Guillaume Apollinaire

(translated from the French by D L Upton)

I stand here before you as a man of commonsense
Knowing life and all that the living can know of death
Having been through the joys and sorrows of love
Having been able at times to pass on his ideas
Knowing several languages
Having travelled more than a little
Having seen war in the Artillery and the Infantry
Been wounded in the head and trepanned under chloroform
Having lost close friends in the hideous struggle
I know as much of the old and the new as one could know of both
And without worrying myself today about this war
Between ourselves and for our own sakes my friends
I judge this long quarrel of tradition and invention
Of Order and Adventure

You whose mouth is made in the image of God's
Mouth which is order itself
Be lenient when you compare us
To those who were the perfection of order
We who seek adventure everywhere

We are not your enemies
We want to give you vast and strange domains
Where the flowers of mystery offer themselves to all who wish to pluck them
There are new fires and colours never seen before
A thousand inconceivable phantasms
To which must be given reality
We want to explore kindness the vast country where all is silent
And also time which can either be banished or recalled
Have pity on our mistakes have pity on our sins

Here returns summer the violent season
And my youth lies as dead as the spring
O sun this is the time of red scorching reason
And I wait
To follow her always her sweet and noble form
Created that I should love only her
She comes and attracts me as a magnet does iron
She has the look of a lovely
Girl with redgold hair

One would say her hair was gold
A beautiful lasting lightning flash
Or those flames that proudly dance
In tea-roses as they fade

But laugh at me go ahead laugh
Men everywhere and especially men from here
For there are so many things I dare not tell you
So many things you would prevent me from saying
Have pity on me




Oh that my soul a marrow-bone might seize!
For the old egg of my desire is broken,
Spilled is the pearly white and spilled the yolk, and
As the mild melancholy contents grease
My path the shorn lamb baas like bumblebees,
Time's trashy purse is as a taken token
Or like a thrilling recitation, spoken
By mournful mouths full of mirth and cheese.

And yet, why should I clasp the earthful urn?
Or find the frittered fig that felt the fast?
Or choose to chase the cheese around the churn?
Or swallow any pill from out the past?
Ah no, Love, not while your hot kisses burn
Like a potato riding on the blast.




Western wind, when will thou blow
The small rain down can rain? 
Christ, if my love were in my arms 
And I in my bed again!


Anonymous, c. 1200


Rumor letalis
crebro me vulnerat,
meisque malis
dolores aggregat;
me male multat
vox tui criminis,
quae jam resultat
in mundi terminus.

Invida fama
tibi novercatur;
cautius ama,
ne comperiatur.

Quod agis, age tenebris;
procul a famae palpebris
laedatur amor latebris
et dulcibus illecebris
cum murmure jocoso.

Nulla notavit
te turpis fabula
dum nos ligavit
amoris copula;
sed frigescente
nostra cupidine,
sordes repente
funebri crimine.

Fama laetata
novis hymenaeis
ruit in plateis.

Patet lupanar omnium
pudoris in palatium,
nam virginale lilium
marcet a tactu vilium
commercio proboso.

Nunc plango florem
aetatis tenerae,
Veneris sidere -
tunc columbinam
mentis dulcedinem
nunc serpentinum

Verbo rogantes
removes hostili;
munera dantes
foves in cubili.

Illos abire praecepis
a quibus nihil accipis;
caecos claudosque recipis,
viros illustres decipis
cum melle venenoso.

(translated from the Latin of the Carmina Burana by DL Upton)

it slays me -
the hot gossip of your affairs.
to my bad breaks you add bad news.
daily headlines of your casual sex,
already broadcast globally,
leer from sandwich-boards at every corner
and punish me cruelly.
news paparazzi scoff and jibe -
can't you take precautions to keep them off the scent?
do it in the dark.
if you must defile love
flee from the hacks who pry
from behind every arras.
find secret locations that rent by the hour
to exercise your practised baby talk
and artful whispered come-ons.

no tabloid's cheque-book ever bought you
while the bond of love tied us, but,
our affair having passed your sell-by date,
you are suddenly rank with morbid one night stands,
and the scandal sheets, thrilling
to your latest ramming,
publish kiss-and-tell confessions
unchecked to the gutter.
your backstreet screwing hole
has opened up into an airport of immodesty;
but the tender wild flower
of my meadow memories
would have withered from the touch
of toyboys and sweating salesmen
in sordid personal services.

now my heart breaks to remember
the blushed glow of your schoolgirl years,
how I was imprisoned by the lovelight of your gaze
that shone like the planet Venus;
o my dawn star!
your Perrier-like purity of heart
is now as angostura bitter,
your eyes are dead snake eyes.
my thoughts like mingling perfumes of our hours together
are murdered by your distaste for my love.
admirers you crush
with a barbed put-down;
credit card tricks you turn
between the sheets.
if they bring nothing you send them to buggery,
while you swing with those who have designer diseases;
but I who would bring you love
can no longer see you, but only am cheated
by the soured memory of your promises,
your poisoned honey.



Louis Aragon

(translated from the French by D L Upton)

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