Friday, 28 August 2015

Budapest: first full day
Thursday 27 August, Csontváry etc

Athens in Moonlight, 1901

With 30C in the shade the sensible thing is to go out in the morning then either rest in the afternoon or visit somewhere indoors, ideally with some air-conditioning. Well, we reversed that.

It was not a comfortable night with a full moon. It never is, especially on the first night away, so I had a little under four hours sleep, waking at early dawn. The idea was to  show our briefly visiting friend Stephanie round the city, not disdaining the most popular tourist sites, such as the Vár (or Fort / Palace) District.

As you may imagine the fort is up a steep hill. It is on the Buda side and overlooks Pest, almost opposite the grand parliament building. Normally a bus takes you up the steep gradient but there is a thorough redesign and rebuilding going on in what used to be called Moszka tér (Moscow Square), now renamed Széll Kálmán tér. Hungary loves a political renaming so streets jump in and out of bed with whichever celebrity, historical figure or cause is deemed of attention by the government of the day.

This square is vast and serves as a major junction for Metro, tram and bus lines but it is one great building site for now and the Vár bus seems to have relocated elsewhere. No matter, we climb the hill on foot, look around a bit, stare out over the Halászbástya (Fishermen's Bastion) walls at the Danube glowing like mercury. Then we see there is a big Csontváry retrospective at one of the Palace buildings so we go in.

Csontváry is an extraordinary figure. At the age of 27 he has a vision. It's a calling. He labours on for thirteen more years A pharmacist till the age of forty he decides in 1893 to go to drawing classes and learns to draw portraits, a little stiffly, but in the approved academic manner. But that's just a start. He doesn't stick with classes but sets to painting in his own way. He paints butterflies and birds and other animals. He paints portraits and views. He goes on the road, first to Europe then beyond to Jerusalem. His paintings grow increasingly mystical and grandiose. Some of his later works are vast, wall-sized prophetic scenes. He dies in poverty in 1919 having made some reputation abroad but neglected in Hungary.

What is he like? He is various. At some points he reminds me of Le Douanier Rousseau touched with early Chagall, at other times (in his colours and skies) of Nolde. His figures can be as gestural as L S Lowry's, his objects float against dark backgrounds somewhat like Alfred Wallis's, but there is always a romantic grandeur at the back of the pictorial idea. Best of all are his middle to later period paintings of places, generally of buildings with figures in front of them and an extensive landscape or townscape behind. This is where the visionary aspect of his art comes most subtly to the fore. His trees sparkle with small raised dots of light. His figures move out of a scumbled patch of rich colour. The perspective is wrong but that becomes simply another aspect of vision. Something is happening not just in the symbolic or iconographic sense but linearly, formally, at pictorial depth. There is a genuine enchantment there especially in his Italian and Greek periods.

At certain points in the exhibition there is a film where an actor speaks as Csontváry. Unfortunately what Csontváry says is generally a blend of cliché and megalomania, and indeed the last room in the exhibition is labelled Megalomania. It is very well worth Googling his images, though his treatment of paint will not strike you on a screen. It is that squidgy stuff on canvas.


In the afternoon we decide to go to the Zoo. This is an act of madness under the circumstances though the zoo is itself a real art nouveau monument. The animals stare past us, concentrate on eating or contemplating the blank air. They are otherness in the flesh, the living clichés of themselves as we have made them. But they retain their pride - chiefly through indifference. Among the gazelles and giraffes a genuinely wild creature scampers across the floor into a pile of straw. It is a field mouse, The mouse, or its kin, reappear in several enclosures. They are in overdrive, stopping every so often to get their bearings and breath then stepping on the gas like tiny boy racers.

The adult elephant looks forlorn, the young one splashes in the water. It is pretty hot out here. We amble on and find ourselves at the edge of the children's zoo. Our hands are stamped with purple camels and we are allowed to continue. There are donkeys and ponies and a beautifully preserved empire-period roundabout with ornate carriages and a serious crowd of fairground horses. Perhaps this is what it's about really.

On return home we have half an hour's rest before heading over to L and G's in the next road, for dinner with Yudit Kiss, whose The Summer My Father Died I translated a few years back. Small and full of a kindly but furious energy we talk of this and that and finally about the plight of the migrants. Yudit's twenty-one year old son, Áron, is with us and we get involved in varying analyses of the situation. Over the last ten years I have developed an allergic reaction to the word 'discourse' but then I am not twenty-one. The discourse of the discourse is a media conspiracy about the media.

