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Attempted Translation: Baudelaire's "Correspondances"


Translation Attempt: Correspondances by Baudelaire

Original:
Correspondances

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.

II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
— Et d'autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,

Ayant l'expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l'ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l'encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l'esprit et des sens.

— Charles Baudelaire
_____________________________________

Other Translations Into English:

Correspondences

Nature is a temple in which living pillars
Sometimes give voice to confused words;
Man passes there through forests of symbols
Which look at him with understanding eyes.

Like prolonged echoes mingling in the distance
In a deep and tenebrous unity,
Vast as the dark of night and as the light of day,
Perfumes, sounds, and colors correspond.

There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children,
Sweet as oboes, green as meadows
— And others are corrupt, and rich, triumphant,

With power to expand into infinity,
Like amber and incense, musk, benzoin,
That sing the ecstasy of the soul and senses.

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)


Correspondences

Nature's a temple where each living column,
At times, gives forth vague words. There Man advances
Through forest-groves of symbols, strange and solemn,
Who follow him with their familiar glances.

As long-drawn echoes mingle and transfuse
Till in a deep, dark unison they swoon,
Vast as the night or as the vault of noon —
So are commingled perfumes, sounds, and hues.

There can be perfumes cool as children's flesh,
Like fiddIes, sweet, like meadows greenly fresh.
Rich, complex, and triumphant, others roll

With the vast range of all non-finite things —
Amber, musk, incense, benjamin, each sings
The transports of the senses and the soul.

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)


Correspondences

All nature is one temple, the living aisles whereof
Murmur in a soft language, half strange, half understood;
Man wanders there as through a cabalistic wood,
Aware of eyes that watch him in the leaves above.

Like voices echoing in his senses from beyond
Life's watery source, and which into one voice unite,
Vast as the turning planet clothed in darkness and light,
So do all sounds and hues and fragrances correspond.

Perfumes there are as sweet as the music of pipes and strings,
As pure as the naked flesh of children, as full of peace
As wide green prairies — and there are others, having the whole

Corrupt proud all-pervasiveness of infinite things,
Like frankincense, and musk, and myrrh, and ambergris,
That cry of the ecstasy of the body and of the soul.

— George Dillon, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)


Correspondences

In Nature's temple, living pillars rise,
Speaking sometimes in words of abstruse sense;
Man walks through woods of symbols, dark and dense,
Which gaze at him with fond familiar eyes.
Like distant echoes blent in the beyond
In unity, in a deep darksome way,
Vast as black night and vast as splendent day,
Perfumes and sounds and colors correspond.

Some scents are cool as children's flesh is cool,
Sweet as are oboes, green as meadowlands,
And others rich, corrupt, triumphant, full,
Expanding as infinity expands:
Benzoin or musk or amber that incenses,
Hymning the ecstasy of soul and senses.

— Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)


Correspondances

Nature's a fane where down each corridor
of living pillars, darkling whispers roll,
— a symbol-forest every pilgrim soul
must pierce, 'neath gazing eyes it knew before.

like echoes long that from afar rebound,
merged till one deep low shadowy note is born,
vast as the night or as the fires of morn,
sound calls to fragrance, colour calls to sound.

cool as an infant's brow some perfumes are,
softer than oboes, green as rainy leas;
others, corrupt, exultant, rich, unbar

wide infinities wherein we move at ease:
— musk, ambergris, frankincense, benjamin
chant all our soul or sense can revel in.

— Lewis Piaget Shanks, Flowers of Evil (New York: Ives Washburn, 1931)


Correspondences

Nature is a temple where living pillars
Let sometimes emerge confused words;
Man crosses it through forests of symbols
Which watch him with intimate eyes.

Like those deep echoes that meet from afar
In a dark and profound harmony,
As vast as night and clarity,
So perfumes, colors, tones answer each other.

There are perfumes fresh as children's flesh,
Soft as oboes, green as meadows,
And others, corrupted, rich, triumphant,

Possessing the diffusion of infinite things,
Like amber, musk, incense and aromatic resin,
Chanting the ecstasies of spirit and senses.

— Geoffrey Wagner, Selected Poems of Charles Baudelaire (NY: Grove Press, 1974)

___________________________________________

My Attempt:

Resonances

Nature is a temple, where from living pillars
indistinct murmurs sometimes are heard;
man passes through forests of symbols
that observe him with knowing eyes.

