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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Albatross (after Baudelaire)


Southern Royal Albatross (Diomedea epomophora), Campbell Island, New Zealand: photo by Mila Zinkova, 2007

Often, to pass the idle hours of the voyage,
Sailors will capture that great slow follower
Of their gliding passage over the bitter depths,
Proudest of sea birds, the albatross.

King of the azure the sailors call it, with a wink --
For once the great ungainly wings are stretched
Out and trailing across the briny planks
Like abandoned oars, this vast being's suddenly

Helpless, maladroit and embarrassed,
Vaguely ridiculous. A sailor pokes its beak with a pipe,
Another acts out the fallen bird's distress,
Dragging a theatrical game leg across the deck.

The poet is very much like this Prince of the Clouds,
Floating above stormy waters, mocking the distant marksman;
But once brought down, a laughable figure, stranded,
Broken wings swim-flipper-slapping the wormy wood.

TC: The Albatross (after Baudelaire), from Trans/Versions (Libellum, 2010)

Roll cloud over east coast of Yucatan, Mexico: photo by Sensenmann, 15 July 2005

Charles Baudelaire: L'albatros

Souvent, pour s'amuser, les hommes d'équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.

À peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l'azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comme des avirons traîner à côté d'eux.

Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule!
Lui, naguère si beau, qu'il est comique et laid!
L'un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,
L'autre mime, en boitant, l'infirme qui volait!

Le Poëte est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l'archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l'empêchent de marcher.

1842-1859, published in 1859; final quatrain added in 1859.

Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans), South Georgia Island: photo by Mila Zinkova, January 1999


Ed Baker said...

here is a Black-and-White photo of some sailors
on a (ship's) deck with an albatross

and, just maybe around Baudelaire's time ?

& THAT is a BIG BIRD ! would hate to have an albatross tied around my neck and the me thrown overboard....

not exactly an "haiku moment" eh? or very Romantic

Anonymous said...

It is amazing what the albatross has endured in the name of the art of humans, but then they are impressive creatures. It was great to rediscover this here in a BTP rendering. I keep Trans/Versions on my night table both for enjoyment and because it reminds me about some things I think are important about art and what artists do. And the way things are going in the "real world", I need that reminding more than ever.

TC said...

It reminds me of those things too, Curtis, and I too need reminding. Thanks.



Hello from JOHNNY, JOHNNY, and thanks too for this CB/TC glimpse of these "vastes oiseaux des mers" . . .


first grey light in clouds against still
invisible ridge, red-tailed hawk calling
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

not equally said in reverse,
that on horizon there

reddish on account of which,
that time, or painted

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
sunlit green of pine on tip of sandspit