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Elegies -- Guillevic

Guest poem submitted by Terry Smith, as part of the
'translations' theme', an excerpt from:
(Poem #751) Elegies
 He probably held too tightly
 (In the palm of his hand,
 Looking out on the sea)

 To the sand the wind
 Was taking, grain by grain --

 He who holds a fear
 Of becoming mist.
-- Guillevic
Translated by Terry Smith.

Here's the original:

 Il aura trop tenu
 Dans le fond de sa paume
 En face de la mer

 Du sable que le vent
 Y prenait grain par grain

 Celui que tient la peur
 De devenir nuage.

        -- Guillevic

Apologies for both the format of the submission and the crudeness of the
translation - I think there is a sublety in the grammar of the first line
that I have never quite grasped and I've been modifying my translation of
the poem since I found it. Any comment is appreciated.

I found Eugene Guillevic in a copy of "Contemporary French Poetry" which is
a collection of French work and facing-page translations (so I need to
credit Aspel and Justice for the first iteration of the translation). His
poetry reads beautifully, and simply, in French, but as he revels in the
subtleties of his own language he is very hard to translate into English. I
submitted this poem because the image is so strong, and because every time I
read it with a different voice, the meaning changes.  For a couple of years,
the last two lines were included in my signature as a personal statement.

There is a long review of some translations of Guillevic's work, and some
biographical info, at [broken link]


20 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Kathleen Spencer Chapman said...

Celui que tient la peur
De devenir nuage.

Hi, I just wanted to point out that (if this sentence is spelt
correctly here) this line actually means "he/the one who is held by the fear
of becoming a cloud (or mist if you prefer)" rather than he who holds the
fear. If it was "he who holds" it would read "Celui qui tient la peur..."

Maybe Terry would be interested to know this?


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