The Wind’s a Whistler

Es pfeift der Wind . . .

Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914)

Es pfeift der Wind . . .
Es pfeift der Wind. Was pfeift er wohl? Eine tolle, närrische Weise. Er pfeift auf einem Schlüssel hohl, bald gellend und bald leise. Die Nacht weint ihm den Takt dazu mit schweren Regentropfen, die an der Fenster schwarze Ruh ohn End eintönig klopfen. Es pfeift der Wind. Es stöhnt und gellt. Die Hunde heulen im Hofe. Er pfeift auf diese ganze Welt, der große Philosophe.
The Wind’s a Whistler
The wind’s a whistler. His will be a melody mad and mental, all in a single dismal key, now bellowing, now gentle. Night weeps the pulse that he maintains, sends heavy raindrops pounding on the black peaceful window-panes, relentlessly resounding. A roaring, groaning sibilant, In all the world he’ll whistle. Let yard-dogs rant: he’s Newton, Kant, Socrates, Bertrand Russell.

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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Les Papillons

Gérard de Nerval (1808-55)

Les Papillons
I De toutes les belles choses Qui nous manquent en hiver, Qu’aimez–vous mieux? — Mois, les roses; — Moi, l’aspect d’un beau pré vert; — Moi, la moisson blondissante; Chevelure des sillons; — Moi, le rossignol qui chante; — Et moi, les beaux papillons! Le papillon, fleur sans tige, Qui voltige, Que l’on cueille en un réseau; Dans la nature infinie, Harmonie, Entre la plante et l’oiseau!… Quand revient l’été superbe, Je m’en vais au bois tout seul: Je m’étends dans la grande herbe, Perdu dans ce vert linceul. Sur ma tête renversée, Là, chacun d’eux à son tour, Passe comme une pensée De poésie ou d’amour! Voici le papillon faune, Noir et jaune; Voici le mars azuré, Agitant des étincelles Sur ses ailes D’un velours riche et moiré. Voici le vulcain rapide, Qui vole comme l’oiseau: Son aile noire et splendide Porte un grand ruban ponceau. Dieux! le soufré, dans l’espace, Comme un éclair a relui… Mais le joyeux nacré passe, Et je ne vois plus que lui! II Comme un éventail de soie, Il déploie Son manteau semé d’argent; Et sa robe bigarrée Est dorée D’un or verdâtre et changeant. Voici le machaon–zèbre, De fauve et de noir rayé; Le deuil, en habit funèbre, Et le miroir bleu strié; Voici l’argus, feuille–morte, Le morio, le grand–bleu, Et la paon–de–jour qui porte Sur chaque aile un œil de feu! * Mais le soir brunit nos plaines; Les phalènes Prennent leur essor bruyant, Et les sphinx aux couleurs sombres, Dans les ombres Voltigent en tournoyant. C’est le grand’paon à l’œil rose Dessiné sur un fond gris, Qui ne vole qu’à nuit close, Comme les chauves–souris; Le bombice du troëne, Rayé de jaune et de vert, Et le papillon du chêne Qui ne meurt pas en hiver! Voici le sphinx à la tête De squelette, Peinte en blanc sur un fond noir, Que le villageois redoute, Sur la route, De voir voltiger le soir. Je hais aussi les phalènes, Sombres, hôtes de la nuit, Qui voltigent dans nos plaines De sept heures à minuit; Mais vous, papillons que j’aime, Légers papillons du jour, Tout en vous est un emblème De poésie et d’amour! III Malheur, papillons que j’aime, Doux emblème, À vous pour votre beauté!… Un doigt, de votre corsage, Au passage, Froisse, hélas! le velouté!… Une toute jeune fille, Au cœur tendre, au doux souris, Perçant vos cœurs d’une aiguille, Vous contemple, l’œil surpris: Et vos pattes sont coupées Par l’ongle blanc qui les mord, Et vos antennes crispées Dans les douleurs de la mort!…
I Of all the fine treasure That winter forecloses, What gives the most pleasure? — For me, I say roses; — For me, fair green meadows; — The ripening harvest, Blonde tress of the furrows; — Nightingale’s melodies; — For me, brilliant butterflies! Butterfly, untethered flower, Leaping and cavorting, yet Captured in a cruel net. Nature’s world, infinity: Bud and bird in harmony! When proud summer comes to pass, I go lonely to the wood. There I lie in tallest grass, Lose myself in the green shroud: Watch above my upturned head Every one of them go by. Thoughts of love, of poetry! See the Monarch butterfly: Black and gold his livery… Purple Emperor in flight, Sparks of light Scurrying On his rich, shot–velvet wing. Red Admiral, he can speed Like a bird: Black and splendid is his wing, Poppy–ribbons blazoning. Brimstone Yellow flashes past, Lightning–fast; Pearl or brown Fritillary, All my field of sight is he: II He spreads like silken fan His mantle silver–sewn: With shifting gold And emerald He gilds his motley gown. Zebra stripe of Swallowtail, Black and tawny–yellow hue; Marbled White, black–draped and pale, Chequered Skipper, streaked with blue; Argus, dead leaf; Camberwell Beauty; Large Blue — rare, so rare; And the Peacock, brandishing, On each wing, Eye of fire! * Brown our fields, at fall of night. See the Moths’ Noisy flight: First a dusky Sphinx, in shade, Twists and turns his escapade. Here comes the Great Peacock Moth, Pink eyes on a grey back–cloth: Like the bats, the flittermice, It’s at nightfall that he flies. Privet Hawk–Moth, funny fellow, Stripes on grub of green and yellow; While the Oak Procession Moth Laughs at winter, cheating death. There’s a Sphinx displays a skull, White on black, piratical: In the byways he appals Villagers, as evening falls. Moths, grim guests of night, I hate: Which in our fields gyrate From seven till too late. But, my precious Butterflies, Fluttering in daylight skies, You are all a symbol of Poetry, a pledge of love. III Woe, my precious butterflies, Who symbolise: Woe betide your loveliness. Passing finger comes to bruise, To abuse Your velvet dress. Some young girl, Tender–hearted, smiling, sweet, Looks in mild surprise on you, Stabs your heart with needle through; And your feet She’ll curtail, Nip with pale Finger–nail, Your antennæ crimp and curl, With a pain that’s terminal!

