Saturday, April 21, 2007


O My Sorrow

I first read Baudelaire's sonnet Recueillement when I was an undergraduate at the University of Maine, in a French class taught by Olga Wester Russell. Here is Francis Scarfe's translation, followed by the original.
Have patience, O my sorrow, and be still. You longed for evening, and look, it is falling now. A dusky atmosphere enfolds the city, to some men bringing peace, to others care.

While the base herd of mortals, beneath the lash of pleasure, that pitiless torturer, sets out to reap remorse in slavish entertainment, my sorrow, give me your hand, come this way, far from them.

See where the bygone years are leaning from the balconies of heaven, in their faded robes of yesteryear; where Regret, with a smile on her lips, rises from the fountain's depths;

where the dying sun falls asleep beneath an arch; and, like a long shroud drifting from the East, listen, my darling, O listen to the gentle night's approach.

Sois sage, ô ma Douleur, et tiens-toi plus tranquille.
Tu réclamais le Soir; il descend; le voici:
Une atmosphère obscure enveloppe la ville,
Aux uns portant la paix, aux autres le souci.

Pendant que des mortels la multitude vile,
Sous le fouet du Plaisir, ce bourreau sans merci,
Va cueillir des remords dans la fête servile,
Ma Douleur, donne-moi la main; viens par ici,

Loin d'eux. Vois se pencher les défuntes Années,
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannées;
Surgir du fond des eaux le Regret souriant;

Le soleil moribond s'endormir sous une arche,
Et, comme un long linceul traînant à l'Orient,
Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche.

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