Some Remarks on Baudelaire's Influence|
upon Modern Poetry and Thought, Page 10
by Guy Thorne (1915).
I don't in the least like this translation, but the reader has only to turn to the poems of Oscar Wilde in the collected edition, issued by Messrs. Methuen—and he will find an æthetic perspective of which the words of Baudelaire form the foreground.
PAGE 10 OF 13.
Let him open the page where the reverberating words of the Sphinx begin, and it will be enough.
I shall only write a very few words about the last name on my list—that of Ernest Dowson.
This true poet, king of the minor poets as he has been called, was influenced by Baudelaire through Verlaine. As all students of modern poetry know, Ernest Dowson died a few years ago and left very little to the world—though what he left was almost perfect within its scope and purpose. I knew Dowson well, and he has often told me the debt he owed to Baudelaire. One can see it in such poems as "Cynara," which Mr. Arthur Symons says (and I thoroughly agree with him) is one of the imperishable lyrics of our literature.
And surely these two verses of "Impenitentia Ultima"—
"Before my light goes out for ever, if God should give me a choice of graces,
I would not reck of length of days, nor crave for things to be;
But cry: 'One day of the great lost days, one face of all the faces,
Grant me to see and touch once more and nothing more to see.
"'For, Lord, I was free of all Thy flowers, but I chose the world's sad roses,
And that is why my feet are torn and mine eyes are blind with sweat,
But at Thy terrible judgment-seat, when this my tired life closes,
I am ready to reap whereof I sowed, and pay my righteous debt'"—
have all the weary hunger, satiety, and unconquerable desire that over and over again glow out in such sad beauty upon the petals of the "Fleurs du Mal."
Readers who have followed me so far will observe that I have attempted hardly any criticism of Baudelaire's work. I have translated Gautier—that was the task that I set out to do. In this essay I have only endeavoured to show how Baudelaire has influenced modern English poets, who, in their turn, have made a lasting impression upon contemporary thought. I have definitely restricted the scope of my endeavour.
But I have still something to say, something concerned with the few translations I have made of Baudelaire's poems and some of the "Petits Poëmes en prose."
The prose of a French author—such is my belief—can be translated into a fair equivalent. It is a sort of commonplace for people to say that you cannot translate a foreign author into English. I feel sure that this is untrue. One cannot, of course, translate a perfect piece of French or German prose into English which has quite the same subtle charm of the original. Nevertheless, translation from foreign prose can be literal and delightful—but only when it is translated by a writer of English prose.
The reason that so many people believe, and say with some measure of justice, that French or German prose cannot be adequately translated is because they do not understand the commercial conditions which govern such work.
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