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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A night the sea was heard, and not seen

Une Nuit Qu’On Entendait la Mer Sans la Voir

Victor Hugo (1802-85)

Une Nuit Qu’On Entendait la Mer Sans la Voir
Quels sont ces bruits sourds? Ecoutez vers l’onde Cette voix profonde Qui pleure toujours Et qui toujours gronde, Quoiqu’un son plus clair Parfois l’interrompe… — Le vent de la mer Souffle dans sa trompe. Comme il pleut ce soir! N’est–ce pas, mon hôte? Là–bas, à la côte, Le ciel est bien noir, La mer est bien haute! On dirait l’hiver; Parfois on s’y trompe… — Le vent de la mer Souffle dans sa trompe. Oh! marins perdus! Au loin, dans cette ombre Sur la nef qui sombre, Que de bras tendus Vers la terre sombre! Pas d’ancre de fer Que le flot ne rompe. — Le vent de la mer Souffle dans sa trompe. Nochers imprudents! Le vent dans la voile Déchire la toile Comme avec les dents! Là–haut pas d’étoile! L’un lutte avec l’air, L’autre est à la pompe. — Le vent de la mer Souffle dans sa trompe. C’est toi, c’est ton feu Que le nocher rêve, Quand le flot s’élève, Chandelier que Dieu Pose sur la grève, Phare au rouge éclair Que la brume estompe! — Le vent de la mer Souffle dans sa trompe. Victor Hugo, ‘Les Voix Intérieures’
A night the sea was heard, and not seen
What’s this rough sound? Hark, hark at the waves, this voice profound that endlessly grieves nor ceases to scold, and yet shall be drowned by one louder, at last: The sea–tempests wield their trumpet–blast. How it rains tonight! Does it not, my guest? All down the coast, the sky without light and the sea storm–tossed! ’Tis winter, we railed, yet we falsely guessed… The sea–tempests wield their trumpet–blast. O sailors lost! From the raft of doom in the distant gloom, what cries are cast to the shores that loom! Anchor–chains yield to the surging crest. The sea–tempests wield their trumpet–blast. O helmsmen, fools! The storm in your sails with furious tooth rips up your cloth! The stars are concealed! Jack pumps and bales, Jem looks to the mast… The sea–tempests wield their trumpet–blast. It is you, your blaze that the helmsman craves in the towering waves, you lamp on the strand that the Lord displays, red rescuing brand that is doused in mist! The sea–tempests wield their trumpet–blast.

