Baudelaire by Charles Nadar
Turn up the volume ...
Back at the job that pays the rent, I've been working on Charles Baudelaire for a monthly discussion group, 3 Poems By. I've learned a lesson this month, which I should have realized when we did Whitman a couple of months back: a love of the poet doesn't make it any easier to prepare a session on their work, especially when condensed into 3 or 4 "representative" poems.
The challenge, however, always brings new, if hard won, insights, and so I'm grateful that I can be learning big things while working. Baudelaire has been the hardest lesson of all, not the least of reasons being that his works are in translation. The decision to choose among various versions has been agonizing.
But, enough with the whining! While working I stumbled upon something I hadn't run across before. A song by the group Stereolab entitled "Enivrez-vous."
The song is a straightforward, drone-ish version of Baudelaire's famed prose poem of the same same name, which simply translates "Get Drunk (or "Be Drunk"). Here's the original, along with translation:
Il faut tre toujours ivre. Tout est l : c'est l'unique question. Pour ne pas sentir l'horrible fardeau du Temps qui brise vos paules et vous penche vers la terre, il faut vous enivrer sans trve. Mais de quoi ? De vin, de posie ou de vertu, votre guise.
Et si quelquefois, sur les marches d'un palais, sur l'herbe verte d'un foss, dans la solitude morne de votre chambre, vous vous rveillez, l'ivresse dj diminue ou disparue, demandez au vent, la vague, l'toile, l'oiseau, l'horloge, tout ce qui fuit, tout ce qui gmit, tout ce qui roule, tout ce qui chante, tout ce qui parle, demandez quelle heure il est ; et le vent, la vague, l'toile, l'oiseau, l'horloge, vous rpondront: "Il est l'heure de s'enivrer ! Pour n'tre pas les esclaves martyriss du Temps, enivrez-vous; enivrez-vous sans cesse ! De vin, de posie ou de vertu, votre guise."Translation:
One should always be drunk. That's all that matters: that's our one imperative need. So as not to feel Time's horrible burden that breaks your shoulders and bows you down, you must get drunk without ceasing. But what with? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose.
But get drunk.
And if, at some time, on the steps of a palace, in the green grass of a ditch, in the bleak solitude of your room, you are waking up when drunkenness has already abated, ask the wind, the wave, a star, the clock, all that which flees, all that which groans, all that which rolls, all that which sings, all that which speaks, ask them what time it is; and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock will reply: "It is time to get drunk! So that you may not be the martyred slaves of Time, get drunk, get drunk, and never pause for rest! With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose!"
Baudelaire was one of the first innovators in the prose poem form and this, though it seems rather obvious, is a good example of that form. It has always been a popular poem of Baudelaire's, hence the following recitation by Dustin Hoffman to Jack Nicholson, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Last week, a typo slipped into the featured poem at a critical juncture, for which I apologize. It's been corrected in the original post, but here it is again for those in an anti-click through mood:
The poems are sad and short:
history--beautiful, closed and Greek.
But what I like best
is the blank three-quarters page,
white as a statue's marble eyes- -
a space to write or cry.
This week's feature poem comes from Lilliput Review, #89, originally published in 1997. A time or two I've performed this poem in Lilliput readings and it goes over well. Sadly, nearly everywhere on this tiny little blue ball its message remains true.
Lost in the Translation
I'm impotent today she
said, closed the book,
capped her pen. You can't
be impotent or potent, they
laughed. You have no penis.
She listened, and for a long
time, she believed them.
to the old woman
doing laundry, the evening
translated by David G. Lanoue
Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature. Here's how.
Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 105 songs