Two Baudelaire translations in different styles

Baudelaire_crop

Left, portrait of French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Editor John Scott Montecristo: These two translations of Baudelaire’s sonnet Sépulture (‘Sepulchre’) illustrate the difference between an accurate, literal translation by William Aggeler and an “imitation translation” by Lasha Darkmoon.
The Aggeler version follows the original French poem closely, word for word. It can do this easily enough because it makes no attempt to capture the musicality of Baudelaire’s poem. By using free verse—i.e., chopped-up prose—Aggeler is prepared to sacrifice the sound effects of the original in order to obtain strict verbal accuracy.
The second version by Lasha Darkmoon does the opposite. Though less accurate verbally, it makes use of rhyme and metre, as Baudelaire himself does, to capture the rhythm and musicality of the original. For Darkmoon, sound takes precedence over sense.

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Au Lecteur — Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire, 1863,  four years before his death
Charles Baudelaire, 1863,
four years before his death

Baudelaire’s first book of poems, Les Fleurs du Mal (“Flowers of Evil”), was published in 1857 when the poet was 36. Six of the poems, some of which have already been translated here by Lasha Darkmoon, were immediately banned as obscene. Au Lecteur stood as the book’s preface, containing some of the most quotable lines in French literature.

Victor Hugo was to enthuse, “Your fleurs du mal shine and dazzle like stars. I applaud your vigorous spirit!” Others were not so impressed. “Everything in it which is not hideous is incomprehensible,” the poetry critic of Le Figaro wrote angrily. “And everything one understands is putrid”. 

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One Night I Lay, by Charles Baudelaire (trans. Darkmoon)

One night I lay next to a hideous whore
like a corpse cuddling a rotting cadaver.
Then I began dreaming of a far more
attractive female. Wow, how I fancied her!

I began picturing this lady’s noble air
of command. The cool authority of
her eye. The perfumed helmet of her hair.
Such hot thoughts!  Jeeze, I’m all steamed up for love!

Lady, I’d like to cover you with kisses!
Wild kisses! Are you ready for caresses
from head to foot, my charming chickadee?

If only, cruel temptress, you could try
to melt the glacier in your icy eye!
No? You mean you can’t spare a tear for me?

Rotting Corpse, by Charles Baudelaire (Darkmoon translation)

Rotting  Corpse

Remember that thing we saw, my love,
one fine sweet summer morning as we turned
the path. Across the gravel-strewn ground
lay sprawled a rotting corpse. Its legs aloft,

kicking the air like a whore on heat,
seething and dripping with poisons,
displaying in a shameless fashion its fetid
womb, reeking with rotten smells!

The sun blazed down upon this festering
heap of putrescence, as if to toast it to a turn,
giving back to Nature with a vengeance
all the bits and pieces she had put together.

The sky watched that gorgeous corpse
blossom like a baleful flower. The stench
of it was so appalling, you almost
swooned away  on the grass! Flies buzzed

round that foul womb. From it  poured forth
black batallions of maggots like a viscous
jelly, oozing across the mass of living rags.
Rising and falling  in waves, the whole thing

popped and crackled and sputtered
like a sparkling devilfroth.  It was as if
the body, inflated with unmentionable
gases, was alive and kicking!

Une Charogne : http://fleursdumal.org/poem/126~


Insatiable, by Charles Baudelaire (Darkmoon translation)

 

Insatiable   

Strange goddess! dusky as night’s dark shadows
reeking of musk and havana cigars,

spawn of voodoo or African witchcraft,
ebony-flanked diva of darkest night!—
I prefer to opium or rich red wines
the drug of your mouth, where loves lies flaunting
itself.  In the sands of sex I find an
oasis. Your eyes. There I slake my thirst.

Your eyes! the smokeholes of your soul!  Don’t aim
those flamethrowers at me, you pitiless fiend!
I can’t encircle you like a river from hell
nine times . . . nor can I, lustful fury, break
you! Or bend you to my will by playing
a virgin . . .   in the hellpit of your bed.

Charles Baudelaire, Sed Non Satiata

To a Passing Stranger, by Charles Baudelaire (trans. Darkmoon)

The deafening traffic roared round me in the street.
Tall, slim, in full mourning, noble in her
grief, a woman passed by, with one stately hand
lifting and swinging the rich hem of her gown:

Swiftfooted, aristocratic, statuesque.
As for me, like a maniac possessed, I drank
from her eye…livid sky, where tempests take shape,
the sweetness that enthrals, the pleasure that kills!

A lightening flash . . . then night! Lovely passerby,
whose glance has suddenly given me new life,
will I see you again only in Eternity?

