Timothy Adès : Poet and Translator

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Classic Gallic Lipograms

by Timothy Adès

A Parisian man with big hair and a parrot, a famous cult author, did this book La Disparition, a sort of whodunit which was also brought out in Britain in a rough but amusing translation as A Void. In La Disparition you originally found such classic Gallic works as ‘Cats’, ‘Chill Out, My Sorrow’ (or ‘Taking Stock’, if you wish), and ‘Sailor’s Wind’, all by two famous Symbolist bards; and most notably Victor Hugo’s ‘As Boaz was Dozing’; but always with this singular constraint. In A Void, our skilful British translator Mr G Adair, off his own bat, put in works that you’d find in any British anthology — ‘Ozymandias’, ‘Milton on his Glaucoma’ and so on, again rigidly following a lipogrammatic modus laborandi.

I saw how it was, and you might say I took ship straight back to Calais! My own translations match all of La Disparition’s originals, still in lipogrammatic form. This poignant posy is by un grand maudit, initials CB, ‘a son by adoption of Commandant Aupick’.

Chill Out, My Sorrow

translation by T.A.

Chill out, my sorrow: play it cool: calm down:
You said night ought to fall; you got your way.
Twilight cuts in: dusk sinks upon our town,
Doling out consolation or dismay.

Lust cracks his whip, that hangman void of pity;
Most of humanity, a vulgar throng,
Will wallow, and will blush for doing wrong.
My sorrow, hold my hand: now, quit this city:

Stand by. A rack of gowns that could not last,
Lining an upstairs rail: that is our past:
Smiling contrition in salt surf is born;

Sunlight is fading, dying in an arch.
Think of a long shroud trailing off to dawn:
Hark, darling! Night kicks into forward march.

Published in MPT, vol 8, 1995. For all this group of lipograms (Baudelaire Les Chats, Recueillement, Correspondances; Mallarmé Brise Marine; Rimbaud Voyelles; Hugo Booz Endormi), go to www.brindinpress.com. I am easily found under Translators.

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