Like long echoes that mingle at a distance
in a shadowy and profound unity,
as vast as night and the clarity of day,
perfumes, colors, and sounds respond to each other,

scents as fresh as the flesh of children,
tones soft as the oboe, colors green as prairies
and more—corrupt, sumptuous,

pervasive, expansive as infinite things—
like amber, musk, benjamin and incense
singing together the rhapsodies of spirit and body.

'
'
'

Last edited by pjouissance, Sep/12/2010, 1:22 am
Sep/12/2010, 1:20 am Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Attempted Translation: Baudelaire's "Correspondances"


Damn it, Auto. I was getting to shut all systems down, including my body's, and you got the juices roiling again. You could not have picked a poem closer to me and in a language closer to my ear. I have a favorite translation you've not included. I'll end the post with it. But first your beautifully audacious thing.

You understand your title is nothing short of heretical. You could get burned at the stake for that. "Correspondences" is downright canonical. Hell, it is sacrosanct. But "Resonances" works for me better and in a feminine way it gets closer to what Baudelaire was after. Yes I think so. It gets closer to what the Symbolists who followed his lead were after.

First quatrain. I've hiked through Old Growth forests and lived in deep forests. This speaks to what I have experienced. I swear I have heard voices, a chorus maybe of girlie voices, really was a chorus, and I have felt watched. You bring out the intuitive thing Baudelaire got. The signing of symbols in the green.

Quatrain two. Clean, clean, clean, and actually more subtle. And I get why you go with the title change. Last line in the original ends with se repondent. Respond is right. Correspondence a bit arch.

The tercet. I am with it. But it does take liberties from the original. Actually messes with Baudelaire's metrics. I am okay with that. Idioms in all languages change over time.

Ending tercet. More active even than what B. made. But rhapsodies I think doesn't have the same power as les transportes.

This is damn good, good enough to wake me up. But why, Auto? Why take on a poem that changed the whole scene? Nothing has been the same since this poem.

Let me add to your list of translations. Until reading yours it was my favorite.

Nature is a temple of living pillars
where often words emerge, confused and dim;
and man goes through this forest, with familiar
eyes of symbols always watching him.

Like prolonged echoes mingling far away
in a unity tenebrous and profound,
vast as the night and as the limpid day,
perfumes, sounds, and colors correspond.

There are perfumes as cool as children's flesh,
sweet as oboes, as meadows green and fresh;
- others, triumphant, corrupt and rich,

with power to fill the infinite expanses,
like amber, incense, musk, and benzoin, which
sing the transport of the soul and senses.

I am won over by your take.

Tere
Sep/12/2010, 3:13 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Attempted Translation: Baudelaire's "Correspondances"


Hi, Tere,

Thanks for reading! I just came across this poem and an explanation of it, and it seemed as though maybe I could update it or somehow make it a little bit clearer. It's a pretty grand poem, but you can trust Baudelaire to not be sloppy, he's trying to clearly make his point. It seemed like a good short one to try out.

Seems like the problems here are pretty typical; how much 19th century vocabulary and cadence to adopt (you're translating not just into English but to the 21st century), how much of the rhythm to try to keep, which nuances of simple words to choose, how much to interfere with lineations and punctuation. I was amazed at how much agonizing I had to do, especially at the end, where things get idiosyncratic.

I liked the translation you put up too -- is it yours?

You might be interested in a few thoughts I had as to why I chose a different word here and there; below is the translation you offered:

Nature is a temple of living pillars
where often words emerge, confused and dim;
(I thought of the scene he paints, Gauguin-like, mysterious, and how "confuse" can mean cloudy, indistinct. Also, "paroles" means also speech and lyrics. I decided to go with the idea of snatches of indistinct flow of speech coming from these pillars...)



and man goes through this forest, with familiar
eyes of symbols always watching him.
(I think "familiar" is not quite right here. The eyes are not familiar to the man; the man is familiar to the eyes, so I used "knowing eyes" instead. I wanted to keep the literal and beautiful "forests of symbols" also)

Like prolonged echoes mingling far away
(I agree with that "mingling" -- it gets at B's idea here)

in a unity tenebrous and profound,
(I think it's more sonorous to leave unity where B left it, at the end. Also "tenebrous" is too obscure these days, IMHO)

vast as the night and as the limpid day,
(that "limpid" is kind of cool)

perfumes, sounds, and colors correspond.
(I think "correspond" is too vague in its English meanings. They respond to each other, resonate to each other).