Elsewhere—far from here! too late! perhaps never!
Where you flee, where I go, neither of us knows—
O you whom I might have loved, O you who knew it!

Death to America (Osama Bin Laden)

Editor’s note: the following 4-part  poem, purporting to be  a transcription/  translation of a new “undiscovered” poem by Osama bin Laden, forms the centerpiece of a  political article. The article can be read in its entirety here:

http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2010/12/%E2%80%98death-to-america%E2%80%99-a-new-poem-by-osama-bin-laden/

Here is the poem by itself:

Death  to  America

Do what you can, and so shall we. Just wait!—we too are waiting.
—  Qur’an XI. 121-22

1. The Great Satan

America!
The inhabitants of the earth
Are drunk
With the wine of your fornications!
You have given birth
To terror, hatred, hysteria!
Your people are sunk
In stupefaction.

Darkness has come upon you.
Nevertheless
You think you live in the light.
Your eyes have been blinded.
Your people stumble in darkness.

Greed has undone you.
Pride and lust are your blight.
God’s sees, and has minded!

Miserable crew, forever whining
About 9/11 and your precious
virtue!
As if you alone had known pain
And the world were under obligation
To kiss your feet and court you
And approach you with shining
Eyes—
you blot, you stain!—
You object of utter detestation!

Country of murderers and thieves,
Bloodsuckers of the Third World,
Devils with smiling faces—
My curse on you for ever!
May your land be reduced to a wild
Desolation, may all that lives
In your tainted spaces
Never know peace—or joy—
ever!

2.   The Coming Doom

Where your people once lived
Secure in the illusion
Of their superior virtue,
There the bison will roam
Again, the frog spread confusion
Over the marshes, the vulture thrive.
There’ll be none to hurt you
There, buried beneath your slime!

Another people will possess your land
Taking your place, a race
From beyond the sea, superior
In virtue: one that practises
What you only preach, showing a face
Of kindness and compassion and
Care for mankind: a race far dearer
To God, and less prone to vices.

You brew trouble, you foment wars
So you can peddle your arms.
Pain screams
From the mouths of children so
That your hatchers of harm
Can trinket their whores
And live the American dream.
That way lies hell, and
there you go!

You defile all the regions you rule,
You scatter your bases and rob
The lands you begrime and bescum!
Who helps to kill children for kicks
In Palestine? May Abu Ghraib
Gnaw away at your inmost soul
Like a maggot! The time will come
When your backs will be beaten by sticks!

3.   The  Holy  Land

Israel!—an American colony
Disguised as a Jewish state,
Deliberately planted to destabilize
And drive entire races demented!
A country whose main product is
hate,
Whose
raison d-être is to make misery,
Where peace would be the only surprise!
A country not owned, but rented

From the Arabs temporarily, by force
—Where the rent is always in arrears.
America, the day will come
When the rent will have to be paid
With compound interest. You’ll reap in tears
What you sowed in joy! At the end of this course,
You will pick up the tab and become
Chief debtor for the monster you made!

See, the betrayer of the Jews—
The Jews themselves! Or rather
Those who
call themselves Jews, the pseudo
Ashkenazi Jews with their blue eyes
And blonde hair! Could any race be further
From the true Semitic Jews whose
Blended blood has been poured into
Other
bloods under alien skies?

These are the ones, the hocus-pocus
Imposter Jews, who now blow the trumpet
For Zion, stigmatizing
Their critics, and heaping abuse

On those who object to the rank armpit
Of Israel!—Oh, how we loathe these bogus
European Jews whose devisings
Were all learnt from Hitler’s hellcrews
.

4.   The Day of Reckoning

September 11? That was just
The
beginning! Prepare for more
Of the same!—for further contingents
Of “cowards” hell bent on suicide
Flying in to your hated shores!
How can you win? You’ve already lost!
You’ve lost respect: the moral argument.
You are universally despised!

Invincible America, aren’t you glad
You’re
so strong? What “courage” it must take
To skulk behind the clouds and rain
Cluster bombs on the weak, without peril
To your own skins! Yes, it’s a piece of cake
Killing women and children in Baghdad!
Congratulations, America! You win
First prize for shooting fish in a barrel!

Hear now my message: Depart
From our lands: you have your own.
Don’t steal our oil! It lies under
Our sands, and there it shall stay!
Get out of our sight! Leave us alone!
Practise the torturer’s art
On your own people! I wonder
What
Christ would think of Camp X-ray?

Nation of impudent parasites!—
Supervirus of the world!—
So you think you hold all the aces?
Hear now my curse:
May all your bones
Be broken, your ashes all whirled
To the wind! May you who delight
In sowing tares in all places
REAP, REAP, REAP WHAT YOU HAVE SOWN
!