Thanks for the Eliot quotes Peter.  I've already got the one from
"What Dante Means to Me" linked to a line in the poem at my local
version of my website (to be uploaded to the public someday.)  Now I
want to add the quote from "Matthew Arnold" that you posted somewhere
on the site too.  I'm starting to run into collisions with other
comments though.

Anyway, since you supplied at bit of translation of "Les Sept Viellards"
I thought I'd give a full translation by William A. Sigler:


to Victor Hugo

Swarming city, city full of dreams,
Where the ghost in broad day flags the traveler!
The mysteries all around vent like steam
From the drains of the powerful monster.

One morning, when over the sad street hovered
Houses, extended by the fog diffractor,
Pretending to be the piers of the bulging river,
Adorned just like the heart of an actor,

Everywhere was a haze filthy and yellowed
As I, disputing with my already weary heart,
Stiffened my nerves like a hero, and followed,
The neighborhood roused by the heavy tipcarts.

Suddenly, a old man whose yellow rags
Matched the rancid color of the skies,
Whose look would make alms rain into his bag,
If not for the wicked shine in his eyes,

Appeared to me. One might say his pupils
Were steeped in gall; his glance sharpened the frost,
And his beard was rigid as a sword, the long bristles
Protruding, just like the beard of Judas.

He was not bent, but broken, his spine
Forming with his leg a perfect right angle,
So that his cane gave him, completing his mien,
A contorted shape which as he stepped dangled

Like a crippled quadruped or a Jew with three paws.
He became entangled in the mud and snow,
As if he crushed the dead under his slippers,
Not indifferent to the universe but hostile.

His likeness followed him: beard, eye, back, stick, tattered cloak,
Indistinguishable, from the same hell hole,
Twin centenarians, spectral baroques
Marching with the same step toward an unknown goal.

On what squalid plot was I about to abut,
Or was that my ugly fate to be so woebetide?
For I counted seven times, minute by minute,
This sinister old man multiplied!

How can one laugh at my inquietude
And not be seized by a fraternal shiver?
Dreaming in spite of so much decrepitude,
Those seven hideous monsters had an eternal air!

Could I live and see the eighth, my second self,
Inexorable, ironic and fatal,
Disheartening Phoenix, son and father to himself
--But I turned my back on the procession from hell.

I returned, raging like a drunk who sees double,
Terrified, I closed the gate on my fence,
Sick with chills, spirit feverish and troubled,
Blessed by the mystery and the nonsense!

In vain my reason wanted to take the bar;
The storm in playing took it to sea in a roar,
And my heart danced, danced, old large, mast-less barge
On a sea monstrous and without shores!


This translation is copyrighted by William A. Sigler. This is the
notice on his webpag (June 14, 2002)

    In preparing this translation, I've tried to approximate as close
    as possible the literal meaning as well as the poetic sound (including
    rhyme schemes) of the originals. ... Feel free to reproduce any of my
    translations; all I ask is you put my name on them.

    William A. Sigler