George Weaver from She Kept a Parrot, a WordPress blog that can be found in my Blogroll, wants me to translate a poem, Esquisse de deux amis, which won a prize in France. It does not translate well into English.
Another poem of mine, which was originally attempted in English and abandoned because it sounded “mushy” to me, was re-written in French and came out very well because French suited it better. The poem was called Clair de lune and went on to be highly-rated in a poetry competition at the prestigious Salon Orange in Champagne, so the language chosen for a particular subject, or a particular style, is often very important.
As the following poem sounds very jerky in English, when it should be flowing, with quiet pauses, I was reluctant to display it online. However, as George was insistent, I decided to scan the original French version which appeared in the Municipal Bulletin with a quote about it from a local newspaper, and include it with the translation. All complaints should be addressed to George.
The reason that the poem was written concerns another insistent person, Pascal, who harassed me until I wrote something about him and his dog Junior. The original version was longer and included their names. It also had a different mood about it. However, as the entries in the competition had to be limited to twenty lines, the mood changed when I deleted the lines down to twenty. Pascal and Junior visited me every day while I was working as Guide to a mediaeval castle in 2002. He sent the long version of the poem to his father, so I felt obliged to give him the shorter, calligraphed, framed version that I had done for an Art show, when I left France to come back to Australia.
Esquisse de deux amis
They resemble each other a lot.
They both have long, lean bodies.
The short one loves food, the tall one is more a gourmet.
How do they manage to stay slim?
Neither one nor the other smokes cigarettes or drinks alcohol.
Both have sparkling eyes and narrow, pointed faces.
They like other people a lot and mutually adore each other.
They take their meals together, watch television together.
They sleep together and both of them snore.
They separate only for work.
The tall one leaves to earn their living.
The short one stays in bed.
It’s because they belong to two different races.
The tall one has two legs, the short one has four.
They have been living together for more than ten years.
The master, a bit hunched over, takes long paces, with an absent air.
The dog stops, reads a message left by another canine, leaves a reply in return.
The master waits patiently for him to finish.
They set off again, turn the corner and are out of sight.
A man and his dog – my friends.
As proof that this poem really did win something (a painting by Dominique Guedon to be precise) the following is the complete article about the prize-winning poems. I was not there, having received my letter on the day that the article appeared, so I am not in either of the photos.
Having just re-read the article, I am reminded that another of my poems, in another category, came second ex-aequo. I’d completely forgotten about that one.
Don’t forget: all complaints and criticisms are to be addressed to George Weaver. This post is all her fault.