CR, TR, Carrol, Rick, et al,
I'm thrilled that Eliot's French poems are being
discussed here on the list. I only hope that my free
time to write in has not come too late. Please excuse
any seeming rudeness in my filing comments this late
in the game. I hope they can be helpful to the
I think we took a survey before, and there are
only a couple francophones on the list (I remember
Kate & myself as two among few). I would be delighted
to make a couple comments from that perspective first:
"Les Pays-Bas" is best understood as the Netherlands,
but of course translating it as such completely
obliterates the international pun Eliot is using. See
Raine's translation below for one option in
translation. Of course, as always, much is lost in
translation, and the original is preferable to any
translation. But I guess it's good to have a
discussion about the particular points where a
translation would differ from the original. "Terre
Haute" is, of course, best understood, and probably
ONLY understood, as the Indiana city.
"Pas cher" really means something more like "not
expensive", similar to the common, subtle American
expression "not bad." "Cheap" is an Eliotic phrase,
but so is the subtle comment "pas cher". Again, see
Raine's translation for one option with this phrase.
Personally, I wouldn't think "cheap" to be a very good
translation of the phrase.
Re: the clause involving St Apollinaire" and "De
chapitaux d'acanthe" -- yes, Jathaul's is actually a
mistranslation, not just a poor translation,
unforunately. In French, the sentence is a little more
complicated than it might seem. "De chapitaux" seems
to suggest "of" but should actually read more like
"for". And the positioning of "que" is poetic syntax
-- it would be the difference between saying "the wind
turns the capitals of acanthus" and "capitals of
acanthus which the wind turns."
I can't find the post mentioning the connection with
an Apollinaire poem mentioning "la Seine" as a pun
connected to "la Cene", but that's a fascinating and
very likely connection.
Here is Craig Raine's translation. ***If you care to
use it or quote from it, please reference his work in
translating it. I'm not aware of the rules regarding
unpublished (but publicly shared) work.*** I think
They have seen the low countries, they will return to
the high ground —
Terre Haute in Vigo county, Indiana;
But now it's a hot night, and here they are at
Limp between the sheets, home of two hundred or so
Summer sweat and a powerful pong of bitch.
They lie on their backs, keeping their knees apart;
Four feeble limbs muscular with bites.
They lift up the sheet to scratch more intensely.
Less than a league from here, St Apollinaire
En classe, basilica known to amateurs
For its acanthine capitals which the wind whirls
They are going to take the 8 a.m. train
To prolong their miseries from Padua to Milan,
Where the Last Supper is — and a reasonably priced
He thinks about tipping and tots up his accounts.
They will have seen Switzerland and crossed France.
And St Apollinaire, stiff and ascetic,
An old disused god factory,
Still hoards in its worn stones
The sharp silhouette of its Byzantine build.
Just for interest's sake, I'll also include Raine's
translation of "Dans le Restaurant," shared during the
same keynote lecture at the Eliot conference 2004. Of
course, the translation of this poem will also have
special interest for those interested (as I am) in the
"Death by Water" section of TWL, which contains an
altered version of the Phlebas stanza. I have not seen
a better translation than Raine's. The same usage
guidelines as above apply here.
IN THE RESTAURANT
The down-at-heel waiter with nothing to do
Except scratch his fingers and lean on my shoulder:
'In my neck of the woods the weather will be rainy,
windy, boiling hot, rainy;
it's what they call weather for washing up the
(Gossip, dribbler, with a rounded rump,
I beg you, whatever else, not to gob in my soup.)
'Drenched, willows, buds on the brambles -
It was there, in a shower, that we took shelter.
I was 7; she was smaller.
She was soaked to her skin. I gave her primroses.'
I totted up the stains on his waistcoat. They came to
a total of 38.
'I tickled her to make her laugh.
I experienced a moment of power and delirium.'
All the same, you dirty old man, at that age...
'Sir, fate is hard. Then a big dog came along, pawing
I was afraid, I stopped half way.
What a shame.'
But still, you have your vulture!
Go and get the grime out of the wrinkles in your face;
Take my fork, and give your skull a good clean out.
How dare you have experiences like me?
Here, ten sous, to go to the public baths.
Phlebas the Phoenician, fifteen days drowned,
Forgot the cry of seagulls and the Cornish swell,
Profit and loss and the freight of tin:
The undertow carried him far away,
Passing the stages of his previous life.
Imagine it. Like this. A dismal destiny.
All the same. Once a beautiful man, a tall man.
All best wishes,
--- "T. R. Stratton" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Personally I like "Low Countries" better than
> "Netherlands" because using
> the latter makes the syllable "lands" appear twice
> in the sentence which is
> clumsy, does not occur in the French and the two
> terms are largely
> synonymous, European nationalisms aside. However
> that is stylistic rather
> than factual.
> Would Terra Haute be capitalized for both words in
> standard French? Is it
> capitalized thusly in the poem? This could easily
> put an end to this
> debate. Pardon, je ne parle francais.
> On 1/20/06, Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > Terre Haute _has_ to mean, first of all, a small
> city in the midwest for
> > any u.s. writer. There is a huge u.s. literature
> which alludes to or
> > even bases itself on the life of such cities. A
> famous u.s. political
> > slogan is, "But will it play in Peoria," and Pound
> brings in Peoria at
> > the climax of one of the early cantos. Probably
> had it been the
> > temptation of the pun offered by Terre Haute,
> Eliot would have used
> > Peoria for the poem.
> > Carrol
> T.R. Stratton
> [log in to unmask]
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