.

Be good, my Sorrow. You may rest assured;
The Evening whom you called descends; Behold;
The fall of dusk leaves some in towns obscured
With newfound peace, yet some with cares untold.

Through gauntlet mortals move in sordid herd,
While flailed by Pleasure, headsman uncontrolled,
And reap Remorse by slavish feasts incurred.
Away from them, my Sorrow. Let me hold

Your hand. The bygone Years are hunched forlorn,
Displayed in heaven, wrapped in robes outworn.
Regret, from waters, grinning, seems to rise.

Beneath an archway, see the dying light.
And like a shroud that’s drawn from Eastern skies,
My dear, observe the sweet approach of Night.

.

Original French

Recueillement

Sois sage, ô ma Douleur, et tiens-toi plus tranquille.
Tu réclamais le Soir; il descend; le voici:
Une atmosphère obscure enveloppe la ville,
Aux uns portant la paix, aux autres le souci.

Pendant que des mortels la multitude vile,
Sous le fouet du Plaisir, ce bourreau sans merci,
Va cueillir des remords, dans la fête servile,
Ma Douleur, donne-moi la main; viens par ici,

Loins d’eux. Vois se pencher les défuntes Années,
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannées;
Surgir du fond des eaux le Regret souriant;

Le soleil moribond s’endormir sous une arche,
Et, comme un long linceul traînant à l’Orient,
Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche.

.

.

Joshua Mincio lives in rural Oklahoma, in the shadow of the Benedictine Abbey of Clear Creek.  Pursuing a B.A. in English through the University of London’s distance learning program, he also operates a micro-bakery.

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6 Responses

  1. Allegra Silberstein

    Thank you for translating this poem…it touches the soul…Allegra

    Reply
  2. Margaret Coats

    This is a gorgeous sonnet, Joshua. You stay close to Baudelaire, but in lines 3 and 4, you accomplish something that translators rarely achieve–by pointing the meaning in your original direction, where he leaves it general, all the while adhering to his words. He has the darkness enveloping the town with no distinction of persons, but you are able to let obscurity fall on those who find peace in the dark, and exempt the clear-sighted souls who know that darkness brings cares they dare not tell. If this isn’t timely regarding the current sorrow of those with eyes to see, what is? It surely expresses some of what I see and feel without being able to express it, and therefore I thank you for this exquisite vision.

    Reply
  3. Margaret Coats

    Having thought about the poem overnight, I have suggestions about two lines, but let me say first that I much admire “grinning” as your translation of Baudelaire’s “smiling” in line 11. In French, you would need an adjective to change the smile into a grin or smirk, and Baudelaire doesn’t give one, so this is your decision, and I think a highly appropriate one. Even if we take the rising from waters to represent a “tearful” smile, that’s not a grin. But Regret can have many different kinds of smile, and I like the one you specify for your English poem. I think line 9 would read better as “Grinning Regret from waters seems to rise.” Starting the line with a stressed syllable gives a little twist to the grin. And just for clarity, I would make line 5, “Vile mortals run the gauntlet as a herd.”

    Reply
    • Joshua Mincio

      Mrs. Coats, thank you for your comments. I spent a long time on the two lines you mention, but ultimately decided to keep the meter. Is it acceptable to break from the meter every once in a while? Is it better because it is at the beginning of a line?

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        Most poets make occasional variations in meter both to give the poem’s flow of sound a little variety, and to accommodate words and phrases that do not naturally fall into the chosen meter. See the essay “The Spice of Life” by Adam Sedia, here at SCP–but notice the comment on it by Evan Mantyk, who warns sloppy writers not to justify carelessness by calling it “metrical variation.” In recent discussions within Comments here, Joseph Salemi has strongly defended substitution of a trochaic foot for an iambic, which is the variation I suggested to you for line 11 above. It is more important to hear the expected stresses in the line than to have them always fall in a regular pattern. Your line 11 is perfectly acceptable as you wrote it; my feeling was that the commas broke it up uncomfortably. However, I see that different pictures of Regret result from your choice and from mine. The grin is immediately prominent in mine, while the grin emerging from waters in yours seems more alive and ominous.

        Metrical variations can happen anywhere in the poetic line, but at the end of a rhymed line they interfere with the rhyme.

  4. C.B. Anderson

    This is a lovely sonnet, Joshua, and I hope you have taken to heart the comments by Dr. Coats. I like bread, but I would probably be happier if you operated a micro-brewery. Oklahoma is OK. Anyone should be proud to be an Okie (whether from Muskogee or not). Driving along I-40, I have witnessed the red bluffs there more than once.

    Reply

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