That is not fair. He is passionate in his views and very intelligent. I am an ageing gentleman who has worked with cultural theorists and finished up liking some of them very much. I have entered the discourse of ageing. In fact it is midnight again and I am quite tired.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Budapest: arrival and first morning,
26/27 August

Full moon from the balcony

A furious devout drench in England yesterday, indeed several bouts of it: one of those days when the sky simply empties its bathwater over us. Arriving at Stansted it was still buffeting down and parts of the car park were already flooded. We ran for the packed airport bus, got soaked through, but once in the building we slowly dried off.

Long waits at terminals are now part of the world's holding pattern. Drink coffee, nibble a sandwich, do the crossword. Wait. Wait for our friend Stephanie who is coming with us for the first three days. She arrives and we talk, then it's time to make our way to the gate. A very long queue for the Ryan Air flight but we have booked seats. The plane leaves a little late and it's dark in Budapest when we arrive at about 9:30 local time.

The taxi ride in with a fairly quiet driver. We pass the new Ferencváros stadium, Lechner's Art Nouveau Crafts Museum, then over Szabadság hid (Liberty Bridge) to the Buda side to our dear friends , L and G, who are waiting for us. We eat a quick light supper then L takes us over to the place where Clarissa and I are to stay, at the upstairs flat of M and J. J is a theatrical agent and the upstairs flat is a working office with a convertible settee. It's high modern and luxurious, all very laid on, wifi and everything.  You press buttons to bring the blind down or up. There is a little vacuum cleaner that runs about all by itself. It's beautiful. Steph, who had walked over with us to see it, goes back with L to the yellow house where we usually stay. Though tired I feel wide awake. There is a full moon so sleeping is hard and waking is easy. Bed at 01:30. I wake at dawn, rise eventually, shower, shave and put on a different shirt. The sun is out now and it is expected to reach about 30C today.

After breakfast the plan is a walk with Steph whose first visit this is. At some stage I want to see and meet the refugees camped outside the main railway terminals. Might come back this afternoon though to catch up on sleep.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Answers to questions about the Holocaust, violence and the arts

These questions were part of scholarly research and were sent to me by email. I have the questioner's permission to reproduce this part of the questionnaire she sent me.

How have you or your family been directly affected by the events of WW2?

All my mother's family except my mother were murdered. She herself was incarcerated in two concentration camps (Ravensbruck and Penig)*. I think her suicide in 1975 was indirectly linked to that time. My father's father was killed in Auschwitz. His mother and sister found shelter in a protected house in Budapest though that was raided in late 1944 which was the occasion my mother was taken away (some of this is covered in the long poem 'Metro' 1988). My father served in Hungarian labour battalions serving just behind the front line in the Soviet Union. He was one of only three survivors of his own battalion. 

How do you think current attitudes towards the Holocaust, and the way that historical material is presented, can help us to avoid it happening again?

As survivors die our relationship to the events is bound to change and already has changed over the years. The best book on that is Eva Hoffman's 'After Such Knowledge' which is essentially about the second generation - my generation - and their perception of their parents' fate. The whole question is now tangled up with the situation in the Middle East and Israel in particular. Those who dislike Israel play down or question the Holocaust. There are, as you will know, books on this such as The Holocaust Industry which suggest that the idea has been exploited by some Jews for reasons of their own, and particularly by the USA and Israel. I myself disagree with that hypothesis as a general truth though there are probably instances where it has happened if only because there is always a range of human behaviour and there is no reason why Jews should be more saintly than anyone else. As to the question of historical presentation, all history is a mixture of presentation and misrepresentation, of proposition, adjustment, and re-adjustment on a groundwork of selected facts or available facts as recorded. Despite everything it could happen again. There are those who deny it happened the first time but would quite like it to happen now. That won't go away. 
What are the possible ethical implications of referencing the Holocaust when attempting to communicate concerns about prejudice today?

It is too easy to do that, just as it is too easy to leap to cries of Hitler! and Nazi! We all dislike prejudice, including the prejudiced. Prejudice, we think, is what the other person feels. Societies lay down legal norms and establish definitions and descriptions. We operate by those generally and modify those laws and norms as we go along. Instances of prejudice can be legally defined, described and argued over. Where people claim parallels with the Holocaust these should, I feel, be put forward and examined as neutrally as possible. Every moral claim can be 'weaponised' to put it in a particular contemporary way but no moral claim should be dismissed before being examined.

