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Rimbaud's First Evening translations

Posted to Utterances




Below are three different interpretations of Arthur Rimbaud's poem: First Evening.

They are all very different. I much prefer the first translation. It's the version I have written on my wall because I love it so much. It's childhood innocence mixed with a young man almost baiting the girl. Obviously Rimbaud wasn't innocent! I think he wrote this when he was 15? I'm sure one of you will be able to correct this :-D

I know words can be translated differently but this really upsets me. The last version here is the one that features in my copy of Rimbaud’s Complete works. I don't like this version. It doesn't scan properly to me. Maybe it's because I'm used to getting tingles reading the version on my wall. It makes me think this Paul Schmidt dude is a shit translator. Now if I read his interpretations I'll probably miss the essence of the work.

If this isn't a catalyst for me to learn French nothing is.

Thoughts on translations? Shouldn't they all be very similar? I don't want to read some other guys take on it!



- She was very much half-dressed
And big indiscreet trees
Threw out their leaves against the pane
Cunningly, and close, quite close.

Sitting half naked in my big chair,
She clasped her hands.
Her small and so delicate feet
Trembled with pleasure on the floor.

- The colour of wax, I watched
A little wild ray of light
Flutter on her smiling lips
And on her breast, - an insect on the rose-bush.

- I kissed her delicate ankles.
She laughed softly and suddenly
A string of clear trills,
A lovely laugh of crystal.

The small feet fled beneath
Her petticoat : "Stop it, do !"
- The first act of daring permitted,
Her laugh pretended to punish me !

- Softly I kissed her eyes,
Trembling beneath my lips, poor things :
- She threw back her fragile head
"Oh ! come now that's going too far !...

Listen, Sir, I have something to say to you..."
- I transferred the rest to her breast
In a kiss which made her laugh
With a kind laugh that was willing...

- She was very much half-dressed
And big indiscreet trees threw
Out their leaves against the pane
Cunningly, and close, quite close.
Translated by Oliver Bernard : Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (1962)



First Evening
(Première Soirée)

She was barely dressed though,
And the great indiscreet trees
Touched the glass with their leaves,
In malice, quite close, quite close.

Sitting in my deep chair,
Half-naked, hands clasped together,
On the floor, little feet, so fine,
So fine, shivered with pleasure.

I watched, the beeswax colour
Of a truant ray of sun’s glow
Flit about her smile, and over
Her breast – a fly on the rose.

-I kissed her delicate ankle.
She gave an abrupt sweet giggle
Chiming in clear trills,
A pretty laugh of crystal.

Her little feet under her slip
Sped away: ‘Will you desist!’
Allowing that first bold act,
Her laugh pretended to punish!

-Trembling under my lips,
Poor things, I gently kissed her lids.
-She threw her vapid head back.
‘Oh! That’s worse, that is!’…

‘Sir, I’ve two words to say to you...’
I planted the rest on her breast
In a kiss that made her laugh
With a laugh of readiness….

She was barely dressed though,
And the great indiscreet trees
Touched the glass with their leaves
In malice, quite close, quite close.



And this version in my book "complete works" translation by Paul schmidt:

First Evening

Her clothes were almost off;
Outside, a curious tree
Beat a branch at the window
To see what it could see.

Perched on my enormous easy chair,
Half nude, she clasped her hands.
Her feet trembled on the floor,
As soft as they could be.

I watched as a ray of pale light,
Trapped in the tree outside,
Danced from her mouth
To her breast, like a fly on a flower.

I kissed her delicate ankles.
She had a soft, brusque laugh
That broke into shining crystals -
A pretty little laugh.

Her feet ducked under her chemise;
"Will you please stop it!…"
But I laughed at her cries -
I knew she really liked it.

Her eye trembled beneath my lips;
They closed at my touch.
Her head went back; she cried:
"Oh, really! That's too much!

"My dear, I'm warning you…"
I stopped her protest with a kiss
And she laughed, low -
A laugh that wanted more than this…

Her clothes were almost off;
Outside, a curious tree
Beat a branch at the window
To see what it could see.



