Tuesday 23 July 2019

Paul Valéry 'Le Vin perdu' - lost wine indeed!

Certain French poets, like Mallarmé and Valéry, write snowflakes, constructions of words so crystalline that each seems to form its own cosmos. I came across a poem by Matthew Sweeney the other day, in My Life as a Painter, which purported to be 'after Valéry', i.e. based on this poem. It was very different indeed. Since then I have found other 'versions' on the Internet by various translators.

I can't see how it is possible to accept all the formal constraints, including the rich rhyming, of Valéry's poem 'Le Vin perdu'. So I have resigned myself in this draft not to seek any rhymes whatsoever, but to try and convey something of the feel of the poem, and as much of the content as I can. Does anyone know of a good English translation of this poem?

The lost Wine
One day into the sea I threw
(But under which skies can’t recall),
As votive gift to emptiness,
An amount of precious wine...

Who craved your loss, oh fine liqueur?
Did I some sage perhaps obey?
Perhaps concern for my own heart,
Thinking of blood, pouring the wine?

Its usual transparency
After a rose-dispersing smoke
The sea regained pure as before...

Lost now the wine, drunken the waves!...
I’ve seen leap into bitter air
Shapes of immense profundity...

To see the original poem, go to here.

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