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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Au Rossignol

Ode to a Nightingale

John Keats (1795-1821)

Let’s see whether he needed the letter E. First verse by HARRY GUEST; TIMOTHY ADÈS wrote the rest.
Ode to a Nightingale
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains          My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains          One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,          But being too happy in thine happiness, —                 That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees                         In some melodious plot          Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,                 Singest of summer in full-throated ease. O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been          Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth, Tasting of Flora and the country green,          Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth! O for a beaker full of the warm South,          Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,                 With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,                         And purple-stained mouth;          That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,                 And with thee fade away into the forest dim: Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget          What thou among the leaves hast never known, The weariness, the fever, and the fret          Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,          Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;                 Where but to think is to be full of sorrow                         And leaden-eyed despairs,          Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,                 Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow. Away! away! for I will fly to thee,          Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, But on the viewless wings of Poesy,          Though the dull brain perplexes and retards: Already with thee! tender is the night,          And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,                 Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;                         But here there is no light,          Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown                 Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways. I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,          Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet          Wherewith the seasonable month endows The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;          White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;                 Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves;                         And mid-May's eldest child,          The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,                 The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves. Darkling I listen; and, for many a time          I have been half in love with easeful Death, Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,          To take into the air my quiet breath;                 Now more than ever seems it rich to die,          To cease upon the midnight with no pain,                 While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad                         In such an ecstasy!          Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain —                    To thy high requiem become a sod. Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!          No hungry generations tread thee down; The voice I hear this passing night was heard          In ancient days by emperor and clown: Perhaps the self-same song that found a path          Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,                 She stood in tears amid the alien corn;                         The same that oft-times hath          Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam                 Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn. Forlorn! the very word is like a bell          To toll me back from thee to my sole self! Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well          As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf. Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades          Past the near meadows, over the still stream,                 Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep                         In the next valley-glades:          Was it a vision, or a waking dream?                 Fled is that music :— Do I wake or sleep?
Au Rossignol
My mind hurts and a drowsy poison pains My soul as though of opium I had drunk Or, quaffing a dull drug down to its drains An hour ago, to Pluto’s lands had sunk. ‘Tis not through craving for thy happy lot But finding too much joy in all thy bliss – O thou, light–flying dryad of this wood, In a harmonious plot Of mossy boughs which shift as shadows kiss. Thy full throat sings: May harbours all that’s good. O, for a draught of vino! that has lain Cooling for months a long way down in ground, Tasting of Flora’s country, lush with rain, Occitan song, and sunlit dancing round! O for a glassful of that sunny South, Full of Parnassian blushful vrai grand cru, With strings of air–drops bubbling at its brim, Staining maroon my mouth; That I might drink, and slip away with you, All lost to all, in wildwoods dark and dim. I’d slip away, dissolving. Soon forgot, What you among your arbours had not known, Our worry and our quinsy and our hot Flush of folk sitting for a mutual groan, Our palsy, shaking sad gray hairs, not many, Our youth grown pallid, dying, phantom–slight: For but to think is to drink draughts of sorrow, Look black as antimony; Girls can’t maintain two lustrous orbs of sight; If Cupid sighs, it’s only till tomorrow. Away! away! for I will fly to you, Not riding out with Bacchus’ jaguars, But (blind–man’s buff!) on lyric wings, although My brain is numb, and jolts and jams and jars. Look, now I’m with you! It’s a kind, soft night; With luck, Milady Moon is holding court, And, round about, a throng of starry Fays; No, it’s too dark: no light But what from skyward airily is brought Through branchy gloom and winding mossy ways. I cannot scan what’s budding at my foot, Nor what soft balsam hangs upon your boughs, But in this fragrant dark, I try to moot Such aromatics as this month allows To grass, to shrub, to fruiting blossom wild; Sunk in its fronds, fast fading violot; Hawthorn, triantaphyll dawn–drunk with musk, May’s coming first–born child, And pastoral non–hybrid, which is not A murmurous haunt of gnats at dog–star’s dusk. Dark auscultation! and again! for oft I am half amorous of R.I.P., In many musing stanzas call him, soft, To lift in air my faint vitality: This opportunity I shouldn’t miss, To pass away at midnight without pain, Whilst thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad In such high flights of bliss! Still wouldst thou sing, and I’d auscult in vain To thy contakion, at last a clod. Thou wast not born to croak, immortal Bird! No hungry propagations grind you down; That song I track this passing night occurr’d In days long past to tyrant, king and clown: On top of that — who knows? — it found a path To Ruth, athirst for Moab’s distant turf, Who stood distraught amid th’ un–British corn; And on occasion hath Charm–d magic miradors that look on rough Hazardous floods, in goblin lands forlorn. Forlorn! That actual word purports to toll, To toil yours truly back to John from you! Addio! This fancy tricks us nicht so wohl As what — fallacious fay! — it’s thought to do. Addio! Addio! Thy soulful singing faints Away, past paddocks and a placid brook, Climbing a hill; and now it sinks down, boring Into low–lying haunts: A vision? Or a waking think–and–look? All’s tacit: — Am I vigilant, or snoring?
Said at Poet in the City Drop–In, Daunts Piccadilly Bookshop, March 2015

