Let’s Plunder Baudelaire
My French hasn’t happened, barely has my English. What might allow me to translate Baudelaire any better? Have you seen the poorly Christian way being had with some of his lines?
Ses cris me déchiraient la fibre
Her screaming would drive me crazy
Her crying knifed the heart in me
Her screechings drilled me like a tooth
Her crying upset me horribly
Her crying tears me apart
Her nagging tore at every part of me
Save for contour, pasteurization, cluck by region, I know my reek, but this line from Le Vin de l’assassin or The Murder’s Wine or The Assassin’s Wine or The Wine of the Assassin or Sippy Vindicator is rarely caught right. Why should it be? Can we span our whip from known to felt? I’m saying it doesn’t wow to take a nineteenth century dandy with a peanut head, and of such a floral, copulating rigor, and pinch him to “drive me crazy.” He’s not young Britney batting curls. Baudelaire consistently scarfed his wig. What is the direct UN transcript of this lovely purple? The hissy fit runs deeper into Satan. He’s not workshopping; he’s pissing blood. I don’t care, because I’m translating the poem right now, out of French and without rhyme. I’m going to say Michael Robbins and few others on his level have by their genius made rhyming their property. I keep very afraid of my betters. Especially Robbins. I chose my last twenty dollars for his book when I was starving in Austin. It gave me a lot of meals to look up to, so if I rhyme it’s just a glitch in the word salad, sir. Please. I berate my own underneaths. I live in fear. Ariana Reines having brilliantly done legitimate work translating Baudelaire – let me distinguish, too: This is simply an act of poetic necrophilia, mid-lobotomy.
I found a little known maniac named C. Bower Alcock. He’s as nowhere in history as I plan to be. In the 30s, Alcock brought a small selection of Baudelaire into its proper gaudy, Harry Clarke-ish, Victorian-hate, sassy-energy, plain dandy prancing. Bending the translation to rhyme was not helping the language. Someone needed to look wrong enough to evoke. At the price of being ignored. The mistake of style all English criminalizes. His introduction is beautiful. Who’d he die alone without?
C. Bower Alcock’s Preface to FLOWERS OF EVIL – 1932
(posted with love for Johannes Göransson)
That the name of Baudelaire or the mention of decadence in art can raise the shuddering obloquy still generally accorded them throws vivid and unflattering light on the confusion of thought here still enveloping the sphere of art.
Baudelaire was not so much a decadent as the crystal essence of decadence. It would be a wanton indignity to indulge in the fashionable cult of psychoanalysis, to dwell on his tragic legacy of inherited disease or on the piteous pattern of his life. He does, no doubt, afford an interesting study for the psychologist or the physiologist and an edifying theme for the moralist. To their perhaps somewhat ghoulish labours let his life be left. It is as an artist, alike in theory and execution, that he stands for assessment–and here there is small room for condemnation and none whatever for pity.
There are times in history when the clear flame of morning or meridian energy dies down, when Tragedy and Adventure stalk no more through the land, when spontaneous generosity of spirit flickers out and men’s eyes are turned to the mists of inner consciousness, the shadowy realms of phantom and phantasy, of remorse and grotesque, of analysis and pessimism. It is then that art reaches perhaps its most perfect form, and, though it must inevitably lack the vigorous sweep of the classical style, it takes on a highly wrought and sensitized form, which may with some show of reason be held to be its truest expression, uncontaminated alike by faith or enthusiasm.
“Review, analyse all that is natural, you will find nothing that is not horrible. Everything fine and noble is the product of reason and calculation.” According to Gautier, Baudelaire had a horror of philanthropy, progress, utility, humanitarianism and Utopias and of all who wished to change unchanging nature. To him there was no human perfectibility, no innate nobility, but an innate perversity, hurrying on to ruin, regardless of profit or sensuality.
Co-ordinate with this view of the natural is the chill conviction that man can never pierce the veil of his own personality, that imprisoned for ever in his own moving panorama his life is a series of discontinuous sensations and his ultimate and most poignant conviction one of eternal solitude.