Rimbaud's First Evening translations

Posted to Utterances




Below are three different interpretations of Arthur Rimbaud's poem: First Evening.

They are all very different. I much prefer the first translation. It's the version I have written on my wall because I love it so much. It's childhood innocence mixed with a young man almost baiting the girl. Obviously Rimbaud wasn't innocent! I think he wrote this when he was 15? I'm sure one of you will be able to correct this :-D

I know words can be translated differently but this really upsets me. The last version here is the one that features in my copy of Rimbaud’s Complete works. I don't like this version. It doesn't scan properly to me. Maybe it's because I'm used to getting tingles reading the version on my wall. It makes me think this Paul Schmidt dude is a shit translator. Now if I read his interpretations I'll probably miss the essence of the work.

If this isn't a catalyst for me to learn French nothing is.

Thoughts on translations? Shouldn't they all be very similar? I don't want to read some other guys take on it!



- She was very much half-dressed
And big indiscreet trees
Threw out their leaves against the pane
Cunningly, and close, quite close.

Sitting half naked in my big chair,
She clasped her hands.
Her small and so delicate feet
Trembled with pleasure on the floor.

- The colour of wax, I watched
A little wild ray of light
Flutter on her smiling lips
And on her breast, - an insect on the rose-bush.

- I kissed her delicate ankles.
She laughed softly and suddenly
A string of clear trills,
A lovely laugh of crystal.

The small feet fled beneath
Her petticoat : "Stop it, do !"
- The first act of daring permitted,
Her laugh pretended to punish me !

- Softly I kissed her eyes,
Trembling beneath my lips, poor things :
- She threw back her fragile head
"Oh ! come now that's going too far !...

Listen, Sir, I have something to say to you..."
- I transferred the rest to her breast
In a kiss which made her laugh
With a kind laugh that was willing...

- She was very much half-dressed
And big indiscreet trees threw
Out their leaves against the pane
Cunningly, and close, quite close.
Translated by Oliver Bernard : Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (1962)



First Evening
(Première Soirée)

She was barely dressed though,
And the great indiscreet trees
Touched the glass with their leaves,
In malice, quite close, quite close.

Sitting in my deep chair,
Half-naked, hands clasped together,
On the floor, little feet, so fine,
So fine, shivered with pleasure.

I watched, the beeswax colour
Of a truant ray of sun’s glow
Flit about her smile, and over
Her breast – a fly on the rose.

-I kissed her delicate ankle.
She gave an abrupt sweet giggle
Chiming in clear trills,
A pretty laugh of crystal.

Her little feet under her slip
Sped away: ‘Will you desist!’
Allowing that first bold act,
Her laugh pretended to punish!

-Trembling under my lips,
Poor things, I gently kissed her lids.
-She threw her vapid head back.
‘Oh! That’s worse, that is!’…

‘Sir, I’ve two words to say to you...’
I planted the rest on her breast
In a kiss that made her laugh
With a laugh of readiness….

She was barely dressed though,
And the great indiscreet trees
Touched the glass with their leaves
In malice, quite close, quite close.



And this version in my book "complete works" translation by Paul schmidt:

First Evening

Her clothes were almost off;
Outside, a curious tree
Beat a branch at the window
To see what it could see.

Perched on my enormous easy chair,
Half nude, she clasped her hands.
Her feet trembled on the floor,
As soft as they could be.

I watched as a ray of pale light,
Trapped in the tree outside,
Danced from her mouth
To her breast, like a fly on a flower.

I kissed her delicate ankles.
She had a soft, brusque laugh
That broke into shining crystals -
A pretty little laugh.

Her feet ducked under her chemise;
"Will you please stop it!…"
But I laughed at her cries -
I knew she really liked it.

Her eye trembled beneath my lips;
They closed at my touch.
Her head went back; she cried:
"Oh, really! That's too much!

"My dear, I'm warning you…"
I stopped her protest with a kiss
And she laughed, low -
A laugh that wanted more than this…

Her clothes were almost off;
Outside, a curious tree
Beat a branch at the window
To see what it could see.