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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Moonlit Night


Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857)

Es war, als hätt’ der Himmel Die Erde still geküßt, Daß sie im Blütenschimmer Von ihm nur träumen müßt'. Die Luft ging durch die Felder, Die Ähren wogten sacht, Es rauschten leis’ die Wälder, So sternklar war die Nacht. Und meine Seele spannte Weit ihre Flügel aus, Flog durch die stillen Lande, Als flöge sie nach Haus.
Moonlit Night
It seemed the gallant heaven Gave earth a silent kiss, That she so bright with flowers Must only dream of this. The breeze amid the harvest Caressed the waving corn. The woodland whispered softly, The starry midnight shone. My soul spread wide her pinions, No longer fain to roam, Flew through the silent landscape As one who heads for home.

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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Hälfte des Lebens

Hälfte des Lebens

Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843)

Hälfte des Lebens was one of the poems offered on the website of the wonderful magazine Modern Poetry in Translation as a project for translators. I contributed these three versions: one is in Latin elegiac couplets and one is a lipogram, avoiding the letter E.
Hälfte des Lebens
Mit gelben Birnen hänget Und voll mit wilden Rosen Das Land in den See, Ihr holden Schwäne, Und trunken von Küssen Tunkt ihr das Haupt Ins heilignüchterne Wasser. Weh mir, wo nehm’ ich, wenn Es Winter ist, die Blumen, und wo Den Sonnenschein, Und Schatten der Erde? Die Mauern stehn Sprachlos und kalt, im Winde Klirren die Fahnen. Dimidium Vitae flava pirus, rosa silvarum: defertur onusta terra superficie lapsa lacustris aquae. suaviolis olor ebrius it: fas dedere collum: sobrius in sacrum dat caput ire lacum. e nive qua capiam flores, vim solis, et umbram? signa aquilone sonant; moenia muta rigent.
Hälfte des Lebens
Golden pears, roses wild, slippety–slip, land leaning lakeward; swans’–faces, kissy–drunk, dippety–dip, depth sober–sacred. O how’ll I find, come winter, flowers, sunbeams, earth–shadow? Walls dumb and numb, banners and vanes shake, clack and rattle. A Half of Living Gold Williams fruit and wild triantaphylls: Land tilts towards Loch Lomond, almost spills: You snazzy swans, half–cut with kissing bills, In pious prosy liquid dunk your skulls! O how’ll I find blossoms among snowfalls, Warm rays of sun, shadows that land on soils? Our flaps and flags clack; dumb and numb our walls.

