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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Guillaume Apollinaire: La Jolie Rousse (The Pretty Redhead)


Tears of a Pyromaniac: photo by _Bernie_, 19 June 2012

I stand here in the sight of everyone a man full of sense
Knowing life and knowing of death what a living man can know
Having gone through the griefs and happinesses of love
Having known sometimes how to impose his ideas
Knowing several languages
Having travelled more than a little
Having seen war in the artillery and the infantry
Wounded in the head trepanned under chloroform
Having lost his best friends in the horror of battle

I know as much as one man alone can know
Of the ancient and the new
And without troubling myself about this war today
Between us and for us my friends
I judge this long quarrel between tradition and imagination
Between order and adventure

You whose mouth is made in the image of God's mouth
Mouth which is order itself
Judge kindly when you compare us
With those who were the very perfection of order
We who are seeking everywhere for adventure

We are not your enemies
Who want to give ourselves vast strange domains
Where mystery flowers into any hands that long for it
Where there are new fires colors never seen
A thousand fantasies difficult to make sense out of
They must be made real
All we want is to explore kindness the enormous country where
     everything is silent
And there is time which somebody can banish or welcome home
Pity for us who fight always on the frontiers
Of the illimitable and the future
Pity our mistakes pity our sins

Here summer is coming the violent season
And so my youth is as dead as spring
Oh Sun it is the time of reason grown passionate
And I am still waiting
To follow the forms she takes noble and gentle
So I may love her alone

She comes and draws me as a magnet draws filaments of iron
She has the lovely appearance
Of an adorable redhead
Her hair turns golden you would say
A beautiful lightning flash that goes on and on
Or the flames that spread out their feathers
In wilting tea roses

But laugh laugh at me
Men everywhere especially people from here
For there are so many things that I don't dare to tell you
So many things that you would not let me say
Have pity on me

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918): La Jolie Rousse (The Pretty Redhead), English version by James Wright, from Collected Poems, 1971

Old Perspex Redheads Sign: photo by painter girl (Gemma Jones), 29 October 2007

Me voici devant tous un homme plein de sens
Connaissant la vie et de la mort ce qu'un vivant peut connaître
Ayant éprouvé les douleurs et les joies de l'amour
Ayant su quelquefois imposer ses idées
Connaissant plusieurs langages
Ayant pas mal voyagé
Ayant vu la guerre dans l'Artillerie et l'Infanterie
Blessé à la tête trépané sous le chloroforme
Ayant perdu ses meilleurs amis dans l'effroyable lutte
Je sais d'ancien et de nouveau autant qu'un homme seul pourrait des deux savoir
Et sans m'inquiéter aujourd'hui de cette guerre
Entre nous et pour nous mes amis
Je juge cette longue querelle de la tradition et de l'invention
De l'Ordre de l'Aventure

Vous dont la bouche est faite à l'image de celle de Dieu
Bouche qui est l'ordre même
Soyez indulgents quand vous nous comparez
A ceux qui furent la perfection de l'ordre
Nous qui quêtons partout l'aventure

Nous ne sommes pas vos ennemis

Nous voulons nous donner de vastes et d'étranges domaines
Où le mystère en fleurs s'offre à qui veut le cueillir
Il y a là des feux nouveaux des couleurs jamais vues
Mille phantasmes impondérables
Auxquels il faut donner de la réalité

Nous voulons explorer la bonté contrée énorme où tout se tait
Il y a aussi le temps qu'on peut chasser ou faire revenir
Pitié pour nous qui combattons toujours aux frontières
De l'illimité et de l'avenir
Pitié pour nos erreurs pitié pour nos péchés

Voici que vient l'été la saison violente
Et ma jeunesse est morte ainsi que le printemps
O Soleil c'est le temps de la raison ardente
Et j'attends
Pour la suivre toujours la forme noble et douce
Qu'elle prend afin que je l'aime seulement
Elle vient et m'attire ainsi qu'un fer l'aimant
Elle a l'aspect charmant
D'une adorable rousse

Ses cheveux sont d'or on dirait
Un bel éclair qui durerait
Ou ces flammes qui se pavanent
Dans les roses-thé qui se fanent

Mais riez de moi
Hommes de partout surtout gens d'ici
Car il y a tant de choses que je n'ose vous dire
Tant de choses que vous ne me laisseriez pas dire
Ayez pitié de moi


Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918): La Jolie Rousse, from Calligrammes, 1918

Match Box 03 (Redhead Match Box): photo by Michael Dawes, 18 May 2007

Gemini Twins: photo by AnnetteB, 17 May 2011


TC said...

Ignited by this spark...

Nin Andrews said...

Those tears
de La Rousse.

Nous voulons explorer la bonté contrée énorme où tout se tait

Vous dont la bouche est faite à l'image de celle de Dieu . . .

Très belle!

TC said...

(Those redheads have all the fun...)

TC said...


Talking of la bouche de Dieu, I have it straight from that poor tired old horse's mouth (mainline revelation, I believe this is) that after these many years of lighting various small fires all round the Bush, Redheads are to be retired and replaced by a comparable but far less inflammatory product.

In brief, it's as the far-sighted manufacturers say, "We would have to be complete dickheads..."

