Susan Ye Laird, poetry magazine, poetry translations
 Translations
     with S. Ye Laird

Morphological variations of the human spleen, in this issue we present two derivative works by Eric Pretz, followed by an excerpt from "Echoes of Baudelaire", translated by Kendall Lappin;  

and two translations from German by Mr. Murray Alfredson, plus one special feast of classical rendition of Lu Ji's Wen-fu by Achille Fang.

*Spite*
 


I am like the king of pay-per-view,
Rich, but impudent, young, important as three looks.
Contemptuous of dogs and teachers, who
Are always fawning, bored with animals and books.
Nothing can make him gay, not chickens nor sarongs,
Nor blood of children running in the street below.

Comedians (with C in upper case) sing sick songs,
They won’t distract this sickly spiteful man, they know
His royal floral rosewood bed becomes a tomb,
And the ladies there, who find each prince a handsome prize,
Can not devise a striptease that will lift the gloom
from this young skeleton, or shift his mouse-grey eyes.
While brokers make him gold from stocks of lead,
His doctors can not fix what’s in his head.
Jacuzzis filled with bubbling blood from recipes
Remembered from the Roman Empire do not unfreeze

This vampireific corpse, inside whose veins no blood is seen,
But backwards flows the Lethe’s ancient water, green.

*Explain *


I am like Leroy who pays in rainy looks—
Rich, but impudent, young, important as old trees.
Keys from his preceptor misprision the zucchini’s
Ennui with his Chinese, coming with the author’s best.
Putting nothing, not the eagle, nor gibbon, nor falcon,
Nor mourning purple-faced son, in a balloon:
Do bouffant’s favor a grotesque ballast?
Not distraught in front of this cruel sickness,
Some lit fleur-de-lis is transformed and tumbled.
And the lady’s alcohols, poured for every beautiful prince,
Don’t save more than is found in the public toilet.
My poor young tires need a service when they squeal.
The servant who fate makes him won’t put pajamas
On his entre exterior corrupted element.
And in the bath he sang like the Romans knew Vietnam;
And don’t surfers view journeys of pussies as souvenirs.
I don’t have to drive around this habitual cadaver.
Oh, cool, in lieu of the song of the water, a glass of the tea.

 

A Oulipo-like and a somewhat less Oulipo-like transformation of Baudelaire's much translated SPLEEN(III) by Eric Fretz,  a radical socialist and student of art history (especially New York painting of the post-war period). He knows very little French, but has been influenced by the methodological advances of Oulipo. He is the author of Jean-Michel Basquiat: A Biography (Greenwood Press).  

SPLEEN (I)  Late January* 

translated by Kendall Lappin 

Pluviose, sorely vexed with the town as a whole,

From his urn pours out copious drafts of dark cold

For the neighboring churchyard's inhabitants pale

And mortality over the foggy faubourgs.

My cat, gaunt and mangy, keeps circling about,

Trying vainly to find a soft bed on the tile;

An old poet's soul prowls the rainspout and wails

With the querulous voice of a shivering wraith.

The great bell laments, and the smoky log whines

Obbligato falsetto to the clock's rheumy wheeze,

While in a deck of cards that reeks of cheap perfumes,

Some dropsical old woman's mortal legacy,

The handsome knave of hearts and the queen of spades

Chat surreptitiously of their defunct amours.

*Pluviose: a winter month of France's short-lived Revolutionary calendar. This translation appeared on p84 "Echoes of Baudelaire: selected Poems translated by Kendall Lappin" (copyright 1992 Asylum Arts Press) 

Spleen(III)

Je suis comme le roi d'un pays pluvieux,
Riche, mais impuissant, jeune et pourtant très vieux,
Qui, de ses précepteurs méprisant les courbettes,
S'ennuie avec ses chiens comme avec d'autres bêtes.
Rien ne peut l'égayer, ni gibier, ni faucon,
Ni son peuple mourant en face du balcon.
Du bouffon favori la grotesque ballade
Ne distrait plus le front de ce cruel malade;
Son lit fleurdelisé se transforme en tombeau,
Et les dames d'atour, pour qui tout prince est beau,
Ne savent plus trouver d'impudique toilette
Pour tirer un souris de ce jeune squelette.
Le savant qui lui fait de l'or n'a jamais pu
De son être extirper l'élément corrompu,
Et dans ces bains de sang qui des Romains nous viennent,
Et dont sur leurs vieux jours les puissants se souviennent,
II n'a su réchauffer ce cadavre hébété
Où coule au lieu de sang l'eau verte du Léthé

— Charles Baudelaire 

Der Kürenberger Der Falke [Text nach 1150]

Ich zôch mir einen valken mêre danne ein jâr.
dô ich in gezamete als ich in wolte hân
und ich im sîn gevidere mit golde wol bewant,
er huop sich ûf vil hôhe und fluog in ándèriu lant.