There are perfumes as cool as children's flesh,
(I don't like "cool" at all here for "frais", can't see the reason it was chosen)

sweet as oboes, as meadows green and fresh;
- others, triumphant, corrupt and rich,
(I think the quality of oboes B was talking about is there rich soft tone, so I used "soft" instead of "sweet". "Meadows" is more accurate, but we here in the US do have a definite vision of green waving prairie grasses, so I used the most literal translation.)

("riches" seems to be a favorite of B's. I think, using it right after "corrupt", he meant to use 'rich" in an even stronger and more sensuous sense, so I chose "sumptuous")

with power to fill the infinite expanses,
(I think this beats my line)

like amber, incense, musk, and benzoin, which
sing the transport of the soul and senses.

(OK, these last 2 lines were really hard. On "benzoin" I had never heard of it. It's also called "gum benjamin" and used in perfumes, where it adds a warm vanilla scent. To me, benzoin" sounds too much like "benzene", which was certainly not intended. I gave up and used "benjamin" which is also obscure, and thought of using "vanilla" which I bet was more in line with B's intent)

(the last line was really hard for me. Scents don't sing, but hey, we're talking about the mingling of senses. I did kind of prefer "chant". Then "transports", and it is plural, is a Victorian and obscure word for us, and also rather utilitarian in sound and appearance for what is meant. I saw "ecstasies" used a lot in other translations, but scents singing in ecstasies is just too muddled and not fair to the poem. What is an ecstatic song, though? A rhapsody. I was very happy to think of that, and consider it my only real contribution to the translations. I think it works.

Also "esprit" and "sens": I think he meant the spiritual and material worlds, broadly, or "body and soul", which is a cliche to us. "Spirit" could also be soul as your translation has it. The last line is the real test of translating, and it was fun to struggle with it)

Anyway, it's using different muscles that poem-writing. The task felt like this: to gain a deep understanding of the meaning, and then to re-coax the meaning from the literal French back into poetically-expressed English, aping B's style when [sign in to see URL] like a collaboration, only the partner is dead in this case and can't object!

I couldn't even begin to ape the rhyming or do justice to the [sign in to see URL] I learned a lot from this try....

Thanks again for stopping in,

Auto


Last edited by pjouissance, Sep/12/2010, 11:45 am
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Re: Attempted Translation: Baudelaire's "Correspondances"


First off, Auto, my apologies for not including the translator's name. It was late and I forgot. His name is C.F. MacIntyre. The book's copyright, a selection of French Symbolist poetry, is 1958.

Thanks big time for the walk through. That was fun. While reading I realized you were explaining intent, your intent as translator, and not so much choices made. And I quickly remembered something.

Baudelaire did not say this. It was something said by the slightly younger poet who followed B.'s lead, the arch Symbolist Stephane Mallarme. Without question, however, it speaks to what Baudelaire was after in his revolt against the older Parnassian poets.

"The contemplation of objects, the image which takes wing from the dreams they strir up, these are the song: those Parnassians take the objects in their entirety and show them: in that way they lack any mystery; they take back from the spirits which they take the delightful joy of belief. To name an object is to suppress three quarters of the pleasure of the poem which is to be understood little by little; to suggest it - that is the dream. It is the perfect usage of this mystery which constitutes the symbol: to evoke an object by degrees to show a state of soul, or, inversely, to take an object and separate a state of soul from it by a series of deciphering."

Pretty heady stuff, huh? But I am convinced it speaks to both Baudelaire's intent and to that of those who followed him.

Thank you very much for showing us your translation. What a treat! And any time you want to traipse through the Symbolist stuff I can be your huckleberry.

Tere
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Re: Attempted Translation: Baudelaire's "Correspondances"


Hi Auto,

Thanks for translating this new to me poem! In truth your version is the one that works best for me. I think you have succeeded in your intention to translate the poem into/for a contemporary sensibility. I enjoyed reading your walk through of the thinking process that went into your translation.

In S1, "indistinct murmurs" and "knowing eyes" feels right. Neither too archaic nor too la-la land. In S2, I come to understand and appreciate "respond." Interact rather than correspond, which sounds too neat and orderly, regulated rather than creative. In S3, rich falls flat but sumptuous springs to life.

I like your use of "fresh" for the flesh of children. Agree that benjamin, although problematic, is better than benzoin. I especially like your use of "rhapsodies" at the end. Nature as a synesthetic symphony!

Overall, the sound and feel of your translation resonates with me. Merci beaucoup for posting. emoticon
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