There is a growing treasury of fabulous lore regarding this remarkable pyro-substitute. E.g., an amusing bit of verbatim testimony:

Great Australian Dickhead #1

A Queensland businessman (or he may have been Tasmanian) had purchased a new Paradise Motor Home (Australian made, of course) and was driving it along the freeway towards Brisbane. As it was his first vehicle that included a cruise control, he decided to turn on the cruise control and go to the back of the cabin to make a cup of coffee. While making [sic] his cup of coffee, -- for some strange reason -- the vehicle failed to take the bend, ran off the road and sustained quite considerable damage. The businessman then decided to sue Paradise for the damage that had been done to the vehicle, making him one of the Great Australian Dickheads of all time.

Col Maclean, the owner of Paradise Motor Homes, said, "In future we will be putting a sticker on our Paradise Motor Homes which says, 'when cruise control is in operation, the driver must remain at the wheel!"

Anonymous said...

Neruda was inspired by the redish hair of Matilde Urrutia...

Me falta tiempo para celebrar tus cabellos.

Uno por uno debo contarlos y alabarlos:
otros amantes quieren vivir con ciertos ojos,
yo sólo quiero ser tu peluquero.

En Italia te bautizaron Medusa
por la encrespada y alta luz de tu cabellera.
Yo te llamo chascona mía y enmarañada:
mi corazón conoce las puertas de tu pelo.

Cuando tú te extravíes en tus propios cabellos,
no me olvides, acuérdate que te amo,
no me dejes perdido ir sin tu cabellera.

por el mundo sombrío de todos los caminos
que sólo tiene sombra, transitorios dolores,
hasta que el sol sube a la torre de tu pelo.

TC said...

Sandra, thanks very much for that!

For those who don't have Spanish, a couple of translations:

Neruda: Sonnet XVII (from 100 Love Sonnets, 1960)

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love

except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

(translation by Mark Eisner)


I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close

(translation by Stephen Tapscott)

Wooden Boy said...

I love the switch in the last stanza. Even a proper mensch needs pity when floored by such beauty.

That spark is something too.

Marie W said...

Apollinaire and the Redhead girl, a match made in heaven! Beautiful poem, and photo. One can sense the poet's desire to let it all out, to let all the words in him out, all the love and pain he has felt in his entire life. And then having to hold back. Because it's impossible. But the lifeline is there, in the shape of red.
I grew very fond of red.
And that poem by Neruda is giving me chills. The good ones.

Marie W said...

Ripe Tomato
fresh blood spilt
A primary Blush, but
no sign of anger
no sign of shame
The Wound is stitched
with Satin Ribbons
It doesn't
An emotionally charged Hue
way off the spectrum
Barbaric Splashes?
Maybe then you'd know
how much I like you

TC said...

Thinking about this post, I've traveled again down the corridors of memory back to one of my favourite films, Kieslowski's Rouge (from the Trois Couleurs trilogy).

Kieslowski: Trois Couleurs: Rouge (1994)

In this wonderful film, colour is a powerful thematic element, a kind of chord that holds the work together and gives it a depth that has to do, I think, with engaging the subconscious -- red is a "sign", as Kieslowski would have said, pervading the work, and lending it an overarching meaning that runs beneath, and at times even counter to, the narrative direction. It is a film about life and death, and the sustaining and significant force of life, in it, has at least as much to do with the colour, which provides the texture and the fabric, as with the story.

Red is such a life-expressive colour, seeing it in photographic images -- particularly in the old Kodachrome -- is always inspiring. Even the most austere of artists have not been able to resist its temptations.

I think for example of Walker Evans, who otherwise worked almost exclusively in the severity and austerity of the domain of black and white: see e.g. the second image here.

The Devil has always been dangerously red because red is the colour of life, that dangerous thing...

Perhaps, in the language of colours, red might represent all those mysteries gestured toward in the final stanza, those "things that you would not let me say" which could not be expressed in any discursive language.

Even a proper mensch needs pity when floored by such beauty...

Ripe Tomato
fresh blood spilt
A primary Blush, but
no sign of anger
no sign of shame...
An emotionally charged Hue
way off the spectrum
Barbaric Splashes?

One can't suppress this wild surge of the barbarism which is so close to the heart of the making of art, indeed of the experience of art itself.

"But the lifeline is there, in the shape of red... a match made in heaven!"

A Redhead match, naturellement.

TC said...

By the by, and well, then, as we're here... You never know what you'll learn (?) on the internet. I'd been reading Apollinaire's poetry for so long I hadn't even noticed I was an authority on the subject!

I may be the first, or last, to know this fact.

But would Google Books tell a lie?

Guillaume Apollinaire ist Tot: März bei Zweitausendeins, 1979

(It's always a great relief not to have seen books one is accused of having written... who, me? Not guilty, Your Honour!)

De Villo Sloan said...

A great pleasure to read/view this collective meditation on red. Perhaps the word red-olence applies?

Marie W said...

Red must be the King of all colours. One could spend a lifetime....
A proper mensch :-)) I need a smiley now, shame on me.
The weatherman knew all about the Death of the Poet.

TC said...

Merci beaucoup, you two!

A rose by any other name...

Of course a thing may be said to be redolent of any other thing which has an odor.

Garlic, for example.

Or by extension of any other thing.

Shakespeare, for example.

Or a smiley face, certainly.

But after all these years in quest of the elusive essence of red, in posts like this one, I don't think I've ever completely captured it.

The quest continues...