These two strands of thought coalesce to show experience to have intrinsically neither colour nor interest, to have indeed as its sole virtue a susceptibility to the impress of mind. However metaphysically and ethically unsatisfying this point of view may be, it must come to flower in a theory of art untainted by alien considerations of truth and goodness and unshackled by that paralyzing heresy of the didactic, begotten by Plato and still rampantly virile. The method of art is the method of artifice. The dark and ominous background of nature must be informed and illuminated by intellect, and the function of the artist is to create a world of his own mind, a world bizarre, enthralling and mysterious, a world not of explanation but of beauty and dreams. “The more art aims at being philosophically clear, the more will it degrade itself…on the other hand the more art detaches itself from teaching, the higher will it mount towards pure and disinterested beauty.” “Poetry is an enthusiasm, quite independent of passion, which is the intoxication of the heart, and of truth, which is the pasturage of reason. For passion is a natural thing, too natural even not to introduce a harsh, discordant note into the domain of pure Beauty, too familiar and too violent not to scandalize the Pure Desires, Gracious Melancholy and Noble Despair, which dwell in the supernatural realms of Poetry.” To enter the sphere of art everything must undergo an idealizing transformation, a chiseling and a tinting, that in the world of the author’s creation there may be the stimuli of startled surprise, astonishing beauty, or of mysterious terror. And such is the world Baudelaire has created, a world of the dream of beauty, which is the sole enduring solace for the sensationalist, ever wildly oscillating between ecstasy and disgust. It is a world of orchid languor, of oppressive shade, through which glows a lurid beauty, in some measure reminiscent of Dante’s red-hot sarcophagi glowing through the gloom and in some measure of Tacitus’ dark and ominous canvas. But in this world he etched everything with diamond clearness, delicate finish and flawless simplicity. A mastery of metrical form enabled him to give living evidence of his theory of the final unity of art, in which form, sound, colour, and perfume are inextricably interwoven. His metres are redolent of perfume, instinct with colour, and always their cadences reflect the mood of the poem. His style is so wrought that it appears certain, simple and exquisite. On its serene and graceful surface may be seen no trace of struggle, no faltering of the hand.
Superficially, certainly, Baudelaire’s outlook is the antithesis of the strenuous, the noble, the Christian. In reality it is a perverse form of the very religion which would so ruthlessly attack it. By that passionate denial of faith, which is the motif of all his work, Baudelaire betrays faith’s fundamental attraction for him, as by the bitter desecration of earthly beauty, which turns all women to courtesans, he betrays passionate devotion to absolute beauty. “Like a wolf caught in a trap, I remain, perhaps for ever, bound to the tomb of the ideal.” It is ironic to reflect that it was Baudelaire’s very detachment from physical sin that led to his lack of the Christian virtues.
But however perverse his outlook may be considered from the ethical point of view, however unsound from the metaphysical, however tragic from that of his personal life, it cannot be but admitted that it held up to literature the loftiest ideal of form and it may be held with equal conviction that intrinsically it evidenced a courage and a high sincerity that is perhaps not inferior to the facile enthusiasms, the amorphous experiments and the techniqueless insincerities of the modern, the mechanical and the earnest.
Look how Alcock did the line: “Her cries would rend my fibre.”
Sorry, now my transliterate illiterate truncated version (Rimbaud previously drove me crazy)
by Charles Baudelaire
Ma femme est morte, je suis libre!
My feminist mortgage suits liver!
Je puis donc boire tout mon soûl.
Just pus doinked boorishly towels my soil
Lorsque je rentrais sans un sou,
Lacquer those retinas buck-less
Ses cris me déchiraient la fibre.
So her crimes de-canonize my fiber
Autant qu’un roi je suis heureux;
Auntie reads her hernia the Koran
L’air est pur, le ciel admirable…
That purple hair admires itself
Nous avions un été semblable
No bird assembled by flu
Lorsque j’en devins amoureux!
Luges dinky jinxes hugged into us
L’horrible soif qui me déchire
Sofia Coppola is not horrible or even in decline
Aurait besoin pour s’assouvir
I’m ardent, besotted, poured cheap on her savior
D’autant de vin qu’en peut tenir
Everyone’s brilliant tenor, thereby sexual
Son tombeau; — ce n’est pas peu dire:
Though tambourines – I’m not racist, just plain dire
Je l’ai jetée au fond d’un puits,
I take a jet to my pores
Et j’ai même poussé sur elle
And jets are the elegy of my meme
Tous les pavés de la margelle.
Try touring what paves you to delineate politics
— Je l’oublierai si je le puis!
I changed my oblique siring – plus one jamboree!
Au nom des serments de tendresse,
Autonomous and tender sermons
Dont rien ne peut nous délier,
Deserve the fucking comments they dander
Et pour nous réconcilier
Entomb every noun without church
Comme au beau temps de notre ivresse,
Communists tempt nothing beautiful in class
J’implorai d’elle un rendez-vous,
I surf imperial locales when randy
Le soir, sur une route obscure.
Got myself forgotten better than most
Elle y vint — folle créature!
‘Cause I always wanna ventilate the fickle
Nous sommes tous plus ou moins fous!
As they say in Ann Arbor – why you hoes weird?!
Elle était encore jolie,
Applaud the mainstream
Quoique bien fatiguée! et moi,
I’m tired on its behalf
Je l’aimais trop! voilà pourquoi
Of tropes and neologies, stu and yay
Je lui dis: Sors de cette vie!
Surely nothing’s left but Satan!
Toil language with enough swerve and hate and who cares the aim. That’s what that big ole T-head wanted us to hug it out over.