Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday commute lxxxi: as the owl in the parade of Orpheus

I had occasion to receive a
sweet note yesterday from
a reader in Switzerland, an
artist I will cite another
time by name and by example,
encouraging the page to con-
tinue to contribute to his
day. I need hardly say, the
tone of sweetness comes but
obliquely through this syn-
opsis, but I'm still smart-
ing from the rebuke of a
matron in France, for con-
fiding oneself in public.

Like yours, one's thoughts
turn to Apollinaire's pithy
ditties in his Bestiaire,
où Cortège d'Orphée, as
the title to pleasure is
passed, almost as a baton,
more than a lyre, from one
quality of inspiration to
another, in their bestial
embodiments. The poet's
wondrously slight work is
not, all its translators
insist, to be made much of.
But all do sense its in-
herent delectability, as
if a tapas kind of feast
might just recruit its own

Now I didn't wish to go
so far in this commute,
as to generalise my own
delight in a compliment.
That said, I do observe
how we bloggers tend to
approach each other in
praises, in our courtly
reciprocity, while, for
my part, I could not im-
pugn the pages I visit
with any resemblance to
mine. Offering no dig-
nity beyond the terms I
convey, I am touched to
find them accepted.

To those readers who hap-
pen to land on this page,
I cheerfully encourage an
expectation of discover-
ing the attributes of the
publishing nature, in our
precocious Surrealist's
bestiary, if only to be
reinforced in one's modes-
ty. Who could wish to be
his Owl, once he'd made it
possible to be seen to be?

I have not encountered a
satisfying translation of
the entry for Le Hibou in
Apollinaire's compendium,
and upon this especially
sweet lacuna I hazard to
essay my own, admiring
thrust ~

   Mon pauvre coeur est un hibou
   Qu'on cloue, qu'on décloue, qu'on recloue.
   De sang, d'ardeur, il est à bout.
   Tous ceux qui m'aiment, je les loue.

   My fragile heart is as an owl
   which one nails, and relieves, and re-pounds.
   Of blood, of spirit, it is drained.
   All those who love me, I do owe.

The esteemed translator for
David Godine (a fine Dart-
mouth man) quite properly
demands the rhyme; the ver-
sion from Johns Hopkins re-
duces the rhyme to couplets.
These views are persuasively
truer to Apollinaire's irony,
in whom rhyme is a gift to
mask invention. I love too 
much his invention; I love
too much his love of it, too,
to require the rhyme, if I
can keep the tense. The tran-
sitive verb in the second
line brings a crisis to the
page, we recognise, which
has no moral source in either
of these two translations,
of the stuff happens school.

Apollinaire won't wear it.
His is poetry to be liked
without recourse, just as
the recruiting march of Or-
pheus is not subscribed by
single facets, and his is
not a retinue of the op-
pressed. We have his hare,
and if I may again, myself,
as any child might, from 
grammar school ~

   Ne sois pas lascif et peureux
   Comme le lièvre et l'amoureux.
   Mais que toujours ton cerveau soit
   La hase pleine qui conçoit. 

   Not in lechery, fearful
   as the hares and our lovers
   but always let your mind
   Bear the risk of conception.

What genius, we respond,
but yes, Chaucer had it,
and yes, Marcus Aurelius:
to see unity in the form
of fear and lechery, and
the trading of compliment
as can happen. I'll let a
child's be my eyes, before
their nerve is lost.

Guillaume Apollinaire
Raoul Dufy, illustrator
  or The Parade of Orpheus
1911, year of the death of Mahler

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