How do you feel that the context in which a message is delivered affects to response of the viewer - have we become de-sensitized to images of brutality?

The shock of brutality depends on the context. Violence of one sort or other is an aspect of human survival. As with prejudice, societies develop definitions, descriptions, and laws that are under constant revision. We are desensitised to some brutality not to others. Most of the time our senses adjust and readjust to forms of communication. A fist fight in an old Western worked within a convention that would be ineffective now. Are the viewers of the latest equivalent violence more brutalised than the viewers of Tom Mix and John Wayne? I doubt it. Messages, media, presentations, are just one part of a mass of other factors, general and individual. Images of brutality can be very powerful in one context and almost insignificant in another.

What are your thoughts about the role of the artist in society who deals with dark narratives?

It is not the darkness of the narrative but the capacity of the artist that is important. A great artist can paint nothing but cups and saucers yet the complex and ambivalent interaction of light and dark and, indeed, of cosmic distance, may well be present in such an image. Similarly, an artist dealing with 'dark narratives' may be trivialising the whole and turning it into melodrama or propaganda. Goya's greatest work deals with terrible human actions, especially in the etchings, but the early paintings convey the potential of such darkness in apparently quite playful scenes. Our attitude to artists dealing with dark narratives may also be influenced by how we perceive the artist's relation to the darkness. Goya is never smug about his own distance from the dark event. That makes a considerable difference.

*I discovered the film of the relief of Penig a few years ago. It was less complete than my link at that stage and without commentary. I kept wondering whether I was actually seeing my mother in it but I could not be sure. The Penig Film sequence of poems from The Burning of the Books works on the notion that history is a film director, Clio, who flits from festival to festival and that the Penig film is a discarded cut (among many others) from her blockbuster epic

Thursday, 20 August 2015

BCLT / Writers Centre Summer School:
Translating Poetry 7: Postscript Lesley Lawn

Lesley Lawn was the only one to attempt the short poem by Zsuzsa Rakovszky I handed out at the beginning as a potential extra task. The text I gave them was in Hungarian with a word for word glossary and a few notes on what they might ask if they had a chance. It was a poem I myself translated for my book of selected poems by Zsuzsa Rakovszky, New Life (OUP 1994).

Much might have been asked but there was no time and yet it is amazing on what slender evidence we begin to construct the possible poem in the unfamiliar words. Here is the Hungarian text:

Avart égettek…
Avart égettek. Dőlt a must saga,
buzgott a kátrány.
Bogáncson ellenfény holdudvara,
tépett szivárvány.

Az utca erdő – mélyebb ősz fele
lejtett az este.
A szélső ház – a hánytorgó zene
majd szétvetette.

Még egyszer ezt, csak ezt, és mást sosem
többé: leszállnék
az őszi alvilágba, jobb kezem
kezedben, árnyék –

Lesley's version ran like this.

Dead Leaves Burning

Dead leaves burning. Smell of must rising
crackling in the brazier. 
Halo lighting a thistle burr –
a jagged rainbow
The road a forest – night dipped
toward darker autumn
The furthest house 
bursting with music 
Yet, just this, once more, and 
never again would I to go down
into the autumnal underworld 
my right hand in your hand, shadow -
This is what I did back in 1994:

They Were Burning Dead Leaves
They were burning dead leaves. Must oozed with scent
tar bubbled and blew.
The moonlight glow behind the thistle bent
like a torn rainbow. 
The street was a forest, night slid into the heart
of deepest autumn.
A guilty music blew the house apart
with its fife and drum. 
To have this again, just this, just the once more:
I would sink below
autumnal earth and place my right hand in your
hand like a shadow.

Each new version could add more, subtract more, seek its own priorities, take its own risks. But we would all be on the trail of something we ourselves felt as the words worked through us and returned in our own receiving language.

Lesley also brought a poem about translation. We read it at the last session as a kind of grace before the meal of the workshop. I like it very much so will end this series on it. Some modifications on earlier posts might follow. I know Chiara wanted to say something about her own work. But this is by Lesley.

