Poetry / Dark Romanticism
Even when you don’t have a heart, Nerval manages to find his way and hit you right in the heart.
You suddenly find it, and it bleeds.
He is a masterful poet – the one of raw suffering – the one that doesn’t whine – the one that accepts to never finish.
He is a terrible poet.
Each word enters your soul like a stab, the wound will never close again.
Each word is unforgettable.
I looked for the English translation – and I found – yes – for the first time since I was convinced that Altair did not belong on French soil – so for the first time, I found a multitude of translations.
Not two or three, no, no – whole pages.
Each French speaker has given his version – his sensitivity – his way of sharing Nerval’s dizzying pain with us.
If I had only one reason to put it on top of all, it would be this one.
It is so rare
& it means so much.
I am probably lying when I say that these words come to hurt us – I exaggerate.
But what is certain is that his words resonate in our souls, without the language barrier.
All of us, one day, have felt the icy vertigo of Nerval’s poems.
Demonstration – here is his most famous poem, in the original language – the most beautiful of all – French. – oui, je sais je sais – c’est une pathétique rodomontade –
Je suis le Ténébreux, – le Veuf, – l’Inconsolé,
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la Tour abolie :
Ma seule Etoile est morte, – et mon luth constellé
Porte le Soleil noir de la Mélancolie.
Dans la nuit du Tombeau, Toi qui m’as consolé,
Rends-moi le Pausilippe et la mer d’Italie,
La fleur qui plaisait tant à mon coeur désolé,
Et la treille où le Pampre à la Rose s’allie.
Suis-je Amour ou Phébus ?… Lusignan ou Biron ?
Mon front est rouge encor du baiser de la Reine ;
J’ai rêvé dans la Grotte où nage la sirène…
Et j’ai deux fois vainqueur traversé l’Achéron :
Modulant tour à tour sur la lyre d’Orphée
Les soupirs de la Sainte et les cris de la Fée.
and here, some translations : some very close to the literal text – others further away to better find you, in the heart of your language – at least, I hope so :
El Desdichado, translation : Camille Chevalier-Karfis
I am the Dark One, – the Widower, – the Unconsoled
The Aquitaine Prince whose Tower is destroyed:
My only star is dead,- and my constellated lute
Bears the black Sun of Melancholia.
In the night of the Tomb, You who comforted me,
Give me back Mount Posillipo and the Italian sea,
The flower that my afflicted heart liked so much
And the treillised vineyard where the grapevine unites with the rose.
Am I Love or Phoebus ?… Lusignan or Biron ?
My forehead is still red from the Queen’s kiss ;
I dreamt of the Cave where the mermaid swims…
Twice victorious I crossed Acheron :
Taking turn to play on Orpheus’ lyre
The sighs of the Saint and the Fairy’s screams.
El Desdichado, translation : Jenna Le
I am the amputee, unhealed, black with gangrene,
the high-born son whose high-rise was demolished.
My light has fizzled out. My lute, which was embellished
with stars once, sags beneath a coal-black sun.
You who were once my healer, on this saddest
night, give me my botanicals, my medicine.
Give me my Naples, my Italian
sea, and my trellis hung with roses and clematis.
I used to think I was a god or cherub, duke or baron,
for a queen once kissed my forehead lipstick-red,
and a mermaid let me sleep once in her coral bed.
And I have twice traversed the flume of boatman Charon,
strumming now and then on Orpheus’s lyre
these songs of martyrs’ grief and fickle fays’ desire.
El Desdichado, translated by PoemHunter
I am the shadowy – the widowed – sadly mute,
At ruined tower still the Prince of Aquitaine:
My single star is dead – my constellated lute
Now bears the sable sun of melancholy pain.
In darkness in my grave, you who once could cheer,
Return me Posilipo and the Italian sea,
The flower which was to my tormented heart so dear,
The trellis where the rose and vine entwined could be.
Am I Amor or Phoebus?…Lusignan or Biron?
My forehead is still red from that kiss by the queen;
That grotto where the siren swims, I’ve had my dream…
Two times the conquerer I’ve crossed the Acheron,
And on the lyre of Orpheus, changing from key to key,
I’ve sung both saintly sighs and sung the fairy’s lay.
and so on, for pages and pages – because being “dark” can have so many meanings that resonate with us – and that goes for every word.
I will not insult you by adding that this poem is far from being the only one by Gérard de Nerval.
Would I say that he has written terrifying short stories – which would be so well suited to the stage? especially if the stage is made of dance – or music…. The Daughters of fire … is so perfect? well, I’ll tell you about this one some day.
In the family: Dark Romanticism, I had called: the poet – after: the game designer.
Mm. There is still a lack of people from this family… That is ? a good news.