Thursday, March 20, 2014


Poet Panders

Thanks very much to Elizabeth Jones for permission to publish the following poem, to which I've added a few notes.
Poet Panders

Oh, isn't it fun
to be a meess anglaise
inglesa or inglese
in Latin lands
and to be wooed
with loci classici
in Latin tongues!

Ah, Ronsard! Que c'est beau:
“Mignonne, allons voir si la rose ...”
wondering, one always knows,
if this rose takes the pill
and so will yield to — plucking
cette vesprée
in some sleazy dark hotel.

“You rread Lorca, Señorita?
¿Conoce Vsted esta gran poesia?”
And when, for the umpteenth time
the casada's four bodices go flying
with Don Juanito lasciviously eyeing
your one,
you know he's all set
to spill his seed
(no, not his blood)
A las cinco de la tarde.

And “ah, ah, ah
La Divina Commedia
del divinissimo Dante!
Leggiamo la bella storia
di Francesca da Rimini”;
so when the canto ends
he too may sigh
“quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante”
seeking your bocca tutto tremante,
which is how questo signor professore
always terminates his literary discussions
never having read più avante
or very much else by Dante

Poor poet panders
forging bright phrases
in a bitter fire,
whose fate is to be flashed about
at sundry plages
literary keepsakes
to lure on les jeunes filles sages,
for an English dish.
In the second stanza the poet quotes from the beginning of Pierre de Ronsard's Ode I.17:
Mignonne, allons voir si la rose
Qui ce matin avoit desclose
Sa robe de pourpre au soleil
A point perdu ceste vesprée
Les plis de sa robe pourprée,
Et son teint au vostre pareil.
Or, in the prose translation of Malcolm Quainton and Elizabeth Vinestock:
Beloved, let us go and see if the rose, which this morning had unfurled her crimson gown to the Sun, has not lost this evening the folds of her crimson gown and her complexion that resembles your own.
In the third stanza we find allusions to two poems by Federico García Lorca. The first allusion is to lines 24-27 of "La Casada Infiel" ("The Faithless Wife"):
Yo me quité la corbata.
Ella se quitó el vestido.
Yo el cinturón con revólver.
Ella sus cuatro corpiños.
As translated by Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili:
I took off my tie.
She took off her dress.
I my belt with the revolver.
She her four bodices.
The second allusion is to Lorca's lament for the bullfighter Ignacio Sanchez Mejias, with its oft repeated line "A las cinco de la tarde" ("at five o'clock in the afternoon").

The fourth stanza contains a reference to the famous story of Paolo and Francesca in Dante's Inferno (5.127-138):
Noi leggiavamo un giorno per diletto
di Lancialotto come amor lo strinse;
soli eravamo e sanza alcun sospetto.

Per più fiate li occhi ci sospinse
quella lettura, e scolorocci il viso;
ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse.

Quando leggemmo il disiato riso
esser basciato da cotanto amante,
questi, che mai da me non fia diviso,

la bocca mi basciò tutto tremante.
Galeotto fu 'l libro e chi lo scrisse:
quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translated the story thus:
One day we reading were for our delight
Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
Alone we were and without any fear.

Full many a time our eyes together drew
That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
But one point only was it that o'ercame us.

When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
Being by such a noble lover kissed,
This one, who ne'er from me shall be divided,

Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
That day no farther did we read therein.

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