23 March 2024

Translation: Blaise Cendrars Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France, Part 3

Sonia Delaunay, 1913


This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of the poem La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France or Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by the French early 20th century poet Blaise Cendrars whose name evokes a phoenix. Sonia Delaunay created the accompanying artwork for the poem, which tells the story of the poet's squalid journey on the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to China across Russia alongside a young prostitute who seems to embody a certain redeeming innocence and nostalgic love left behind.

Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by Blaise Cendrars with artwork by Sonia Delaunay, Part 3

The worries
Forget the worries
All the squiggly train stations oblique as we scurry
The telegraphic lines on which they are suspended
The sneering poles gesticulate and strangle them distended
The world is stretched gets longer and retracts like an accordion
that a sadistic hand torments
In the tears in the sky, the locomotives in a fury
flee
And in the holes unsealed,
The vertiginous wheels the mouths the voices
And the dogs of misery that bark at our heels
The demons are unleashed
Ironworks
Everything is a false accord
The rumbling of the wheels
Shocks
Upheavals
We are a like a storm under the skull of a bumbling deaf person …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

Well yes, you are annoying me, you know very well, we are quite far
The overheated madness moos in the locomotive
The plague cholera rise like ardent flames on our path
We disappear in the war in the heart of a tunnel
The hunger asoar, the whore, hangs onto the clouds disbanded
And the defecation of the battles in reeking piles of the dead
Do as she does, do your job …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

Yes we are, we are
All the scapegoats have met their end in this desert
Listen to the ringing of this scabious herd
Tomsk Chelyabinsk Kansk Ob’ Taishet Verkhne Udinsk Kurgan
Samara Penza-Tulun
Death in Manchuria
And our landing is our last refuge standing
This trip is terrible
Yesterday morn’
Ivan Ilyich had white billows like a storm
And Kolia Nikolai Ivanovich has been biting his nails for fifteen days …
Do as they do Death Famine do your job
It costs a hundred coins, on the Trans-Siberian, it costs a hundred rubles
Stir up the feverish seats and the red glow under the table
The devil is at the piano
His gnarly fingers excite all the women
Nature
Girls
Do your job
Until Harbin …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

No but … give me some peace … leave me alone
You have angular hips
Your stomach is bitter and you have the clap
That’s all that Paris put in your womb
There’s also a bit of soul … because you are sad
I feel pity I feel pity come to me lie on my heart

The wheels are the windmills of the Land of Plenty
And the mills in the winds are the crutches that a beggar spins
We are the cripples of space
We roll on our four wounds
They have clipped our wings
The wings of our seven sins
And all the trains are the devil’s ball game
The chicken and rabbits
The modern world
In it speed cannot but
The modern world
Those that are far away are too far away
And at the end of the journey it’s terrible to be a man and a woman …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

I feel pity I feel pity come to me I will tell you a story
Come in my bed
Lie on my heart
I will tell you a story
Oh come! come!

Eternal spring reigns in Fiji
Laziness
Love make couples swoon in the high hot grasses
syphilis roams under the banana trees
Come to the lost isles of the Pacific!
They carry the names of the Phenix, the Marquises
Borneo and Java
and Clebes is shaped like a cat.

We cannot go to Japan
Come to Mexico!
On the high plains the tulips bloom
The tentacular vines are the sun’s flowing hair
It resembles the palette and the brushes of a painter
Stunning colors like gongs,
Rousseau has been there
There he made his life shine
It’s the shrine of birds
The fine bird of paradise, the lyre bird
the toucan, the mocking bird
and the hummingbird nests thine in the middle of black lilies atwine.
Come!
We will love one another in the majestic ruins of an Aztec temple
You will be my idol
A childish colorful idol a little ugly and bizarrely strange
Oh come!

If you want we will go by plane and will fly to and fro over the country of a thousand lakes,
There the nights are disproportionately long
The prehistoric ancestor will be afraid of my engine
I will land
And I will build a hangar for my plane with fossilized mammoth bones
The primitive fire will warm up our poor love
Samovar
And we will love each other quite like the bourgeois near the pole
Oh come!

Jeanne Jeanie Ninny nini nifty nipple
Mimi my love my pretty my Peru
Beddy-bye booboo
Carrot my parrot
Little doll my sweet
Child
Dearie little goat
My cute little sin
Cocoon
Hello
She’s asleep.

Read Part 1.