Thoughts on Translating Poetry

Playing Bach can be faithful to the note
it can be looser Loussier or variations of the Variations
early Glenn Gould frantic youthful
or not – say the purists
Is a poem lost
if you can hear the translator hum
or is the music still the same?
So many airs on a G string none wrong nor right
Miles Davis’ riff on Porgy’s song
another version though
not Willard White’s deep tones.
So many poets have sung Achilles’ rage
as implacable ruinous or baneful wrath
transposing Homer through the ages
And Baudelaire whose Spleen results in many forms
Moore’s roi d’un pays pluvieux an ancient king a too-old king
ruling a rainy hell or a flooded empire
Each voice unique springs from the same source
sings the same song in jazz or blues
Mood Indigo has many shades from Ellington to Monk
No mood no blues the same
Playing Bach faithful or way off beat
Playful remix of a familiar tune
New harmonies new voices
in a different time

It's in that looser Loussier.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

BCLT / Writers Centre Summer School
Translating Poetry 6 Morawski / Parra

On this occasion I have received an account from Carmen Morawski, the translator, herself so it makes sense to allow her to tell the story of her translation of The Flight of Icarus by Josefa Parra The translation I give here is the last version I have from Carmen. Judging by her commentary there may be a later one.

El Vuelo de Ícaro

¿Hace falta equipaje
más allá del fervor?
¿No basta con las alas del deseo?
Mírame, Padre, cómo deslizo
por encima del barro de los días posibles.
Mírame levantarme hasta las nubes,
y envídiame la muerte.

The Flight of Icarus

What luggage necessary
beyond fervour?
Are not the wings of desire enough?
Watch me, Father, as I slide
above the clay of possible days.
Watch me as I soar up to the clouds,
and covet my death.

Although “The Flight of Icarus” is short, a mere seven lines, the very brevity of this poem demands great care in the selection of each translated word. I've struggled over each line of the poem: before the workshop, during our workshop, and since. Even now, I am not entirely satisfied with the poem. I find myself fussing over some of the decisions that initially seemed most simple.

Beginning with the decisions I find most pleasing, what follows is a discussion of some of the decisions that I considered in translating this poem. Given the time limitations in our workshop, not all of these were fully discussed as a group:

I'm happy with the decision to go with the word clay for the word barro. The most common translation would be mud, but given the context of this poem, I thought that clay added just the right touch. I was happy that our workshop members were in agreement.

If only all translation decisions were so easy... the Spanish idiom, Hace falta means that something is missing, or needed. But to translate this line as Is missing luggage would obviously not work. Another possibility that could work is, What luggage is needed, but I wasn't initially happy with the way the poem sounded when I read it this way. Oddly enough, as I read this today, it sounds like the better choice, and it would open the poem in a way that more closely matches the simple, accessible language register in the original Spanish.

Another interesting problem was in deciding how to translate Mírame. Deciding to use the phrase, Watch me, maintains the reflexive nature of the original Spanish in a way that isn't possible with the word, Look, but in doing so, it also necessitates translating the word como into as instead of how

There is also a subtle difference in the resulting meaning. In the end, I decided to go with Watch me, Fatheras because I thought it conveyed the meaning in a more assertive tone than would Look, Father, how.

The final problem I'd like to discuss here has to do with translating the last line of the poem. This is the most powerful line and also the most problematic. In Spanish, the word, envídiame is reflexive, something for which I don't believe there is a suitable English equivalent. Additionally the literal translation for la muerte is the death. For this reason, the literal translation for this line would be envy me the deathObviously, this translation would not do. However, I believe that this might be best translated as covet me death, despite its strangeness. The translation we arrived upon in our workshop, covet my death may feel more natural in English, but it does not mean the same thing as covet me death, a line which begs for a slight pause between the words me and death in a way that does not occur in covet my death. 

In Spanish, the pronoun, la provides both this breath space and a certain cognitive distance. It also gives the word death a more substantive and less abstract feeling, in the same way the definite article, the functions in English when one refers to the desk, the chair, but not the death. For both these reasons I believe that maintaining the reflexive nature of the original, despite its strangeness, now seems like the better translation. As for the decision to go with the word covet over envy, this was something we discussed at some length in our workshop, a discussion for which I am very grateful.


This concludes the posts on the individual translators and the discussion of one of the poems each translated. I will post one more, using Lesley Lawn's translation from the (to her unfamiliar) Hungarian and her poem on translation.

