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The Cracked Bell – a new translation by Ian Brinton

This is a new translation of Baudelaire’s ‘Spleen’ poem, ‘La Cloche Fêlée’ which was published in 1851. It is a bleak poem which presents the reader with the poet’s sense of loss and his isolation within a confined urban landscape.
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The Cracked Bell

To Hayley McLintock

 

Throughout the smoky winter nights,
Crouched by a fire which flickers,
It is bitter-sweet to listen to memories of long ago
Return rising slowly in a peal of bells through fog.

An iron-throated bell,
Awake and loud despite its age,
Booms a pious call upon the hour
Like a veteran on guard at the tent’s mouth!

But as for me my soul is cracked and in striving
To fill the cold night air with song
My weary feeble voice

Is a thick gasp of sound from the wounded and forgotten
Trapped below the dead on the bank of a bloody lake,
Dying pent in vain strife to stir.

~

Some of Ian Brinton’s translations of Baudelaire have been published in the Leafe Press magazine Litter and his version of the Tableaux Parisiens will appear from Two Rivers Press in July under the title Paris Scenes. His translations of poems by Paul Valéry were published by Muscaliet Press early this year and a selection of poems by Philippe Jaccottet is due to appear from Equipage in May.

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Le Serpent Qui Danse – a translation by Ian Brinton

The following poem is a translation of Baudelaire’s early ‘Le Serpent Qui Danse’.

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A Serpent’s Dance

How I love, dear indolence, to gaze
……….Upon your body of delight,
That flickering of material
……….A shimmering of skin!

Upon the dark depths of your hair
……….A tangle of pungent odour,
A wild scented ocean
……….Of surging blues and brown,

As a vessel setting sail
……….Upon an early morning breeze,
My erring soul embarks
……….For far-distant skies.

Your eyes let nothing show
……….Of the sweet or of the sour
But like two frigid jewels
……….Gold is merged with steel.

Gazing at your moves
……….Of rhythmic carelessness,
One might say you were a snake
……….Responding to the charmer’s stick.

Burdened with idleness
……….Your child-like head
Wags with the sluggish motion
……….Of a baby elephant,

And your body stretches out in leaning forward
……….Like a trim vessel
That sways from side to side before dipping
……….A yard-arm in the sea.

Like a flood-tide swollen by the deep groan
……….Of a melting glacier,
When the saliva in your mouth surges up
……….To the tooth’s tip,

I seem to quaff Bohemian wine,
……….Powerful and bitter,
A sky of moisture strewing
……….Stars in my heart!

~

Ian Brinton’s recent publications include Islands of Voices, an edition of the selected poems of Douglas Oliver (Shearsman Books) and a translation of the selected poems of Mallarmé introduced by J.H. Prynne (Muscaliet Press). Forthcoming publications include a translation of the selected poems of Valéry introduced by Michael Heller (Muscaliet Press) and a sequence of poems by Philippe Jaccottet (Equipage). His Paris Scenes by Baudelaire will appear from Two Rivers Press in July 2021.