 

Sît sach ich den valken schône fliegen.
er fuorte an sînem fuoze sîdîne riemen,
und was in sînem gevidere alrôt guldîn.
got sende si zesamene die gerne gelíep wéllen sîn!

 

The Kürenberger’s falcon song

translated by Murray Alfredson

I reared me a falcon longer than a year

when I had trained him as I wanted him to be

and worked his plumage with gold threads through

he raised himself on high to other lands he flew

I’ve since seen the falcon in glory fly

silken from his feet streamed  jesses against the sky

and his plumage gleamed all red and gold
god send them together who each to each would hold.

Prof. Murray Alfredson, primary academic field was information storage and retrieval.  He's now retired and working on poetry collection, translation & novella manuscript with a publisher in Melbourne. Australia.

Ûf der linden óbené...

 

Ûf der linden óbené
dâ sanc ein kleinez vogellîn.
vor dem walde wart ez lût:
dô huop sich aber daz herze mîn

an eine stat da'z ê dâ was.
ich sach die rôsebluomen stân:

die manent mich der gedanke vil

die ich hin zeiner frouwen hân.

 

Ez dunket mich wol tûsent jâr

daz ich an liebes arme lac.

sunder âne mîne schulde

fremdet er mich mangen tac.

sît ich bluomen niht ensach

noch hôrte kleiner vogele sanc,

sît was mir mîn fröide kurz

und ouch der jâmer alzelanc.

On the linden above

(a change, Dietmar von Eist, †1171?, translated by Murray Alfredson)

On the linden above there sang a tiny bird;
by the wood it waxed loud: that on high my heart soared to where it once had been. I saw the rose-flowers rise: they mind me of many thoughts towards a lady I prize.

 

‘To me it’s a thousand years since in my love’s arms I lay

and since without my fault he’s left me these many days.

since then I’ve seen no flowers nor heard a small bird’s song,

since then my joys are short and sorrows all too long."

RHYMEPROSE ON LITERATURE

THE WEN-FU 文赋 OF LU CHI 陆机 (A.D. 261 - 303) 

Link to Original classic Chinese Text

translated and annotated by ACHILLES FANG

"RHYMEPROSE" IS DERIVED FROM "REIMPROSA" OF GERMAN MEDIEVALISTS.

PREFACE ( in unrhymed prose)

1. Each time I study the works of great writers, I flatter myself I know how their minds worked.

2. Certainly expression in language and the charging of words with meaning can be done in various ways.

3. Nevertheless we may speak of beauty and ugliness, of good and bad [in each literary work].

4. Whenever I write myself, I obtain greater and greater insight. 

5. Our constant worry is that our ideas may not equal their objects and our style may fall short of our ideas.

6. The difficulty, then, lies not so much in knowing as in doing.

7. I have written this rhymeprose on literature to expatiate on the consummate artistry of writers of the past and to set forth the whence and why of good and bad writings as well.

8. May it be considered, someday, an exhaustive treatment.

9. Now, it is true, I am hewing an ax handle with an ax handle in my hand: the pattern is not far to seek. However, the conjuring hand of the artist being what it is, I cannot possibly make my words do the trick.

10. Nevertheless, what I am able to say, I have put down here.

TEXT

 

A.  PREPARATION

1. Taking his position at the hub of things, [the writer] contemplates the mystery of the universe; he feeds his emotions and his mind on the great works of the past.

2. Moving along with the four seasons, he sighs at the passing of time; gazing at the myriad objects, he thinks of the complexity of the world.