Friday, 14 August 2015

BCLT / Writers Centre Summer School
Translating Poetry 5 Salomoni / Ramat

Bronzino: Allegory of Venus and Cupid

Chiara Salomoni speaks several languages. She is herself a poet who now lives in London but is Italian.  Beside Italian and English she also has French, Spanish and Chinese. Her poems are written in English and she is particularly attentive to the music of poetry.This music, for her (as I understood it), was mostly a matter of sound formation and of echo, the way a part-rhyme or an alliteration shifts across lines, and something to do with pace as well. The question of metre and prosody were probably a little behind those main considerations.

The poet she wanted to work on was Silvio Ramat (the link is to the Wiki translation of an Italian Wiki page so beware). She translated two of his poems but the one we spent most time on was Come Guardare, published fairly recently, in 2007. Here it is. I am pleased that Silvio Ramat has approved its appearance on this blog.

Come guardare
una vetrata dipinta, una tela,
un affresco, un cartone -
essere in due,
accesi, dentro, da un’idea di pioggia
(fuori, la grande aria della città)
stringersi a contemplare non capire
forse le stature le allegorie
dirsi quel che si sa o che si presume
memoria e fantasia facendo lume
e sentirsi pareti così tènere
da penetrarvi il chiodo detto amore.

Chiara had sent ahead a preliminary translation and some notes, as here:

How to look
a stained glass window, a canvas,
a fresco, a cartoon -
lit. being two people/the two of us
burning from the inside, for a thought of rain
(outside the large air of the city)
clung together to admire without understanding
maybe the stature/importance the allegory
telling each other what we know or what we guess
our memory and imagination throwing some light
and feeling walls so soft
to pierce that nail called love.

1) in Italian the verbs are infinitive while in English is not possible to use the infinitive in this case
2) I am not sure if ‘large’ works here (also in Italian ‘grande’ used together with ‘air’ is unusual)
3) ‘forse le stature le allegorie’ translated with ‘maybe the stature/importance the allegory’. Do you have any suggestions for this line?
4) In the last two lines there is an anthises (walls so soft/ to pierce...) Would it work for you?

She read us the poem in Italian twice. We began by wondering where we were and what was going on. Were we with two lovers who are contemplating their relationship to the art they have seen in the context of the world outside? Was it primarily a poem about love, or about art? What did the art have to say about love and what was that mysterious paradoxical image at the end where soft walls pierce nails?

Taking the poem line by line we began with the question of where. In a church or a gallery? There were doubts about the word cartoon. It might make some people think of strip cartoons or cartoon films. Having taught art history for a good number of years I simply assumed the poem meant cartoon in the sense of the Leonardo cartoon, that is to say a preparatory work for something not yet started but it is a mistake to think that everyone knows what one knows (on the other hand no one knows everything, not even the poet). Then there was the issue of essere in due and the use of the infinite, and various possibilities suggested themselves here. But what did it mean to burn inside for a thought of rain. Was it love, desire, or the passion for art that was burning? Was there a desire for rain? For a thought of rain? Was rain symbolic in the way it is in romantic films, a mixture of the mystical and the erotic? We discussed the function of the allegory in the poem. What was the allegory? What was an allegory for what? Was it a specific painting. Was it like Bronzino's Allegory (see above) I wondered.

And was the grande aria a reference to music or was it simply the air, as simply the big or large air, and if it was what actually is large air? Is it to do with the size of the city, the natural world outside the confines of art, the idea of an endless air? Fortunately (though only after the course was over) Chiara was able to get in contact with the poet himself and ask whether he meant aria as in an opera. He said no. (Having living authors to hand is an advantage in many ways though not invariably so. The text is less a matter of the author's specific intention, or even of what the author happened to be thinking when a line occurred to him or her, than in what the words say and suggest.)

Lastly, the great puzzle of the end where a soft thing pierces a hard thing. In reverse it might be read in terms of sexual penetration but Chiara didn't think so. However we read it it remained enigmatic. Perhaps the most persuasive notion was the possibility that the idea of love, as communicated in the allegories, was a source of 'soft power' that might alleviate or redeem the hard imperatives of desire or simply romantic love.

This is the version, after all the discussion and hard thinking, that Chiara sent on after the course.

How to look
a stained glass window, a canvas,
a fresco, a drawing -
it takes two
burning, inside, an idea of rain
(outside the large air of the city)
to cling to admire to not understand
maybe the statures the allegories
telling each other what we know or what we guess
memory and imagination shedding light
and feeling like walls so soft
they pierce that nail called love.

