write when she's happy. Her life has been crowded with incident - the departure for cooler climes of those nearest and most loved (one word: Mathew); the entrance of other stars who might prove veritable planets, such is their gravitational pull; conjuring fabulous and mythical tales from the Indian Sandman's never-ending supply known in short-hand as the Ramayana, and juxtaposing it at the level of ideas with that insidious naturalisation and banalisation of gender in language that we call phallogocentrism - bref, it's been a heck of a ride.
However, she promised someone who thinks she's a bit of a birdbrain (well. she is.) - but not just any bird: for her the creed of an albatross - a translation of her favourite poem by Baudelaire. You've met him before, dear reader (for the third time in as many posts: ma [because j'suis femme, voyez vous] semblable, ma soeur) in the only other translation I would own as mine, Baudelaire's 'Correspondences': http://peacehappening.blogspot.in/2011/02/of-forked-tongues-and-other.html     
That post sums up nicely how I view the fact of translation as a simultaneously futile and endlessly important exercise, after that love of my life, Walter Benjamin. I haven't necessarily changed my mind in the interim, so in a staggering first, I'll skip the meandering and get to it.


Souvent, pour s'amuser, les hommes d'équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.

À peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l'azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comme des avirons traîner à côté d'eux.

Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule!
Lui, naguère si beau, qu'il est comique et laid!
L'un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,
L'autre mime, en boitant, l'infirme qui volait!

Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l'archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l'empêchent de marcher.

From Baudelaire's seminal (I use the word advisedly: bear in mind I can trace back its etymological origins like most of you can chart your family trees. Just saying.) Les Fleurs du Mal most often translated as 'The Flowers of Evil'.

The Albatross

To amuse themselves, groups of sailors often
capture albatross; gargantuan birds of the sea
who follow, indolent companions of voyage,
ships gliding over bitter abysses.     

Barely are they deposed on the planks
When these kings of the azure, inept and ashamed,
Flap piteously their wings: wide, white
training them like oars against their bodies.

This winged voyager; how he is awkward and weak!
Once so beautiful, he is now comic and unsightly.
Someone teases his beak with a burnt mouth;
Another mimes, limping, this infirm who once flew.

The poet is like this prince of the clouds,
haunting tempests and mocking those who would take aim at him;
Exiled on this earth, in a sea of derision,
His wings of a giant prevent him from walking.

I'm not entirely pleased with it, but just this has taken me an hour already, so I'll stop here. It *had* to be wings of a giant, and not 'giant' wings or 'gigantic' wings. Really.            

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