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 unity! 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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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:
FRENCH NATIONALS STOP HERE. NO TRANSIT through
The Ariège (Dept. no. 9).
A natural break: cascade, scarp, anticline.
No contest: champion country. Get that view!
VISITORS
THIS IS NOT A MOUNTAIN CHAIN.
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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