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Sunday, October 17, 2021

BAUDELAIRE & MASOCHISM





XXX. DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI

 

 

 

J’implore ta pitié, Toi, l’unique que j’aime,

Du fond du gouffre obscure où mon cœur est tombé.

C’est un univers morne à l’horizon plombé,

Où nagent dans la nuit l’horreur et le blasphème.

 

Un soleil sans chaleur plane au-dessous six mois,

Et les six autres mois la nuit couvre la terre;

C’est un pays plus nu que la terre polaire;

-Ni bêtes, ni ruisseaux, ni verdure, ni bois!

 

Or il n’est pas d’horreur au monde qui surpasse

La froide cruaté de ce soleil de glace

Et cette immense nuit semblable au vieux Chaos;

 

 Je jalouse le sort des plus vils animaux

Oui peuvent se plonger dans un sommeil stupide,

Tant l’échevaux du temps lentement se dévide!

 

 

 

 

 

 

XXX – De Profundis Clamavi

 

 

 

 

I implore your pity, You, the unique one whom I love,

From the obscure hole where my heart has collapsed

Into a mournful universe where I have been submerged

And where swim the night of horror and blasphemy;

 

O sun without heat hovering above for half the year,

And for the other six months when night covers the earth;

It’s a country more naked then the North Pole;

-Without beasts, streams, greenery or woods!

 

For there is no horror in the world which surpasses

The glacial cruelty of this sun of ice,

And this immense night which echoes the primeval chaos.

 

Ah! Jealousy is the very vilest kind of animal,

Which can send one careering into the most stupid funk,

There where the scaffolds of time slowly part, and divide.

 

 

  

I have been there, we all have! And this poem coming after Une Charogne! Such is the emotion of the human heart. Like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to another. Anyone who has been in a relationship with someone they  ‘Love’ will know. At the time that I was transversing these poems myself, all of the incredible sea of emotion that I had felt for someone over 15 years ago started to rise up within me. It’s a form of archaeology. Touching down on the surface of the ocean bed and finding one of the most beautiful shipwrecks of your Life. Eventually, I had to abandon the project as it was too painful for me to continue. Is it possible to translate such poetry if one hasn’t had a similar experience oneself? Jean Luc Goddard asks this question in one of his films, I am paraphrasing him here. Can one really tell a story if you have not lived one? Personally, I don’t see how it could be possible. But, what do I know!   

 

 

  

  

XXXI. LE VAMPIRE

 

 

 

Toi qui, comme un coup de couteau,

Dans mon cœur plaintif es entrée;

Toi qui, forte comme un troupeau

De demons, vins, folle et parée,

 

De mon esprit humilié

Faire ton lit et ton domaine;

-Infâme à qui je suis lié

Comme le forçat à la chaîne,

 

Comme au jeu le joueur têtu,

Comme à la bouteille l’ivrogne,

Comme aux vermines la charogne,

-          Maudite, maudite soi tu!

 

J’ai prié le glaive rapide

De conquérir ma liberté,

Et j’ai dit au poison perfide

De secourir ma lâcheté.

 

Hélas! le poison et le glaive

M’ont pris en dédain et m’ont dit:

“Tu n’es pas digne qu’on t’enleve

A ton esclavage maudit,

 

“Imbécile! – de son empire

Si nos efforts te délivraient,

Tes baisers ressusciteraient

Le cadaver de ton vampire!”

 

 

 

XXXI.  The Vampire

 

 

 

You who, like a fine stiletto,

Pierced my plaintive heart;

Strong like a horde of demons,

You who, with wine and madness conjoined,

 

Made your domain and bed

Of my humiliated spirit –

Infamy, to you I am now wedded

Like a convict to a chain,

 

Like the last hand of a poker player,

Like the bottle to the drunk,

Or, worms to a corpse,

-          A similar kind of Evil you, to me, are.

 

I prayed for the rapid glaive

To conquer my freedom,

And I sought council in perfidious poisons

To bolster my cowardice.

 

Alas! Poison and the glaive

Held me in disdain before saying to me:

“ Eejit! – You are not worthy

To be taken by us from your atrocious slavery,

 

Far from its empire,

For if our efforts were to deliver you

Your kisses would only resuscitate

The corpse of the vampire which consumes you.”

 

 

  

I loved transversing this poem, a toxic relationship is I think how psychologists today would describe it. Well, we have all been through one of them. Master and Slave, regardless of gender we will all find ourselves in one role and then the other. Please see at the back of the book my essay on Love & Literature as it is very pertinent to this whole topic, Literature with a capilal L. L for Love & Literature. The double elles as I like to call them. Elongated and feminine. This is one of the reasons why we should be reading the poets. The Orphic Mysteries we used to call them.  

I have very deliberately inserted the very Irish term for imbécile, which is such a French term. Only the French can inject the kind of necessary disdain that needs to be injected, like venom, into the term in order to give it the proper gravitas. Likewise with the Irish form eejit! It is a wonderful word, one of my favourites. I love introducing it to foreign language students. Always telling them to prolong the stress on the e for as long as the eeeeeeeeeeeeeejit needs to be determined. And, of course this is another one of the hallmarks to my transversions of Charles Baudelaire, as I am transversing his poems as an Irishman. Such is the idiom. As, no country had greater need of him. I put it down to his Bad Catholicism. Only possibly us Irish in the 21st century could possibly still understand him!   

 

 

 


XXXII.

 

 

Une nuit que j’étais près d’une affreuese Juive,

Comme au long d’un cadaver étendu,

Je me pris à songer près de ce corps vendu

À la triste beauté don’t mon désir se prive.

 

Je me représentai sa majesté native,  

Son regard de vigueur et de grâce armé,

Ses cheveux qui lui font un casque parfumé

Et donc le souvenir pour l’amour me ravive.

 

Car j’eusse avec fervour baisé ton noble corps,

Et depuis tes pieds frais jusqu’à tes noire tresses

Déroulé le trésor des profondes caresses,

 

Si, quelque soir, d’un pleur obtenu sans effort

Tu pouvais selement, ô reine des cruelles!

Obscurcir la splendeur de tes froides prunelles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XXXII.

 

 

 

 

One night as I found myself lying beside an atrocious Jewess,

Like lying beside the most exquisite cadaver,

And I started to fantasize over her hired limbs,

Her sad beauty, and which my desire held momentarily, hostage.

 

Let me attempt to evoke her native majesty,

Her vigorous look and her armed grace,

Beneath her hair worn like a perfumed helmet,

And which the memory of love revives.

 

I feverishly wished to kiss her noble body,

From the tips of her feet right up to the black tresses on her head,

I imagined the rich treasure of her caresses.

 

If ever, one night, with a tear provoked without much effort,

You could only, oh Queen of delicious cruelty,

Obscure the splendour from your cold lips...

 

 


Here we have the supplicant Baudelaire again, kissing the very feet of his Cruel Goddess. It is the stuff now of Female Domination and it is this constant flipping from Sadistic Master, scorning his prize, or adapting the role of the submissive male. In the parlance of S&M today, the poet would probably be known as a switch, alternating roles from Master to Servant and again this is but another phenomenologically quality of Les Fleurs Du Mal. What interests Baudelaire the poet, and there is no other Baudelaire, is the completion of his project, the almost scientific methodology of the phenomenologist. He wants to show the human heart laid bare, and in all its various permutations, and in order to do this he will be both the hammer and the anvil. The complete man. A fabricated being. Almost, an abstraction.

 

 

 

 


 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

SPRING - A POEM FOR LOIS P. JONES


 



                                                                                

 

Spring

For

Lois P. Jones

 

 

I

 

The gentle discord of rainfall,

its alternating static dance are

 

Reeds of air in suspension

before the corona of sensation.

 

A droplet splashes and trickles

along your neck,

 

its joyous grief

is welcomed by you with a shudder.

 

The courage of the leaf

passes beneath the banks of cloud,

 

the burnishing lustre blossoms

upon your limbs,

 

as the flowering sounds

of the sun’s brassy trumpet

 

illuminates the oracle of hills.



 

II

 

 

The space between the words

Is akin to the space between the rain;

This is syntax –

The syntax of the rain.

 

Each word, each drop,

With its cohesion of letters

Is an alphabet written in water

Pooling now in language.

 

The liquidity of words.

 

Your waters fall like rain,

Their quiet sudden declensions thunder

With an astonishment of showers

Light and gentle as thought’s forgotten tributaries

 

Bringing  with them the relief of the tropics,

The tropics of  the spring.




Sunday, October 10, 2021

CORRESPONDENCES - POET AS PHENOMENOLOGIST - 3 POEMS BY BAUDELAIRE


 


                                                                                


IV.             – L’ALBATROS

 

 

 

Souvent, pour s’amuser, les hommes d’equipage

Prennent des albatross, vates oiseaux des mers,

Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,

Le navire glissent sur les gouffres amers.

 

A peien les ont-ils deposes sur les planches,

Que ces rois de l’azur, maladroit et honteux,

Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches

Comme des avirons traîner à côté d’eux.

 

Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule !

Lui, naguère si beau, qu’il est comique et laid !

L’un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,

L’autre mime, en boitant, l’infirme qui volait !

 

Le poète est semblabe au prince de nuées

Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l’archer;

Exile sur le sol au milieu des huées,

Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher. 

 

 

 


 

IV.             The Albatross

 

 

 

Often, to amuse themselves, ship crews

Brought aboard Albatross, those great birds of the sea,

And who often were their indolent companions,

As their ships glided upon the bitter waves.

 

And, almost as soon as they let them out on deck,

How these great sky kings suddenly then appeared ungainly and awkward,

Trailing piteously their great white wings

Like proud useless oars behind them.

 

These winged voyagers, how they appeared so out of place.

Once the superb plungers, now they looked only comical and stupid.

One shakes her beak about in frustration;

Another mimes, as she clumsily walks, the infirm who fly.

 

The Poet is rather like these Princes of the Clouds,

Those who would fly above the eye of the storm, smiling

As they look down. Yet, exiled upon the earth,

Their great wings impeding even the most local movements.

 


 

We come to L’Albatros, the most ungainly bird alive used by the poet as an unforgettable metaphor for when s/he is confined to the earth, but when it enters the sky, its most natural element, it is said that it can glide for hours without flapping its great wings which, of course, is analogous to the great invigorating feeling of the poet when they are actually in the act of composition. Verse Junkies was the name of a publication I came across some years ago which would appear to get across the idea, at least in English. Most poets, proper ones I mean ( as there are so many pretenders these days),  would see in this act, the creative one, a power or force which gives them the greatest sense of personal achievement so much so that they would come to see themselves, at least in their most fundamental sense of self, as intrinsically linked to the role of the poet/artist.

Of course, the thematic link with the preceding poem Bénédiction is clearly evident which is another singular element to Les Fleurs du Mal in that the poems follow a very close chronological order, almost like a novel. I can think of no other work, barring Dante’s Commedia and Shakespeare’s sonnets, which can compete on the scale of Baudelaire’s ambition. Petrarch, Pushkin, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson come near in terms of scope, I would agree, but there is something all -consuming in Baudelaire’s project which somehow, at least for this reader, leaves those other illustrious poets somewhat trailing.

Perhaps, it is the rather systematic way in which Baudelaire goes through the different topics. The complexity of the interplay between the poems, the famous correspondences. I mean, one reads L’Albatros with all its invocation of the simulation of flight, you turn the page, and then you come across Élévation.

  

 

 

 

IV.             – ÉLÉVATION

 

 

 

 

Au-dessous des étangs, au-dessous des vallées,

Des montagnes, des bois, des nuages, des mers,

Par-delà le soleil, par delà les éthers,

Par-delà les confins des spheres étoilées,

 

Mon esprit, tut e meus avec agilité,

Et, comme un bon nageur qui se pâme dans l’onde,

Tu sillonnes gaiement l’immensité profonde

Avec une indiscible et male volupté.

 

Envole-toi bien loin de ces miasmes morbides;

Va te purifier dans l’air supérieur,

Et bois, comme une pure et divine liqueur,

Le feu clair qui remplit les espaces limpides.

 

Derrière les ennuis et les vastes chagrins

Qui chargent de leur poids l’existence brumeuse,

Heureux celui qui peut d’une aile vigoureuse

S’élancer vers les champs lumineux et sereins;

 

Celui don’t les pensers, comme des alouettes,

Vers les cieux le matin prennent un libre essor,

-          Qui plane sur la vie, et comprend sans effort

Le langage des fleurs et des choses muettes !

 

 

 

 

 


IV.             Elevation

 

 

 

 

 

High above the ponds, high above the valleys,

The mountains, the woods, the clouds, the seas,

Out there by the sun, out there by the ether,

Out there beyond the confines of the starred planets,

 

My spirit, bound with great agility,

And, like a superb swimmer it balms in the waves,

 Plunging happily into the immense profundity

With an inexpressible and male voluptuousness.

 

Fly out far beyond the noxious air;

Go and purify yourself in the stratosphere,

And drink, as if from a divine and pure liquor,

The clear fire which replenishes the limpid spaces.

 

Leave behind the boredom and the vast sorrows

Which super charge our so unclear existence,

Happy is he who with a vigorous wing can

Fly upward to the luminous and serene fields;

 

Those which certain thinkers, like larks,

Converge to in the morning to partake in the flight to freedom,

- Who glide through life, understanding effortlessly

The language of flowers, and other mute things.

 

 

        

  

 

IV. – CORRESPONDENCES

 

 

La Nature et un temple où de vivants piliers

Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;

L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de nites

Qui l’obervent avec des regards familiers.

 

Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent

Dans une ténébreuse et profonde nite ,

Vaste comme la nuit et comme la claret,

Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.

 

Il est des parfums frais comme des chairs d’enfants,

Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,

-          Et d’autres, corrumpus, riches et triomphants,

 

 

Ayant l’expansion des choses infinies,

Comme l’ambre, le musc, le benjoin, et l’encens,

Qui chantant les transports de l’esprit et des sens.

 

 

 

 

IV. Correspondences

 

 

 

 

Nature is a temple where living pillars

Utter at times confused words;

Man passes through the forest of symbols

Which observe him with familiar eyes.

 

Deep echoes from afar become mixed up

In a dark and profound unity,

Vast like the night and lit through with

Perfumes, colours and sounds respond.

 

And, they are as sweet as the scent off children,

As soft and as sonorous as the notes emitting from an oboe,

Verdant as prairies, and just as richly corrupted and triumphant.

 

Having the expanse of infinity,

Like amber, musk, benzoin and incense

Whose songs transport both the body, and the mind.

 

 

Correspondances is, without a doubt, one of the most discussed poems by Baudelaire, and perhaps one of his most influential, as it prefigures the psychoanalytical schools of Freud, Jung and Lacan which were to have such a profound effect on 20th century art and thought. This gives one, in just this one short poem, a very clear idea of how far ahead of his time Baudelaire was. The only poet to come anyway near him, in terms of such mind-expanding conceptualism, was Rimbaud who was to completely embrace the idea which is embodied in the poem; that of poet as savant and visionary.

The influence of hashish and other hallucinogens , such as opium which Baudelaire was to graduate to taking, are in clear evidence in the poem which would in turn explain Baudelaire’s rise in popularity in the English speaking world during the nineteen sixties with the advent of the whole counter culture movement and when hashish and LSD were the drugs of choice among the hippies and beatniks of the time.

In fact, I was to come across the name of Baudelaire for the very first time while I was smoking hashish on a pretty regular basis just after leaving school when I was listening to the psychedelic music of poets, musicians and bands like Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Pink Floyd. Perhaps, with the increasing rise in popularity of cannabis, having been finally legalised in numerous states in the USA and in certain countries elsewhere, we will see a return of interest in the poet.

Baudelaire wrote extensively on his drug usage, very deliberately following in the line of writers like Thomas De Quincey and the poet Coleridge. This is just another aspect to him, in Cork during the 1980’s, I remember reading the writings of William Burroughs, again laced with drug induced visions, mind bending in their scope, foreseeing, like Baudelaire before him, apocalyptic visions of the future. This, surely, is one of the key signs of a visionary, which Baudelaire certainly was, when you find yourself looking around you, as I have done often in the last twenty or so years of this horror infested 21st century, and you see yourself not so much as inhabiting the world, but more like living in one of the pages written by some drug induced prophet.           

For example, in the case of Baudelaire I remember very clearly, while I was living in Paris during the nineties, the extraordinary images taken by the German photographer Helmut Newton for the Austrian hosiery company Wolford. They had been lovingly framed encased in the bus stop shelters which advertising companies used illuminating them in such a way at night so that when you looked at them from a distance, from the perspective of a passing train or bus, for example, the modern day Amazons in black and white appeared like visions before you, ghost like in Place Concorde from out of the smoking haze of one of Baudelaire’s joints, clarifying your young eroticised mind. In these singular images, one could say Baudelaire’s ideal vision of Woman had become realised, and so the world to a certain extent, had become Baudelaire’s. This is another aspect of his genius, most of us walk around completely unaware of how his vision has shaped the world around us, particularly through the artifacts of the everyday such as the advertisements for women’s tights. It is through such details that his poetry becomes manifestly evident in the world, just like when you hear snatches of a song by Léo Ferré emanating from a café, or when a black cat sidles up to you on the street, or when, for example, you hear the ticking of an alarm clock and you imagine the two hands strangling you…



( All of the above poems are taken from The Enemy - Transversions from Charles Baudelaire published by Lapwing, 2015)