Friday, February 19, 2016


The Thirteenth returns . . . It is the first anew;
And still the only, — or has time not passed?
As you are queen — first or final? — are you
King too? The one lover or only the last? . . .

Love him who loved you from cradle to hearse;
The love from the sole one tenderly flows;
She is death — or the dead ... O delight! O curse!
The hollyhock she holds is a rose.

Neapolitan saint with hands full of light,
Rose violet heart, Saint Gudula's lantern;
Did you find your cross in the desert skies?

White roses, fall! To our Gods they slight:
Fall, phantoms white, from heaven that burns:
— The saint of the void's more holy to my eyes!

From the French of Gerard de Nerval:


La Treizième revient... C'est encor la première;
Et c'est toujours la Seule, - ou c'est le seul moment:
Car es-tu Reine, ô Toi! la première ou dernière?
Es-tu Roi, toi le seul ou le dernier amant? ...

Aimez qui vous aima du berceau dans la bière;
Celle que j'aimai seul m'aime encor tendrement:
C'est la Mort - ou la Morte... Ô délice! ô tourment!
La rose qu'elle tient, c'est la Rose trémière.

Sainte napolitaine aux mains pleines de feux,
Rose au coeur violet, fleur de sainte Gudule,
As-tu trouvé ta Croix dans le désert des cieux?

Roses blanches, tombez! vous insultez nos Dieux,
Tombez, fantômes blancs, de votre ciel qui brûle:
- La sainte de l'abîme est plus sainte à mes yeux!

1 comment:

James Owens said...

Some neatly realized solutions to the problems of translation here, especially in the octet. "The one lover or only the last?"

"Love him who loved you from cradle to hearse" and then the rhyme on "curse" is an adroit invention for marrying sense with the music of the original.

The French version here is missing accents. If you don't have a French-enabled keyboard, I would suggest copying and pasting the poem from a French site, rather than re-typing (if that is what happened).

I'm glad to see you translating.