Sunday, February 13, 2022

Song of a common Lover


 Song of a Common Lover

by  Flavien Ranaivo of Madagascar

 Translated by Gerald Moore

Don’t love me, my dear,
like your shadow
for shadows fade at evening
and I want to keep you
right up to cockcrow;
nor like pepper
which makes the belly hot
for then I couldn't take you
when I’m hungry;
nor like a pillow
for we’d be together in the hours of sleep
but scarcely meet by day;
nor like rice
for once swallowed you think no more of it;
nor like soft speeches
for they quickly vanish;
nor like honey
sweet indeed but too common.
Love me like a beautiful dream,
your life in the night,
my hope in the day;
like a piece of money,
ever with me on earth,
and for the great journey
a faithful comrade;
like a calabash:
intact, for drawing water;
in pieces, bridges for my guitar.

Flavien Ranaivo was born in 1914 in Arivonimamo, Madagascar, and died in 1999 in Troyes, France. A love poet, he repaid his debt to the exquisite traditional Hain-teny sung poetry of Malagasy with some of the most innovative poems in African literature. He was deeply rooted in the earth and folklore of Madagascar. For a period he was minister of information in the government.

Madagascar, Africa’s largest island, owes its genesis to an old traditional form of courtship poetry that has flourished over centuries. Hain-teny, the “formal” Malagasy classical dialogue love poetry, animates and fertilizes the love poems of such prominent Negritude poets ike Flavien Ranaivo, who consciously experimented with these oral poetic forms as a base for modern poetry.

This poem uses earthy images to define how his lover should be and each comparison he later discards sounds logical and appropriate. His final plea of  "Love me like a beautiful dream,/your life in the night,/my hope in the day" seems a sweet definition of how his lover should be.

As the saying goes, Love is the ultimate no-calorie sweetener 😊. Happy Valentine’s Day to all those who are in love and wish to fall in love too.

Source :The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry: Fourth Edition (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 14, 2007
by Gerald Moore (Editor, Translator, Introduction), Ulli Beier (Editor)

Saturday, February 12, 2022


Sentimental Stroll

by Paul Verlaine

Translated by Norman Shapiro

The sunset darted low its splendorous rays;

The wind cradled and swayed the pallid haze

Of waterlilies in the reeds beyond,

Glistening, sad and tranquil, on the pond.

And I, alone, roamed with my agonies,

Wandered the shore among the willow trees,

Where milk-white mist hung vaguely in the air,

Phantom-like form, bewailing its despair

And weeping with the voice of seabirds’ sputter,

Calling each other nestward, wings aflutter

Among the willow trees, where I, alone,

Roamed with my agonies; the shadows, sewn

Into a shroud, drowned deep the sunset’s rays,

Splendorous, sinking in the billows’ haze;

And waterlilies in the reeds beyond…

Great lilies, lying tranquil, on the pond.

One of the most purely lyrical of French poets, Verlaine was an initiator of modern word-music and marks a transition between the Romantic poets and the Symbolists. His best poetry broke with the sonorous rhetoric of most of his predecessors and showed that the French language, everyday clichés included, could communicate new shades of human feeling by suggestion and tremulous vagueness that capture the reader by disarming his intellect; words could be used merely for their sound to make a subtler music, an incantatory spell more potent than their everyday meaning. Explicit intellectual or philosophical content is absent from his best work

The title might suggest lovers walking side by side, but in fact there is only one speaker in this poem, remembering landscape with the kind of vividness that is only accessible to strong emotion, making it a kind of dreamscape too , the speaker says— "Me, I wandered alone"—but the romantic posture of isolation is undone by the strangeness of the landscape through which the speaker travels, and by the compulsiveness with which the speaker notices things. The voice keeps circling back to certain details—the rays of the setting sun, the huge pale water lilies, the calm water, the willows, the fact of wandering alone, the wound that is, presumably, a spiritual or emotional wound, rather than an actual one— and they are ingeniously incorporated into the rhyme scheme. But new details also accumulate, to develop a mood that is both beautiful and stifling.

 The poem has a hypnotic sonic effect on the reader. Must be very musical in the original.