Prison Souvenirs, Translation of Paul Verlaine's poem: Prière

Prison Souvenirs, Translation of Paul Verlaine’s poem : Souvenirs de prison, March 1874*

(Verlaine was sentenced to serve a term of two years in prison for having shot his erstwhile lover in the arm/hand, the legendary poet Arthur Rimbaud, ten years his junior, on July 9th or 10th, 1873, in Bruxelles ; yet he was deeply in love with his wife : Mathilde, left to nurse his son in Paris. He was also sentenced to a month in prison in 1885, following a complaint by his mother and another Dave, for drunkenness. Cf. Yves-Alain Favre, Ed. Paul Verlaine : Œuvres Poétiques Complètes. Paris : Robert Laffont, 1992.)

About a year now and more, I haven’t seen the butt-end
Of a newspaper. « Could the « Blue Library » be
sufficient ?
Sometimes I tell myself, despite myself : « Would you
have believed it ? »
Oh ! Well ! One can’t die for the lack of it. First of all,
it’s undigestible a bit,
A little bit too insipid, the experienced eye gets angry.
But the spirit ! Since it laughs and triumphs, lets it be !
And then again, it’s a patriotic pleasure, besides being
salubrious :
Not to want to know anything of this century turned
And not to continue to watch during this last spate of
This abominable agony which plagues La France.

• There’s a reference to Verlaine’s letter to Lepelletier, dated August 22, 1874, and poems titled : Vieux Coppées.

© T. Wignesan – Paris, 2013

T. Wignesan

If I might be allowed to say so, I think my "first" love was poetry. Unfortunately for me, the British curricula at school did not put me in touch with the Metaphysical Poets, nor with the post-Georgian school. Almost all the school texts after World War II contained invariably Victorian narrative poems and some popular examples of Romantic poetry. I chanced upon a selection of T. S. Eliot's and Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and a little later on Pope's An Essay on Man and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. That did the trick. Yet, I regret not having taken to prose in earnest earlier than the publication of my first collection: Tracks of a Tramp (1961). There's nothing like trying your hand at all kinds of prose exercises to come to grips with poetry. Or rather to see how poetry makes for the essence of speech/Speech and makes you realise how it can communicate what prose cannot easily convey. I have managed to put together several collections of poems, but never actually sought to find homes for them in magazines, periodicals or anthologies. Apart from the one published book, some of my sporadic efforts may be sampled at of Poems.htm

Last updated October 04, 2013