March 29, 2005

Montale - The Coast Watcher's House

You don't recall the coast watcher's house
on the cliff sheers above the reef
desolate and expecting you since that evening
when your thoughts swarmed in
and lingered there, so restless.

For years southerlies whipped the weary walls
the sound of your laughter no longer fresh
the compass totters wildly and reckonings
of the dice no longer add up. You don't recall
confused with other times, a thread winds on.

I still hold an end of it but the house recedes
and on the roof the smoke-black weathervane
turns crazily without pity.
I still hold an end of it but you remain alone
not here, not breathing in this dark.

And at the receding skyline, lights
of petrol tankers burn faintly.
Is this my way through? (Waves
still pound against the cliff that falls away ...)
You don't recall this place, my evening
and I don't know who goes or stays.

Eugenio Montale (translated by Jill Jones)

March 27, 2005

Democracy (from Illuminations)


"The flag passes through foul country and our lingo muffles the drum beats.

"In the centres we’ll feed the most cynical prostitution. We’ll massacre any reasonable revolt.

"To the spicy, damp countries! in the service of monstrous exploitation, industrial and military.

"Goodbye here or anywhere. We’re willing conscripts. Our ideas are savage. Ignoramuses about science, we’re sluts for comfort. Stuff the world. This is real progress. Onward, let’s hit the road!"

- Arthur Rimbaud, from Illuminations
- translated by Jill Jones

March 26, 2005

Red lips lightly rouged

Red lips lightly rouged

Lonesome in my deepest boudoir
my tender heart entangled
in ten thousand sadnesses.

I love the spring but spring has gone.
Rain hurries petals to the ground.

To and fro at the balustrade
I’m restless, moody.
Where is he?

The rushes stretch to an endless sky.
I look in vain for his coming home.

Li Qingzhao 1084-c.1151
- translated by Jill Jones

to begin with

I will be adding poems I've translated here from time-to-time. I'm using 'translation' in a broad sense. You could call them versions or imitations.

I have worked on some Tang dynasty Chinese poems, a couple of Montale poems and am now slowly working on Rimbaud's Illuminations.

I am mainly doing this for myself, a thinking process, but someone else may be interested.