Saturday, October 15, 2011

The man in the scarlet vest and his symphony in white major

The French writer Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) was known for his rather unconventional way of dressing: he wore a scarlet vest during the opening night of the play Hernani by Victor Hugo, an attire with which his name became associated. 

Gautier's poetry  is steeped in an air of silvery, cool shimmer: fused metaphors and similes which can perhaps be best described using the title of one of his own poems: a symphony in white major.

Here is my translation of the opening stanza of the sonnet Adieux à la poésie (A farewell to poetry) by Théophile Gautier:

                    A farewell to poetry

Come, fallen angel, pull back your petal-pink wing; 
toss out your white dress, and its glittering rays; 
from the height of the sky where your blossom swayed 
you plummeted, as a star would, into a page of prose. 

Théophile Gautier (approx 1869) - credit Wikipedia


Conrad DiDiodato said...


here's my translation of the second stanaza:

Surely a light-winged foot rests on the sun.
Walk don't fly:the time isn't right;
store the rich sweet-song in your heart, a while longer;
let your harp strings slacken.

**I didn't know what to do with "repose"

Irina M. said...

Hello Conrad:

I like the translation of the last line quite a lot- it resolves the poetic idea in a concise manner that grabs the sparks of the consonants in the last three words.

For me -the difficult part in the second stanza was l'harmonieux trésor . This group has a resonance that is hard to capture in modern English...

"Walk don't fly" blends in nicely as well.

Utterly fun this poetic adieux.

Thank you...

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