Autumn Songs

Poetry & Music

Here is a very nice translation of Paul Verlaine’s Chanson d’Automne.
I don’t know if it restores the musicality in “l” and “on” sounds of the original, and all the sad and disillusioned sweetness of the French melody – not to mention the words. I hope so :

With long sobs
the violin-throbs
of autumn wound
my heart with languorous
and montonous
sound.

Choking and pale
When I mind the tale
the hours keep,
my memory strays
down other days
and I weep;

and I let me go
where ill winds blow
now here, now there,
harried and sped,
even as a dead
leaf, anywhere.

Paul Verlaine is a wonderful French poet – and unfortunately for him, he is too gentle to have been ranked among the first.
He was outclassed by Rimbaud and the terrible violence of his young genius.
Outclassed by Baudelaire, and the chiseled finesse of each of his rhymes, all full of that terrible and terribly black spirit that left no chance for lies.

His pain to live did not equal that of Nerval, the tenebrous, the widower, the disconsolate.

Verlaine was a melancholic man. He adored his wife. He adored their daughter. He adored Rimbaud. He had to choose in his loves, amazed by Rimbaud he chose Rimbaud. They destroyed themselves by alcohol and drugs.
Rimbaud must have been unfit for love – Verlaine became mad with pain – but he did not transcribe this pain in words. He did it in acts.
He returned to his wife – but everything was broken.
He was the first. He drowned in absinthe.

But at no time will you find any outburst of violence or hatred in Verlaine.
There is simply the pain of living. The pain of the loves in which he believed with all his heart and which were not loves.

He therefore deserves justice, by rereading his texts, which are as sweet as they are beautiful, as sad as they are infinitely terrible – and by accompanying them with this music, as beautiful as it is infinitely sad, composed by Vivaldi.

a music of such a strange sadness, where the sparkling life tries to sparkle again and again, but no, the bass has arrived, life is going to end, and goodbye, maybe we’ll meet again if we stay alive

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