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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Les Pyrénées

Guillaume, Sieur du Bartas (1544-90)

Translated by Timothy Adès
The Lord of Salluste was a Huguenot who fought for Henry of Navarre (Henri IV of France). His epic poem on the Creation of the World was hugely admired, not least by Milton and Goethe. Nerval hailed him as a precursor, an ‘ancestor’. One of his many translators was James VI of Scotland: he was sent there to try for a marriage of James to Henry’s sister. He also went to Denmark.
Honneyman speculated that some of Shakespeare’s Sonnets are translations of suppressed work by Agrippa d’Aubigné, a poet at the Navarrese court: that Henry himself was the Fair Friend, his Queen Marguerite the Dark Lady, and du Bartas the Rival Poet.
published in Modern Poetry in Translation
I wrote an old–fashioned version and a modern version. Only on this website have they appeared together!

François, arreste–toi, ne passe la campagne
Que Nature mura de rochers d’un costé,
Que l’Auriège entrefend d’un cours précipité;
Campagne qui n’a point en beauté de compagne.
Passant, ce que tu vois n’est point une montagne:
C’est un grand Briarée, un géant haut monté
Qui garde ce passage, et défend, indomté,
De l’Espagne la France, et de France l’Espagne.
Il tend à l’une l’un, à l’autre l’autre bras,
Il porte sur son chef l’antique faix d’Atlas,
Dans deux contraires mers il pose ses deux plantes.
Les espaisses forests sont ses cheveux espais;
Les rochers sont ses os; les rivières bruyantes
L’éternelle sueur que luy cause un tel faix.
published in Outposts:
Frenchman, hold hard, nor pass beyond that land
That nature fortified with rocky walls,
That Ariège thrusts through with headlong falls,
Land garlanded, most gallant and most grand.
What thou seest, passing here, is no high–land;
Rather a mighty Briareus, a giant
Set high to guard this passage, and, defiant,
Spain’s way to France, France’s to Spain command.
One arm to France, t’other to Spain is spread;
Upon his crest sits Atlas’ ancient weight;
His feet the two opposing seas betread.
The thickets are the thick hairs of his head;
The rocks his bones; the roaring mountain–spate,
The sweat his burthen ever makes him shed.
published in Modern Poetry in Translation:
The Ariège (Dept. no. 9).
A natural break: cascade, scarp, anticline.
No contest: champion country. Get that view!
You’re looking at a brontosaurus which
Has got across the middle of the pitch
Showing a No Way card to France and Spain.
Ne passez pas. No pase el paso usted.
His spiky neck is what jacks up the sky;
Feet in the Bay of Biscay and the Med;
The forest canopy tops out his head;
His bones are rocks. The long–term power supply?
Sweat, leached from stres–points on the watershed.
Translations: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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To the Winds, from a Winnower

D’un Vanneur de Blé aux Vents

Joachim du Bellay (1522-60)

D’un Vanneur de Blé aux Vents
A vous troppe legere, Qui d’aele passagere Par le monde volez, Et d’un sifflant murmure L’ombrageuse verdure Doulcement esbranlez, J’offre ces violettes, Ces lis et ces fleurettes, Et ces roses icy, Ces vermeillettes roses, Tout freschement écloses, Et ces œilletz aussi. De vostre double halaine Eventez ceste plaine, Eventez ce sejour: Ce pendant que j’ahanne A mon blé, que je vanne A la chaleur du jour.
To the Winds, from a Winnower
To you lighter than light Who with fugitive flight At liberty flutter, Who lovingly muffle Your whispers, and ruffle The sheltering verdure: I offer these violets, Lilies and flowerets, Roses I hold, These little red roses Newly unfurled, And pink gillyflowers. Let a breath of your breeze Come play on the plain As long as I stay, Come play as I strain At my winnowing-fan In the heat of the day.

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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