Monday, May 07, 2007

definitions, flowers and fruit, visitors

As part of my pleasure in reading French, I have recently started to translate favourite passages, which seem relevant to my way of thinking just now. Two passages have come together. One is from the novel Gros Câlin about a man who lived in Paris with a python. The other is the first two verses of the poem on the art of poetry by Paul Verlaine. Both, in an odd way, seem to make the same point, though I didn't realize it when I started on the exercise.
The novel is told in the first person, by the protagonist, a young man, who seems quite lost and out of touch with other people, but whose eccentricty has a consistent and often surprising logic of its own.
He says at one point: "I often use expressions of which I am cautious about recognising the meaning, because there, at least, some possibilites remain. It is a part of my philosophy. I always look into the background of expressions, because there, at least, you can believe that something different is intended".

Verlain's poem opens:
Music before everything:
In its empire, prefer what is irregular,
Hazy, primed to melt in air
Where all is free and weighs nothing.

In choice of words avoid the hard and clear
And hold nothing more dear
Than the grey song of shades
Where well-defined and vague concur.

I note more flowers and fruit on trees, usually defined by their leaves. Lime tree flowers are now in bud, each flower attached, one might almost say welded, by its stem to the leaf-like wing, on which, in time, it will be ferried in the autumn wind. Then there is the maple fruit, with its twin, green, pink-tinted blades, more heavy duty and propeller-like than the delicate fruit of the ornamental acer (also of the maple family) that I photographed the other day.

1 comment:

Dick Jones said...

Interesting reflections on the prose & the poetry. I'm close to completing a translation of Blaise Cendrars' 'Trans-Siberian Prose'. It's fascinating exercise, not least in the challenge it poses to locate English that captures the synthesis in the piece of demotic language, real lyricism & wild surrealism. It it's as much a cultural exercise as a linguistic one.