Friday, 18 April 2014

Day 18: A short poem by Paul Eluard

Today's offering is a snippet of Paul Eluard, from Capitale de la douleur. Eluard's poetry is difficult to translate partly because it seems so simple. This poem uses very ordinary, generic language - arbre, voix, bouge, etc. - which makes it hard to play around with much. There aren't many possible ways to translate 'arbre' without stretching the original quite a long way; this makes it tricky if the equivalent words in English don't create the same sound patterns (and they are not likely to do so). The slow drawl of the words ending in 're' in line 2 is not there in the translation, but the commas also serve to slow the line down, and the repetition of 'sh' in "shadow, shows" at least creates another repetition of sounds in that line. 

'Les petits justes', VII

La nature s'est prise aux filets de ta vie.
L'arbre, ton ombre, montre sa chair nue: le ciel.
Il a la voix du sable et les gestes du vent.
Et tout ce que tu dis bouge derrière toi.

Nature is tangled in the net of your life.
The tree, your shadow, shows its bare flesh: the sky.
It has the sand's voice and the movements of the wind.
And everything you say stirs behind you.

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