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Some Remarks on Baudelaire's Influence
upon Modern Poetry and Thought, Page 13

by Guy Thorne (1915).

I have said, and I thoroughly believe, that it is possible for a great writer to translate the prose of another country into fine and almost literal prose of his own.

It is, however, when we come to verse that we find the literal translation inadequate. A verse translation, by the very necessity of the limits within which the artist works—that of metre and cadence—must necessarily have a large amount of freedom. The translator has first to study the poem with a care that directs itself to the dissecting, analysing and saturating himself with what the poet means to convey, rather than the actual words in which he conveys it. One does not translate ventre à terre as "belly to the earth," but as "at full gallop." The translator must have a kind of loving clairvoyance, an apprehension of inner beauty, if he is to explain another mind in the medium of poetry.

It seems unkind to instance what I mean by quoting a translation of some lines of Baudelaire which, while literally accurate, fail to give the English reader the least hinting of an atmosphere profoundly wonderful in the original.

I need not mention names, however, but will contrast the following lines—

"A languorous island, where Nature abounds
With exotic trees and luscious fruit;
And with men whose bodies are slim and astute,
And with women whose frankness delights and astounds"—


with Baudelaire's own corresponding verse from that lovely poem "Parfum exotique."

"Une île paresseuse où la nature donne
Des arbres singuliers et des fruits savoureux;
Des hommes dont le corps est mince et vigoureux,
Et des femmes dont l'œil par sa franchise étonne."


Voltaire once said of Dante that his reputation would go on growing because he was so little read. That was a satire, not upon Dante, but upon humanity.

Baudelaire has a great reputation, but is still comparatively little known to English readers.

It is my hope that this translation of Gautier, and the small attempts at rendering Baudelaire, may serve as hors d'œuvre to a magic feast which awaits any one who cares to wander through the gates of the garden where flowers of unexampled beauty blow . . . and not only Flowers of Evil.

G. T.


PAGE 13 OF 13.

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