3. He sorrows over the falling leaves in virile autumn; he takes joy in the delicate bud of fragrant spring.

4. With awe at heart, he experiences chill; his spirit solemn, he turns his gaze to the clouds.

5. He declaims the subperb works of his predecessors; he croons the clean fragrance of past worthies.

6. He roams in the Forest of Literature, and praises the symmetry of great art.

7. Moved, he pushes his books away and takes the writing-brush, that he may express himself in letters.

B. PROCESS

8. At first he withholds his sight and turns his hearing inward; he is lost in thought, questioning everywhere.

9. His spirit gallops to the eight ends of the universe; his mind wanders along vast distances.

10. In the end, as his mood dawns clearer and clearer, objects, clean-cut now in outline, shove one another forward.

11. He sips the essence of letters; he rinses his mouth with the extract of the Six Arts.

12. Floating on the heavenly lake, he swims long; plunging into the nether spring, he immerses himself.

13. Thereupon, submerged words wriggle up, as when a darting fish, with the hook in its gills, leaps from a deep lake; floating beauties flutter down, as when a high-flying bird, with the harpoon-string around its wings, drops from a crest of cloud.

14. He gathers words never used in a hundred generations; he picks rhythms never sung in a thousand years.

15. He spurns the morning blossom, now full blown; he plucks the evening bud, which has yet to open.

16. He sees past and present in a moment; he touches the four seas in the twinkling of an eye.

C. WORDS, WORDS, WORDS

17. Now he selects ideas and fixes them in their order; he examines words and puts them in their places.

18. He taps at the door of all that is colorful; he chooses from among everything that rings.

19. Now he shakes the foliage by tugging the twig; now he follows back along the waves to the fountainhead of the stream.

20. Sometimes he brings out what was hidden; sometimes, looking for an easy prey, he bags a hard one.

21. Now, the tiger puts on new stripes, to the consternation of other beasts; now, the dragon emerges, and terrifies all the birds.

22. Sometimes things fit together, are easy to manage; sometimes they jar each other, are awkward to manipulate.

23. He empties his mind completely, to concentrate his thoughts; he collects his wits before he puts words together.

24. He traps heaven and earth in the cage of form; he crushes the myriad objects against the tip of his brush.

25. At first they hesitate upon his parched lips; finally they flow through the well-moistened brush.

26. Reason, supporting the matter [ of the poem], stiffens the trunk; style, depending from it, spreads luxuriance around.

27. Emotion and expression never disagree: all changes [in his mood] are betrayed on his face.

28. If the thought touches on joy, a smile is inevitable; no sooner is sorrow spoken of than a sigh escapes.

29. Sometimes words flow easily as soon as he grasps the brush; sometimes he sits vacantly, nibbling at it.

D. VIRTUE

30. There is joy in this vocation; all sages esteem it.

31. We [poets] struggle with Non-being to force it to yield Being; we knock upon Silence for an answering Music.

32. We enclose boundless space in a square foot of paper; we pour out a deluge from the inch-space of the heart.

33. Language spreads wider and wider; thought probes deeper and deeper.

34. The fragrance of delicious flowers is diffused; exuberant profusion of green twigs is budding.

35. A laughing wind will fly and whirl upward; dense clouds will arise from the Forest of Writing Brushes.

E. DIVERSITY

(i) The Poet's Aim

36. Forms vary in a thousand ways; objects are not of one measure.

37. Topsy-turvy and fleeting, shapes are hard to delineate.

38. Words vie with words for display, but it is mind that controls them.

39. Confronted with bringing something into being or leaving it unsaid, he grons; between the shallow and the deep he makes his choice resolutely.

40. He may depart from the square and deviate from the compasses; for he is bent on exploring the shape and exhausting the reality.

41. Hence, he who would dazzle the eyes makes much of the gorgeous; he who intends to convince the mind values cogency.

42. If persuasion is your aim, do not be a stickler for details; when your discourse is lofty, you may be free and easy in your language.

(ii)  Genres

43. Shih (lyric poetry) traces emotions daintily; Fu (rhymeprose) embodies objects brightly.

44. Pei (epitaph) balances substance with style; Lei (dirge) is tense and mournful.

45. Ming (inscription) is comprehensive and concise, gentle and generous; Chen (admonition), which praises and blames, is clear-cut and vigorous.

46. Sung (eulogy) is free and easy, rich and lush; Lun (disquisition) is rarified and subtle, bright and smooth.

47. Tsou (memorial to the throne) is quiet and penetrating, genteel and decorous; Shuo (discourse) is dazzling bright and extravagantly bizarre.

