Saturday, October 23, 2010

Poetry of Pont-en-Royans

Today, for illiterate 21st-century youth, the very idea of poetry has a dinosaur flavor. What the fuck is that, man? And yet, that's not quite the case. In fact, it's not at all true to suggest that the modern world is losing its archaic poetry. On the contrary, poetry is emerging constantly in new forms, called rap, slam, etc.

From my privileged observation post alongside Pont-en-Royans and the Bourne, old-fashioned 19th-century poetry still moves me immensely. Click on the following image to obtain a readable display:

Meanwhile, our Bourne flows majestically:

Here's my interpretation of what the anonymous poet of 1871 was saying… which was surely both profound and beautiful:

In the abyss
Wild Bourne, turning
Flowing, rolling
With terrifying screams

Fantastic stream
Diabolical noise
In the night, it pursues us
Complaint of a curse

Like an emerald
Your sordid green flow
Affects me: vision of the
Fearful eye of a hawk

The immense rock
Is there to defend you
Your river bed warns me:
"God Almighty, man is small."

Then, on a crest
Above the emptiness
Human traces, fortified ruins
Six centuries old

That stuff transmits
Thoughts that make me
with fear, my heart
Feels an approaching calamity

With or without translation, those are great thoughts and words, which speak directly to my heart, or whatever it is that records marvelous moments and visions.


  1. Strange - that immediately reminded me of my early reading of French literature translated into English. It was not until I spoke French fluently (which I sadly do no longer) that I really appreciated the beauty of the French language. There is nothing to compare.

  2. I probably should have insisted upon the fact that those 30 lines of simple French words, strung together like beads on a young girl's necklace, are not really a piece of great literature in the sense of a poem by Rimbaud, Verlaine, Baudelaire… I listened to the words of the anonymous observer while looking down upon the same river, and I found myself wondering whether I too might react in a similar way to the fascination of the Bourne. So, I merely replaced his French words (of July 12, 1871) by my English words (of October 23, 2010), without worrying too much about whether or not I might be "translating" his vision, his "poem". I recited out loud those English words so that I could listen to them, and decide whether they happened to coincide with my own genuine impressions and feelings. And I was happy to discover that this was the case.