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A Poet's Journal: October 23rd, 2014

  October 23rd, 2014 It is tempting to believe that in the lives of the past there was never a dull moment.  Take the life of any dead poet and his years seem as minutes, and every great word or sentence that was conceived by him is as if molded into every second of his life.  There is such an ideal that goes along with it, it is hard to believe they ever took the time to cook for themselves, or do housework, or were prey to the mundane emotions of life.  Boredom, I doubt, has evolved over the centuries, but why do we not see it in them?  What makes us believe that we are so lowly we have not yet reached a state of awareness, the kind of which appeared open to the poets of the past?  It is easy to suffer, but harder to turn that suffering into something no one will ever bat an eye at.  Perhaps what we believe of the past is only our unrealized suffering coming into view.  But perhaps it all comes from our trying too hard, of our making the most of each moment; for it is all too much of


Newly published at the Society of Classical Poets:  Translations of André Chénier’s Poetry, by Douglas Thornton

The Flute

Douglas Thornton

Ever tender and touching the moment,
When pressing himself the flute to my mouth,
Laughing and pulling me close to his breast,
He named me his rival and soon to be
Master.  My stiff and timid lips were shown
To breathe an air pure and harmonious,
And my young fingers, by his practiced hands,
Being raised and lowered a hundred times,
Though ever so trying, were taught to close
The different holes of the sonorous wood.

La Flûte

André Chénier

Toujours ce souvenir m'attendrit et me touche,
Quand lui-même, appliquant la flûte sur ma bouche,
Riant et m'asseyant sur lui, près de son coeur,
M'appelant son rival et déjà son vainqueur,
Il façonnait ma lèvre inhabile et peu sûre
A souffler une haleine harmonieuse et pure;
Et ses savantes mains prenaient mes jeunes doigts,
Les levaient, les baissaient, recommençaient vingt fois,
Leur enseignant ainsi, quoique faibles encore,
A fermer tour à tour les trous du buis sonore.

The Beloved Tarentina

Douglas Thornton

Mourn Kingfisher, most sacred bird,
The waters deep, Kingfisher mourn!

 She had lived, Myrto, the beloved
Tarentina!  Her ship set sail
For the shores of Camarina,
Where the wedding-march, with solemn
Flutes being led, awaited passage
To her lover’s bed.  For that day,
Within a cedar chest, a key
Had locked away her wedding-dress,
With all the gold that on her arms
The festal hour would adorn;
And also were distilled perfumes
To scent her golden hair anew.
But suddenly, upon the prow,
The raging winds with awful sound
Smothered her plea unto the stars,
And stunned, and yelling to the crew
Afar, she fell amongst the waves--
Amongst the waves fell the beloved
Tarentina and mermaid-like
Upon the swells her body rolled!
To a jutting rock, from swarming
Fish secure, the foaming waters
Drew the briny corpse; then high tides,
By the western winds being blown,
Found this sanctuary on shore
And dropped her softly.  The thunder
Loudly rolled through forest, river,
And mountain, and the lightning flashed,
While the rain came down upon her.

 Never knew she her lover’s bed;
Her wedding-dress is ever cold;
Gold will never adorn her arms;
Nor wedding-band her hair console.


André Chénier

Pleurez, doux alcyons! ô vous, oiseaux sacrés,
Oiseaux chers à Thétis, doux alcyons, pleurez!
Elle a vécu, Myrto, la jeune Tarentine!
Un vaisseau la portait aux bords de Camarine:

Là, l'hymen, les chansons, les flûtes, lentement
Devaient la reconduire au seuil de son amant.
Une clef vigilante a, pour cette journée,
Dans le cèdre enfermé sa robe d'hyménée,
Et l'or dont au festin ses bras seraient parés,
Et pour ses blonds cheveux les parfums préparés.
Mais, seule sur la proue, invoquant les étoiles,
Le vent impétueux qui soufflait dans les voiles
L'enveloppe; étonnée et loin des matelots,
Elle crie, elle tombe, elle est au sein des flots.
Elle est au sein des flots, la jeune Tarentine!
Son beau corps a roulé sous la vague marine.
Thétis, les yeux en pleurs, dans le creux d'un rocher,
Aux monstres dévorants eut soin de le cacher.
Par ses ordres bientôt les belles Néréides
L'élèvent au-dessus des demeures humides,
Le portent au rivage, et dans ce monument
L'ont au cap du Zéphyr déposé mollement;
Puis de loin, à grands cris appelant leurs compagnes,
Et les nymphes des bois, des sources, des montagnes,
Toutes, frappant leur sein et traînant un long deuil,
Répétèrent, hélas! autour de son cercueil:
'Hélas! chez ton amant tu n'es point ramenée;
Tu n'as point revêtu ta robe d'hyménée;
L'or autour de tes bras n'a point serré de noeuds;
Les doux parfums n'ont point coulé sur tes cheveux.'


  1. Continuez votre ecrite, s'il vous plait. Merci d'un ami en Etats Unis. Je suis inspire; la raison est ces mots aujourd'hui.

  2. Al Louisiana: Merci Beaucoup!! Revenez quand vous pouvez!

  3. Bonjour! Merci beaucoup pour vos oeuvres et vos traductions!
    Je suis l'étudiante en Master de la Russie, de Saint-Petersbourg et j'écris une thèse, dans laquelle je fais une analyse linguistique (comparative) des traductions de la poésie d'André Chénier en russe, en anglais et un peu en allemand. Si cela ne vous dérange pas, je voudrais préciser la date de la traduction de la Jeune Tarentine, s'il existe quelques versions primaires de la traduction de ce vers (cela serait vraiment particulièrement intéressant pour mon travail). Je voudrais encore vous demander si je peux trouver encore quelque part vos traductions de la poésie d'André Chénier? Toute information extralinguistique serait aussi très précieuse pour moi. (Par exemple, la question "Pourquoi la dernière décennie apparaît-elle une telle quantité des traductions de la poésie d'André Chénier en anglais (parce que la situation avec la langue russe est un peu autre).
    Excusez-moi pour tant de questions et permettez-moi de saisir encore une fois l'occasion pour vous remercier de votre travail!

    Merci d'avance pour votre réponse,
    Akakhian Veronika

    1. Bonjour Veronika,

      Ravi que vous aimiez tellement les traductions! Elles ont été publiées en Avril 2016 sur le site Society of Classical Poets, depuis les liens ont été mis sur le page Wikipedia de Chénier, mais ma version date de Décembre 2015. En outre, Je n'ai pas trouvé beaucoup d'autres traductions de Chénier en anglais. Si vous voulez des précisions sur certaines parties de la traduction, n’hésitez pas à me poser vos questions. Pour le reste, je crois que la traduction est une façon de nous mettre en rapport avec des expressions et des pensées que nous avons un peu perdues dans notre époque. Quand nous entendons une langue étrangère traduite dans notre langue maternelle, et bien traduite, ça ouvre pour nous d'autres perceptions et dimensions que notre culture à nous ne connait pas. Mais au fond, en nous rapprochant des sentiments éternels, ça nous rapproche de nous-même. Je crois que c'est Heidegger qui nous dit que c'est dans notre langue où nous trouvons notre être.

      Merci et n’hésitez pas à me recontacter,

      Douglas Thornton

  4. Monsieur Thornton,
    Merci beaucoup pour votre réponse, vous m'avez vraiment aidé! Si vous n'n'êtes pas contre, j'utiliserais vos mots et l'information fournie par vous dans ma thèse.
    Je vous remercie beaucoup pour votre réceptivité!


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