During the pandemic, the poet Daisy Fried was living in Philadelphia with her husband who was dying of a debilitating disease. Without much help from the outside, during breaks from the caring, Daisy began to read and translate Charles Baudelaire, a poet she had never much cared for, but began to find things they shared as the plagues and riots of Paris became Philadelphia’s own.
In Baudelaire’s poem, “Le Cygne,” the poet crosses a bridge and notices how Paris is changing, remembering a swan he once saw escape from its cage in a menagerie trying to find water in a dry gutter. The pathetic swan, out of its element, calls vainly for rain and thunder far from the lake where it was born. In Daisy Fried’s Philadelphia, the swan becomes a Canadian Goose floundering in an empty fountain outside the Philadelphia Zoo.
I recorded the poet reading from The Year the City Emptied, her plague-year translations from Les Fleurs du Mal at KGB in NYC last winter. In the Vimeo below she reads “The Goose,” and my nephew Matthew Cox reads “Le Cygne.” Enjoy
“Le Cygne” and “The Goose” follow below for the reader to compare the similarities and differences in each poem. Fried’s goose calls in vain to the rain and thunder too. Though Paris and Philly may change, some things never do.
American Swan by John James Audubon
Canadian Goose by John James Audubon
Canadian Geese by John James Audubon
The Year the City Emptied is published by Flood Editions. You can check it out here: