Translation: Rimbaud, ‘Les Chercheuses de poux’

Ezra Pound’s translation of this poem is hard to beat. I really need to get away from trying to replicate rhyme schemes so rigidly in poetic translations. They more often result in a versification exercise than in poetry. Nonetheless, here’s my attempt from a year or so ago.

Les Chercheuses de poux

Quand le front de l’enfant, plein de rouges tourmentes,
Implore l’essaim blanc des rêves indistincts,
Il vient près de son lit deux grandes sœurs charmantes
Avec de frêles doigts aux ongles argentins.

Elles assoient l’enfant devant une croisée
Grande ouverte où l’air bleu baigne un fouillis de fleurs,
Et dans ses lourds cheveux où tombe la rosée
Promènent leurs doigts fins, terribles et charmeurs.

Il écoute chanter leurs haleines craintives
Qui fleurent de longs miels végétaux et rosés,
Et qu’interrompt parfois un sifflement, salives
Reprises sur la lèvre ou désirs de baisers.

Il entend leurs cils noirs battant sous les silences
Parfumés; et leurs doigts électriques et doux
Font crépiter parmi ses grises indolences
Sous leurs ongles royaux la mort des petits poux.

Voilà que monte en lui le vin de la Paresse,
Soupir d’harmonica qui pourrait délirer;
L’enfant se sent, selon la lenteur des caresses,
Sourdre et mourir sans cesse un désir de pleurer.

The Lice-Hunters

Red with white torment, the child’s forehead
begs the swarm of vague dreams for respite.
Two large, charming sisters come to his bed
whose frail fingers’ nails flash dull silver light.

They sit him in front of a wide-open window
where a tangle of flowers wafts in from the blue
and their spindly fingers flirtatiously winnow
his hair, heavy and matted with dew.

Fearful, their breaths lull him with singing
and flower with vegetal honeys. A hiss
penetrates their rosy sighs, clinging
to the lips with saliva, or a desire to kiss.

Their black eyelids beat in the silent haze
of perfume; their fingers, electric, precise,
make crackle all about his tipsy daze
the death, under their nails, of little lice.

And so lazy wine fills him up to excess,
delirium brought by a harmonica’s sigh.
The child feels stir under each slow caress
the ebb and flow of a longing to cry.

(Berlin, December 2012)

This entry was posted in flotsam/jetsam, poetry, Rimbaud, scribblings, translation. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Translation: Rimbaud, ‘Les Chercheuses de poux’

  1. James Davis says:

    ….Reading Enid Starkie, and “Arthur Rimbaud”, fortunately running into your posts here. Have had a fair turn around within. Am compelled to say thanks. jgd

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