Saturday, April 16, 2016

I completed this translation last year, in September, but was never happy with it. This morning, I changed a few nouns, then decided that enough was enough -- here it is.

(I'm still unhappy, because I re-arranged the emphasis in the final stanza. I do what I can to preserve the poet's choice of structure, but in this case, I ended with a pronoun that he had placed much earlier. I was wrong to do this, but my way seemed to work slightly better... at least, in English. That's no excuse, I know!)

by José-Maria de Heredia.

In what chill oceans, for how many winters -- who will ever know, frail and nacreous conch? -- have the currents, the swells, and the tides rolled you in the hollows of their green abyss?

Today, under the sky, far from the tide's bitter ebb, you have made for yourself a soft bed in the golden arena, but you hope in vain. Drawn-out and despairing and always within you moans the great voice of the seas.

My soul has become a sounding prison: and just as the moaned refrain of that ancient clamour still weeps and sighs within your folds,

In the same way, dull, slow, numb yet somehow eternal, growls the distant, stormy din from the deeps of this heart too full of Her.

- - - - -


Par quels froids Océans, depuis combien d'hivers,
-- Qui le saura jamais, Conque frêle et nacrée! --
La houle, les courants et les raz de marée
T'ont-ils roulée au creux de leurs abîmes verts?

Aujourd'hui, sous le ciel, loin des reflux amers,
Tu t'es fait un doux lit de l'arène dorée.
Mais ton espoir est vain. Longue et désespérée,
En toi gémit toujours la grande voix des mers.

Mon âme est devenue une prison sonore:
Et comme en tes replis pleure et soupire encore
La plainte du refrain de l'ancienne clameur;

Ainsi du plus profond de ce cœur trop plein d'Elle,
Sourde, lente, insensible et pourtant éternelle,
Gronde en moi l'orageuse et lointaine rumeur.

-- From
LES TROPHÉES, by José-Maria de Heredia.
Alphonse Lemerre, Éditeur. Paris, 1893.

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