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L’Albatros by Charles Baudelaire

Souvent, pour s’amuser, les hommes d’équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.

À peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l’azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comme des avirons traîner à côté d’eux.

Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule!
Lui, naguère si beau, qu’il est comique et laid!
L’un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,
L’autre mime, en boitant, l’infirme qui volait!

Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l’archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.



The Albatross

Often to amuse themselves sailors
Catch albatross, huge sea birds
Who follow, indolent companions of the voyage
The gliding ship over the salty deep.

Scarcely have they thrown them on deck
When these kings of the blue, awkward and ashamed
Pitifully let their great white wings
Drag like they’re oars alongside of them.

This winged voyager can’t stand on his feet
So recently beautiful an ugly joke.
One knocks on its beak with his pipe.
Another mimes, limping, the cripple who flew.

The Poet is like the Prince of the Clouds
Who laughs at the archer and rides above storms.
Surrounded by jeers, pulled down from the sun
His giant wings won’t let him walk.


Sometimes when translating (even in my head) I want to say it my way and not the way the poet says it. Or I come to a line like Le navire glissant and I really want to say the glistening ship not the gliding ship, but the job is to be as close to the truth as possible so it has to be the gliding ship not glistening, which ships don’t usually do anyway, unless you are the albatross following the ship; the albatross might surely see the ship glistening. I really do like glistening.

A poem about a poet could really be a lousy poem, but the image of the albatross really fits and once again Baudelaire does it. Succès! My translation, by the way, is merely a snapshot of the sculpture Baudelaire sculpted.


Drawing by Akram

3 Comments

  1. Posted 8 Oct ’12 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    i love it especially it’s in french charles beaudelaire thanks don

    • Posted 8 Oct ’12 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Sharif. I appreciate your kind words.

  2. Posted 2 Jan ’13 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I’m glad you liked the translation. Thanks for connecting your blog to mine. I will be putting up some more Baudelaire translations soon.

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