48. Different as these forms are, they all forbid deviation from the straight, and interdict unbridled license. 

49. Essentially, words must communicate, and reason must dominate; prolixity and long-windedness are not commendable.

F. MULTIPLE ASPECTS

50. As an object, literature puts on numerous shapes; as a form, it undergoes diverse changes.

51. Ideas should be cleverly brought together; language should be beautifully commissioned.

52. And the mutation of sounds and tones should be like the five colors of embroidery sustaining each other.

53. It is true that your moods, which come and go without notice, embarrass you b y their fickleness,

54. But if you can rise to all emergencies and know the correct order, it will be like opening a channel from a spring of water.

55. If, however, you have missed the chance and reach the sense b elatedly, you will be putting the tail at the head.

56. The sequence of dark and yellow being deranged, the whole broidery will look smudged and blurred.

G. REVISION

57. Now you glance back and are constrained by an earlier passage; now you look forward and are coerced by some anticipated line.

58. Sometimes your words jar though your reasoning is sound, sometimes your language is smooth while your ideas make trouble;

59. Such collisions avoided, neither suffers; forced together, both suffer.

60. Weight merit or demerit by the milligram; decide rejection or retention by a hairbreath.

61. If your idea or word has not the correct weight, it has to go, however comely it may look.

H. KEY PASSAGES

62. Maybe your language is already ample and your reasoning rich, yet your ideas do not round out.

63. If what must go on cannot be ended, what has been said in full cannot be added to.

64. Put down terse phrases here and there at key positions; they will invigorate the entire piece.

65. Your words will acquire their proper values in the light of these phrases.

66. This clever trick will spare you the pain of deleting and excising.

I. FLAGIARISM

67. It may be that language and thought blend into damascened gauze -- fresh, gay, and exuberantly lush;

68. Glowing like many-colored broidery, mournful as multiple chords; 

69. But assuredly there is nothing novel in my writing, if it coincides with earlier masterpieces.

70. True, the arrow struck my heart; what a pity, then, that others were struck before me.

71. As plagiarism will impair my integrity and damage my probity, I must renounce the piece, however fond I am of it.

J. PURPLE PATCHES

72. It may be that one ear of the stalk buds, its tip standing prominent, solitary and exquisite.

73. But shadows cannot be caught; echoes are hard to bind.

74. Standing forlorn, your purple passage juts out conspicuously; it can't be woven into ordinary music.

75. Your mind, out of step, finds no mate of it; your ideas, wandering hither and thither, refuse to throw away that solitary passage.

76. When the rock embeds jade, the mountain glows; when the stream is impregnated with pearls, the river becomes alluring.

77. When the hazel and arrow-thorn bush is spared from the sickle, it will glory in its foliage.

78. We will weave the market ditty into the classical melody; perhaps we may thus rescue what is beautiful.

K. FIVE IMPERFECTIONS

(i) In Vacuo

79. Maybe you have entrusted your diction to an anemic rhythm; living in a desert, you have only yourself to talk to.

80. When you look down into Silence, you see no friend; when you lift your gaze to space, you hear no echo.

81. It is like striking a single chord - it rings out, but there is no music.

(ii) Discord

82.Maybe you fit your words to a frazzled music; merely gaudy, your language lacks charm.

83. As beauty and ugliness are commingled, your good stuff suffers.

84. It is like the harsh note of a wind instrument below in the courtyard; there is music, but no harmony.

(iii) Novelty for Novelty's Sake

85. Maybe you forsake reason and strive for the bizarre; you are merely searching for inanity and pursuing the trivial.

86. Your language lacks sincerity and is poor in love; your words wash back and forth and never come to the point.

87. They are like a thin chord violently twanging - there is harmony, but it is not sad.

(iv) License

88. Maybe by galloping unbridled, you make your writing sound well; by using luscious tunes, you make it alluring.

89. Merely pleasing to the eye, it mates with vulgarity - a fine voice, but a nondescript song.

90. It reminds one of Fanglu and Sang-chien, - it is sad, but not decorous.

(v) Insipidity

91. Or pershaps your writing is simple and terse, all superfluities removed--

92. So much so that it lacks even the lingering flavor of a sacrificial broth; it rather resembles the limpid tune of the 'ver-milion chord'

93. "One man sings, and three men do the refrain"; it is decorous, but it lacks beauty.

L. VARIABILITY

94. As to whether your work should be loose or constricted, whether you should mould it by gazing down or looking up,

95. You will accommodate necessary variation, if you would bring out all the overtones.

96. Maybe your language is simple, whereas your conceits are clever; maybe your reasoning is plain, but your words fall too lightly.

97. Maybe you follow the beaten track to attain greater novelty; maybe you immerse yourself in the muddy water - to reach true limpidity.

