08 January 2014

Through the Blue Evenings

A post taken from "A Test of Translation: Rimbaud," published in the first issue of Montemora (1975), a literary journal founded and edited by Eliot Weinberger (this issue co-edited with Geoffrey O'Brien).

The point made by Montemora (the "test") comes with the last translation offered.  I am not using the Montemora translations prior to the key and final translation, but just what I found readily online.

So, the original:

by Arthur Rimbaud

Par les soirs bleus d'été, j'irai dans les sentiers,
Picoté par les blés, fouler l'herbe menue :
Rêveur, j'en sentirai la fraîcheur à mes pieds.
Je laisserai le vent baigner ma tête nue.

Je ne parlerai pas, je ne penserai rien :
Mais l'amour infini me montera dans l'âme,
Et j'irai loin, bien loin, comme un bohémien,
Par la Nature, -- heureux comme avec une femme.


(translated by Joshua Mehigan)

Blue summer evenings, pricked by stalks of wheat,
I’ll walk the paths, crush short grass where I tread:
Dreaming, I’ll feel its coolness on my feet.
And I shall let the wind bathe my bare head.

No words, no thoughts: but in my soul will grow
A boundless love, and, like a Romany,
Far, very far, through woods and fields, I’ll go,---
Happy as if a woman walked with me.


(translated by A. S. Kline)

Through the blue summer days, I shall travel all the ways,
Pricked by the ears of maize, trampling the dew:
A dreamer, I will gaze, as underfoot the coolness plays.
I’ll let the evening breeze drench my head anew.

I shall say – not a thing: I shall think – not a thing:
But an infinite love will swell in my soul,
And far off I shall go, a bohemian,
Through Nature – as happy, as if I had a girl.


(translated by Wyatt Mason)

 Through blue summer nights I will pass along paths,
 Pricked by wheat, trampling short grass:
 Dreaming, I will feel coolness underfoot,
 Will let breezes bathe my bare head.

 Not a word, not a thought:
 Boundless love will surge through my soul,
 And I will wander far away, a vagabond
 In Nature - as happily as with a woman.


(translated by Cindy Kodak)

Through the blue evenings of summer I will go into the path,
through the prickly wheat, crushing the tiny grass.
I'm in a dream.  I feel the freshness on my feet;
I will let the wind bathe my head.

I will not speak, I will consider nothing
But endless love will climb up into my soul,
And I will go far, very far, one free man,
Through Nature, will be happy with one woman.

(Cindy Kodak lives in Rochester, N.Y., and is nine years old.  She neither speaks French nor consults existing translations: she is merely given the French text and a paperback dictionary.  Moreover, many of her classmates--"average" public school fourth-graders--are also currently translating by this method. Their teacher, Mrs. Fleming, knows no French.)

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