The following is a translation of Eliot's poem "Lune de Miel" written
in French and published in Eliot's "Poems: 1920." The translation is
by Raphael J. Ingelbien who holds the copyright. The translation was
posted to the T.S. Eliot maillist Wednesday, 30 April 1997. Since the
TSE maillist archives are no longer accessible Ingelbien, in private
email correspondence to Rickard A. Parker ([log in to unmask],
Friday, 20 January 2006), allowed his translations of Eliot's poems to
be reposted to the TSE maillist. This was done for "Lune de Miel" by
Parker on Saturday, 21 January 2006.
At the end of Ingelbien's "Lune de Miel" post he provides an ironic
quotation from Eliot's essay "From Poe to Valery."
Ingelbien, a Belgian, and a native French speaker, wrote to Parker:
"If I remember correctly they were very literal translations
that were meant to give a close idea of each word's meaning.
No masterpieces, but perhaps useful in their own way."
The email addresses below are no longer vaaalid, neither for Ingelbien
or the TSE maillist.
The text below was derived by using the "lynx" text-only browser to
dump out the contents of Parker's private copy of file
1997-04/msg00209.html that was kept in the now missing TSE archives.
Hyperlinks in the original HTML version of the post are relaced with
square bracketed numbers in this copy and the URL for each is listed
in the "References" section. It is due to the copying by Parker that
"file://localhost/tmp/" appears as part of URLs in the reference
section. These hold no worthwhile meaning in the copy.
Lune de Miel
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* Subject: Lune de Miel
* From: "R.J.Ingelbien" <[log in to unmask]>
* Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997 21:45:48 +0100 (BST)
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A translation of Eliot's 'Lune de Miel'.
Lune de Miel
Ils ont vu les Pays-Bas, ils rentrent a Terre Haute;
Mais une nuit d'ete, les voici a Ravenne,
A l'aise entre deux draps, chez deux centaines de punaises;
La sueur aestivale, et une forte odeur de chienne.
They have seen the Netherlands, they come back to Highland;
But on a summer night, here they are in Ravenna,
Comfortable between two sheets, among two hundred bugs;
The summer sweat, and and strong bitch smell.
C: 'aestivale' should read 'estivale'. 'Highland' ('Terre Haute')
doesn't exist, it is a (supposedly comic?) contrast to 'Netherlands'.
C: 'Pays-Bas' reads 'Pay-Bas' in the Faber edition of Eliot's
_Collected Poems 1909-1962_: the mistake is Faber's, not Eliot's.
It is one of that edition's numerous inaccuracies.
Ils restent sur le dos ecartent les genoux
De quatre jambes molles tout gonflees de morsures.
On releve le drap pour mieux egratigner.
They stay on their backs, spread open the knees
Of four flabby legs swollen with bites.
They lift the sheet in order to scratch better.
C: 'Ils restent sur le dos': 'rester' means 'to stay', but
perhaps Eliot thought it meant 'to rest', which would make more
C: 'tout gonflees' should read 'toutes gonflees'.
C: 'egratigner': I suspect Eliot looked up the translation of
'scratch' in a dictionary and found 'egratigner'. But that verb
means 'to make a shallow wound', e.g. with a claw. Here, the
couple are scratching their itching legs: the corresponding
French verb is 'gratter', not 'egratigner' (unless we are dealing
with an SM ritual...).
Moins d'une lieue d'ici est Saint Apollinaire
En Classe, basilique connue des amateurs
De chapitaux d'acanthe que tournoie le vent.
Less than a league away from here is St Apollinaire
En Classe, a basilica that is famous among lovers
Of acanthus capitals whirled by the wind.
C: 'tournoyer', unlike 'to whirl', is intransitive. The syntax is
Ils vont prendre le train de huit heures
Prolonger leurs miseres de Padoue a Milan
Ou se trouve la Cene, et un restaurant pas cher.
Lui pense aux pouboires, et redige son bilan.
They will take the eight o'clock train
Prolong their misery from Padua to Milan
Where one can find the Last Supper, and a cheap restaurant.
He is thinking about tips, and is writing down his #balance-sheet.
C: 'bilan' can mean either 'balance-sheet' (the man is thinking
about tips, i.e. money) or 'assessment' (which would tie in with
the next sentence). 'Assessment' would of course preserve the rhyme.
Ils auront vu la Suisse et traverse la France.
Et Saint Apollinaire, raide et ascetique,
Vieille usine desaffectee de Dieu, tient encore
Dans ses pierres ecroulantes la forme precise de Byzance.
They (will) have seen Switzerland and travelled through France.
And St Apollinaire, stiff and ascetic,
Old disused factory of God, still holds
In its crumbling stones the exact shape of Byzantium.
C: 'Ils auront vu' is a future perfect, but in French it can have
the meaning of a present perfect - hence the parenthesis.
C: 'ecroulantes' does not exist. The adjective should read
Let us now meditate on the following quote:
'As for Mallarme, he taught English and there is convincing evidence of
his imperfect knowledge, for he committed himself to writing a kind of
guide to the use of the language. An examination of this curious
treatise, and the strange phrases he gives under the impression that they
are familiar English proverbs, should dispel any rumour of Mallarme's
T.S. Eliot, 'From Poe to Valery'.
He who has never sinned...
Raphael Ingelbien, English Dept, University of Hull HU6 7RX, UK.
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