Home > 1. Famous Poems > Paul Verlaine, The Nightingale, Tranche 2

Paul Verlaine, The Nightingale, Tranche 2

File:Courbet - Paul Verlaine.jpg

RT spent most of yesterday afternoon struggling to finish his translation of Paul Verlaine‘s “The Nightingale,” no easy task, as it proved. This may be the longest 20 lines RT has ever faced: two run-on sentences that play with syntax like angels dancing on pinheads even as they take the reader on a dizzy journey into the heart of melancholy. RT already had the first six lines finished to his satisfaction, but even with this head start, he has labored to pull the remaining 14 lines into shape. Finished? Close enough, RT will wager.




The Nightingale


Like a murderous gang of crows

memories–each and all–break on me,

shatter the pale coward’s leaf

of a heart that admires its alder wood

crooked in the carnival rivers of regret

that shine and undulate nearby.


Dropping from the sky, they shriek

until a salt-breeze lifts them calm,

the wind passing away in the woods–until

by and by nothing is heard–

only a voice praising the Lost.

Only a voice–wistful and urgent–

rising from the nightingale,

calling yet as on that day of beginnings;


and under a maculate moon

that ascends ceremonious and pale–an

oppressive and swollen summer’s night,

pregnant with a dark burden–

cradled on a feathering of azure waves

the tree that shudders and the bird that grieves.

–Paul Verlaine, version The Rag Tree


Copyright © 2013, The Rag Tree


RT’s Related Posts: 1) Stephane Mallarme-Apparition; 2) Saint-John Perse–Dreamer, Poet, and Adventurer


Painting: Paul Verlaine; Gustave Courbet. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


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