This version shortens breath and has grown in ardency as a result. It sings and has music.

But one could discuss the poem and its translation for ever. The analogy I often used in conversation was the mixing deck in music. You can turn up this or that instrument within the poem. Finally you settle on something because it sounds right, or persuasive, or powerful. That's as good as it gets. If the original poem turns out to be attractive to other translators their own remix will provide a slightly different experience. As of course will the original poem to its various Italian readers.

The image we occasionally returned to was the Venn diagram where the combined overlaps indicated broad agreement as to the 'location' and 'core' of the poem, those versions with some element in the common overlap indicated individual readings and those outside all of them suggested an idiosyncrasy of some sort.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

BCLT Summer School:
Translating Poetry 4: Lawn / Pirotte

Toilet graffiti (source)

I left the translation blogs at the point where I had looked at two of the poems that the translators from the various languages were looking to translate. That leaves three. The questions in these three were more conventional in the sense that the three languages - French, Italian and Spanish - are not so culturally removed from us as Japanese and, in its own way though to a lesser degree, Bengali.

That doesn't mean there were no interesting problems. Translation is full of them. Lesley Lawn was looking at two poems by J-C Pirotte. Here is one of them from the collection La Boîte à musique (2004)

le mot poésie dans les latrines
de la vieille école primaire
était efface le matin
par la maitresse enturbanné
ensuite venait vers midi
le pauvre pion de Francis Jammes
déballer sur le bois du siège
le saucisson et les tartines
de son repas très aviné
or par le trou de la serrure
apparaissait un autre monde
òu la main de l’homme à la craie
 dessinait le profil d’un ange
 et sur la paroi maculée
 écrivait le mot poésie
It is a poem about finding the word poetry written on the walls of a school toilet, the word being scrubbed out by a schoolmistress, then the word being written back on by either the writer as a schoolboy or by someone else. It is about the persistence of poetry in any circumstance.

The most obvious problem was what to do with Francis Jammes. Was it the poet? A school named after the poet? A poet particularly important to the writer? Hard to know. Leave out the name altogether, gloss it, substitute another well known name, insert the word 'school'? And then there was that lunch, the saucisson et les tartines très aviné. The aviné doesn't sound too much like a schoolboy's lunch, assuming pion meant prefect and a prefect was a student, as in England, not a junior member of staff. Beyond that was the schoolmistress who was enturbanné. What kind of turban was intended, if it was literally a turban, not a kind of pedagogic hat, and what was its significance?

These might relatively small or incidental details. (Are there merely incidental details in a poem?) The dynamic of the poem, we might argue, depends on the central event, in which case the order of lines would seem important. In the French the word poésie is in the same line as the word latrines. The two are in close proximity. Should the translator register that proximity as a matter of sensibility. It's awkward conveying the same information in the same order in English. Although Jammes, the turban and that copious quantity of lunchtime wine were subjects of intense discussion it was the who-what-how-in what order that was thought to be most important.

Lesley eventually came up with this interim solution. 

in the toilets of the old primary school
the word
was rubbed out this morning

by the schoolmistress
then around midday
the unhappy prefect
unwrapped his lunch on the wooden bench
garlic sausage and bread
and a good deal of wine
so through the keyhole
another world appeared
whereby the hand of the man with the chalk
drew the outline of an angel
and on the smudged and grubby wall wrote
the word poetry

The turban has gone, Jammes has gone, but there is a nicely disapproving tone in and a good deal of wine. The word poetry and the toilets were not on the same line but were as close as Lesley could get them for now. Smudged and grubby was a possibly useful elaboration on maculée. The word poetry was now in a different typeface to draw attention to its status as graffiti. A good deal of the original poem's force and pathos remained. It had a touch of Jacques Prévert in its clarity and purity of perception. 

Read in English, the poem has a good deal of sharpness and pathos. It might be that the details lost in the French would be more of a distraction than a help to the English version. I think it was Valéry who suggested that a poem was never finished only abandoned. How much truer that is of a translation! There are possible version in which turbans, Jammes and a maculate (or bespattered wall) might take their place.

But we beg to claim that the English poem is a poem, which might be the main thing. The translation is performing a poetic act in its new language. It sings and dances. It doesn't pretend to be Astaire. But it might be Donald O'Connor.