98. Well, perspicacity may come after closer inspection; subtlety may ensue from more polishing.

99. It is like dancers flinging their sleeves in harmony with the beat or singers throwing their voices in tune with the chord.

100. All this is what the wheelwright P'ien despaired of ever explaining; it certainly is not what mere language can describe.

Archive of Translations

 Dec/17     Nov/17    Oct/17     Sept/17     Aug/17     July/17     June/17     May/17     Apil/17     March/17     Feb./17     Jan./17     Dec./16     Nov./16,    Oct./16

M.  MASTERPIECES

101. I have been paying tribute to laws of words and rules of style.

102. I know well what the world blames, and I am familiar with what the worthies of the past praised.

103. Originality is a thing often looked at askance by the fixed eye.

104. The fu-gems and jade beads, they say, are as numerous as the "pulse in the middle of the field" [which everyone can pick].

105. As inexhaustible as the space between heaven and earth, and growing co-eternally with heaven and earth themselves.

106. The world abounds with masterpieces; and yet they do not fill my two hands.

N. THE POET'S DESPAIR

107. How I grievfe that the bottle is often empty; how I sorrow that Elevating Discourse is hard to continue.

108. No wonder I limp along with trivial rhythms and make indifferent music to complete the song.

109. I always conclude a piece with a lingering regret; can I be smug and self-satisfied? 

110. I fear to be a drummer on an earthen jug; the jinglers of jade pendants will laugh at me.

O. INSPIRATION

(i)

111. As for the interaction of stimulus and response, and the principle of the flowing and ebbing of inspiration,

112. You cannot hinder its coming or stop its going.

113. It vanishes like a shadow, and it comes like echoes.

114. When the Heavenly Arrow is at its fleetest and sharpest, what confusion is there that cannot be brought to order?

115. The wind of thought bursts from the heart; the stream of words rushes through the lips and teeth.

116. Luxuriance and magnificence wait the command of the brush and the paper.

117. Shining and glittering, language fills your eyes; abundant and overflowing, music drowns your ears.

(ii)

118. When, on the other hand, the Six Emotions become sluggish and foul, the mood gone but the psyche remaining,

119. You will be as forlorn as a dead stump, as empty as the bed of a dry river.

120. You probe into the hidden depth of your soul; you rouse your spirit to search for yourself.

121. But your reason, darkened, is crouching lower and lower; your thought must be dragged out by force, wriggling and struggling.

122. So it is that when your emotions are exhausted you produce many faults; when your ideas run freely you commit fewer mistakes.

123. True, the thing lies in me, but it is not in my power to force it out.

124. And so, time and again, I beat my empty breast and grown; I really do not know the causes of the flowing and the not flowing.

P. CODA: ENCOMIUM

125. The function of style is, to be sure, to serve as a prop for your ideas.

(Yet allow me to expatiate on the art of letters:)

126. It travels over endless miles, removing all obstructions on the way; it spans innumerable years, taking hte place, really, of a bridge.

127. Looking down, it bequeaths patterns to the future; gazing up. it contemplates the examples of the ancients.

128. It preserves the way of Wen and Wu, about to fall to the ground; and it propagates good ethos, never to perish.

129. No path is too far for it to tread; no thought is too subtle for it to comprehend.

130. It is a match for clouds and rain in yielding sweet moisture; it is like spirits and ghosts in bringing about metamorphoses.

131. It inscribes bronze and marble, to make virtue known; it breathes through flutes and strings, and is new always.

APPENDIX I: RHYME SCHEME

"Now that I have sunk several craters in the body of the text, I must try to negotiate peace with the shade of our poet: my plea is that the fissures I have made in his rhymeprose are strictly metrical and not poetical.

By translating fu as "rhymeprose" I have assumed that it is a variety of prose. Yet I am aware that much controversy has raged over the exact nature of this genre. For those of the critics who bifurcate all writings into rhymed and unrhymed classes, fu is verse; for those who posit regular rhythmic patterns as a criterion for verse, fu is considered prose. Pending a detailed study of fu rhythms, we may be permitted to take it as prose." ....   -- Archille Fang

- pp 6-22 copyright 1965 THE HARVARD-YENCHING INSTITUTE STUDIES XXI "STUDIES IN CHINESE LITERATURE", Ed. by John L. Bishop, Harvard Univ. Press.

Copyright  Better than Starbucks 2017, a poetry magazine    

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