15 March 2024

Translation: Guido Gozzano Grandmother Hope's Friend, Part 1

Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878

This is Bora Mici's original Italian to English translation of the poem L'amica di Nonna Speranza or Grandmother Hope's Friend by the Italian poet Guido Gozzano. This is Part 1. Part 2 will be posted soon as this is a poem of moderate length. The poem describes the homecoming from school of the poet's grandmother Speranza (Hope) and her best friend Carlotta, the romantic center of the young Gozzano's eclectic but familiar home life of mismatched objects and savory characters just before Italy's unification. 

Grandmother Hope’s Friend by Guido Gozzano

“ … to her Hope
her Carlotta…
June 28, 1850”.


Stuffed is Loreto and Alfieri’s bust, Napoleon’s
flowers in a frame, (good old things in terrible taste are a must!)

the chimney is a bit glum, the boxes without confetti,
the marble fruits steady, protected by glass bells that stay mum,

some rare toys in ruts, the half-shell chests in tow
the objects with the warning hello, I remember the coconuts,

Venice depicted in mosaic, the watercolors slightly faded,
the prints, the chests, the painted white of anemones archaic,

the canvases of Massimo d’Azeglio, the miniatures,
the daguerrotypes: creatures that dream perplexedly,

the large outdated chandelier, which hangs in the living room’s middle,
that multiplies the good old diddle on the quartz’s splendid veneer,

the cuckoo that sings the hours all nifty, the chairs adorned
in crimson damask … I am reborn, I am reborn in eighteen hundred fifty.

the little brothers, the room, on this day, cannot enter but cautiously
(they have removed all of the furniture’s upholstery: it is a day to swoon).

But they charge in a swarm. Look! their older sister Hope
and her friend with whom I want to elope, on vacation have come home!

My grandmother is seventeen years old; Carlotta has about the same style:
it’s been just a little while since they they were allowed to hoop their folds.

the very vast hoop crinkles the skirt with turquoise roses:
more elegant than their poses emerges a slender waist that wriggles.

Both have a shawl with oranges ablaze, flowers, birds and garland bands:
their hair parted in two strands falling down halfway to the cheeks aflame .

From Mantua they’ve arrived full of courage to Lago Maggiore unseen
even if they’ve travelled fourteen hours in a horse-drawn carriage.

Of all the class their exam got the most distinguished marks. How worked up
they were about the terrible past! They’ve left school for starts.

Oh Belgirate serene! The room looks over the garden at daybreak:
among the straight trunks gleam the mirrors of the turquoise lake.

Be quiet children! The friends — children try and quietly move about! —
the friends on the piano are trying out a scroll of notes that centuries transcends:

Slightly artificial motifs they’re arty the fronds of the settecento
by Arcanegelo de Leuto and Alessandro Scarlatti;

Innamorati lost lovers, lamenting “il core” and “l’augello”,
languors of Giordanello in sweet terrible verse:

“my dear you’re missed
believe me at least,
without you,
languishes my heart!
yours truly
sighs at the start
of every hour
immediately
stop your cruelty!

Carlotta sings, Hope plays. Sweet and in flowery bloom
life burgeons in the brief relays of a romance made of a thousand promises too soon.

Oh music, lighthearted whisper! In the soul it’s already hidden
To each smiles the groom that’s bidden: Prince Charming is the mister,

the husband of many dreams dreamed… Oh daisies just back from school
to find the the magic spool leaf through the tender verse of Prati redeemed!

Uncle arrives, a virtuous gentleman of much esteem,
faithful to the Past and to the cream of Lombardy-Venice and the Emperor’s acumen.

Auntie arrives, a consort very deign, very proper and decent,
faithful to the Past even if she has a penchant for the King of Sardinia’s reign.

“Kiss your Aunt and Uncle’s hand!” would say Mom and Dad:
and they would raise the fiery chins a tad of the restless little ones in a band.

“And this is the friend on vacation: mademoiselle Carlotta Capenna:
the most gifted student in the arena, Hope’s dearest friend in the nation.”

“Well what do you know…what do you know…”—would say the esteemed Uncle
and piously the words he would bungle—“Well what do you know…what do you know…

Capenna? I knew an Arthur Capenna…Capenna…Capenna…
Sure! In the court of Vienna! Sure…sure…sure…”

“Would you like a bit of marsala?” “Dear lady my sister: we wish.”
And on the armchairs reserved for the gala they were sitting like pretty conversationalists.

“…but Brambilla did not know…— She’s already too fat for Hernani;
the Scala has no more soprani… — That Giuseppe Verdi should show!…

“…in March we’ll have some work dear niece— at the Fenice they’ve told me—
the Rigoletto I can’t wait to see; they’re talking about a masterpiece.—

“…do they wear blues or grays? — And these earrings! They dazzle!
The rubies appearing! And these cameos? They frazzle…—The latest in Paris these days…

27 January 2024

Translation: Giacomo Leopardi Infinity

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea Fog, 1818

This is Bora Mici's original Italian to English translation of the poem L'Infinito or Infinity by the Romantic Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi. The poem expresses the poet's solitude and his desire to merge with the landscape and transcend the present moment, while paradoxically absorbing himself in it.

Infinity by Giacomo Leopardi 

Always dear to me has been this lonely hill, 
And this hedge that prevents the eyes 
From looking at so much of the farthest horizon. 
But sitting and gazing at endless 
Spaces beyond it, I conjure in my 
Thoughts superhuman silences 
And the deepest calm; wherein my heart 
Almost fearfully trembles. And like the wind 
I hear rustling through these plants, I 
Start comparing that infinite silence 
With this voice: and I remember eternity, 
And seasons passed, and the present 
Is alive, and her sound. And so amidst this 
Expansiveness my thoughts drown: 
And shipwreck is sweet to me in this sea.

10 January 2024

Translation: Blaise Cendrars Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France, Part 2


Sonia Delaunay, 1913

This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of the poem La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France or Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by the French early 20th century poet Blaise Cendrars whose name evokes a phoenix. Sonia Delaunay created the accompanying artwork for the poem, which tells the story of the poet's squalid journey on the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to China across Russia alongside a young prostitute who seems to embody a certain redeeming innocence and nostalgic love left behind.

Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by Blaise Cendrars with artwork by Sonia Delaunay, Part 2

I am laying flat in a plaid
Colorfully clad
Like my life
And my life does not keep me any warmer than this Scottish burlap
And all of Europe seen from the wind breaker of an express at full steam
Is not any richer than my life
My poor life
This tartan
Threadbare on chests filled with gold
Alongside which I roll
That I dream
That I smoke
And the only flame of the universe
Is a poor thought …

Tears well up from the bottom of my heart
If I think, Love, of my mistress;
She is but a child, that I found like this
Pale, immaculate, at the back of a brothel.

She is but a child, blond, laughing sadly,
She does not smile and never cries;
But at the bottom of her eyes, when she lets you drink from them,
Trembles a sweet silver lily, the poet’s flower.

She is sweet and quiet, makes no reproach,
With a long shiver at your approach;
But when I come to her, from here, from there, from a feast,
She takes a step, then closes her eyes — and takes a step.
Because she is my love, and the other women
Just have golden dresses on tall bodies of ribbon,
My poor friend is so alone,
She is completely naked, has no body — she is too poor.

She is just a candid flute, a filigrane tower
The poet’s flower, a poor silver lily,
All cold, all alone, and already so wilted
That I get teary eyed if I think of her soul.

And this night is like a hundred thousand others when a train dashes in the night
— The comets fall —
And man and woman, even young ones, delight in making love.

The sky is like the torn tent of a poor circus in a small fishing village
In Flanders
The sun is a steamy lantern
And all the way at the top of a trapeze a woman arches her body into a crescent.
The clarinet the piston a bitter flute and a bad drum
And here is my cradle
My cradle
It was always near the piano when my mother like Madame Bovary played the sonata’s of Beethoven
I spent my childhood in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
And I skipped school, in the train stations in front of the trains departing
Now, I have made all the trains run behind me
Basel-Timbuktu
I have also played in the races in Auteuil and Longchamp
Paris-New York
Now, I have made all the trains run through all my life
Madrid-Stockholm
And I have lost all of my bets
There’s only Patagonia left, Patagonia, which suits my great sadness, Patagonia, and a trip to the Southern seas

I am on the road
I have always been on the road
I am on the road with the little Jehanne of France.

The train jumps perilously and falls back on all its wheels
The train falls back on its wheels
The train always falls back on all its wheels.

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

We are far, Jane, you have been traveling for seven days
You are far away from Montmartre, from the Hill that fed you, from the Sacré-Coeur whose shelter you cherished
Paris has vanished and its enormous blaze
All we have tarried are the ashes unburied
The rain that pounds
The peat that swells
Siberia that pivots
The heavy heaps of snow that rise up
And the bell of madness which trembles like a last wish in the blue sky’s deepness
The train quivers at the heart of leaden horizons
And your sorrow sniggers …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

Read Part 1.