Translations / Traductions

Among the texts translated at the workshop held in Marseilles in September 2013 was Guy Goffette’s poem ‘Dire que nous avons cru…’, from the poetry collection Le Pêcheur d’eau © Gallimard 1995 (pp. 31 and 32).

The poem is reproduced below, along with English versions by members of the workshop. We are grateful to Editions Gallimard for permission to reproduce the poem and the translations on this website, and especially to Guy Goffette et Jennie Feldman for allowing us to include an extract from a letter he wrote about the poem’s translation. It concerns the translation into English of the word ‘équarrisseurs’, which was the subject of debate at the workshop.

Parmi les textes traduits au cours de l’atelier qui a eu lieu à Marseille en septembre 2013 est le poème de Guy Goffette, ‘Dire que nous avons cru…’ du recueil de poésie Le Pêcheur d’eau © Gallimard 1995 (pp. 31 et 32).

Vous trouverez le poème ci-dessous, ainsi que des traductions faites par des membres de l’atelier. Nous remercions chaleureusement les Editions Gallimard qui nous ont accordé la permission de les reproduire sur ce site, et plus particulièrement Guy Goffette et Jennie Feldman, qui nous permettent de reproduire ici un extrait d’une lettre par Goffette au sujet de la traduction du poème. Il s’agit dans la lettre de la traduction en anglais du mot ‘équarrisseurs’, dont on a beaucoup parlé pendant l’atelier.

letter from Guy Goffette

Dire que nous avons cru au bonheur

comme les gosses battant pavillon

 

sur un peu d’eau croupie dans l’arrière-cour

—  ils savent qu’un rien suffirait

 

à renverser la mer sur sa quille,

mais font comme si en attendant

 

qu’une vague plus haute et qui blesse

leur enlève le goût

 

de tutoyer l’éternité. Nous aussi,

nous avons cru que la terre tournait

 

entre nos bras, et tournerait toujours

comme le soleil autour du pommier

 

—  ô paisible torpeur, quand déjà

le ver était sous l’écorce,

 

affûtés les outils dans la remise ardente

et le sang bouillonnant dans les muscles

 

des équarrisseurs de rêves.

 

Translations/ Traductions

 

To think we believed in happiness

like kids flying their pennants

 

on a stagnant backyard puddle

–  they know how little it takes

 

to upend the sea on its keel,

and yet they seem to be waiting

 

for a higher wave to bruise them

and strip away the urge

 

to befriend eternity. We too

once believed the earth turned

 

in our arms and would keep on

turning like the sun around the apple tree

 

–  O tranquil torpor, even then

the worm was under the bark,

 

sharp the tools in the fiery shed

and blood on the boil in their muscles,

 

the hewers of dreams.

 

Jennie Feldman

 

 

To think we believed in happiness

like kids sailing their ships

 

on a bit of stagnant water in the backyard

—  they know almost anything would be enough

 

to spill the sea onto their hulls

but just pretend until

 

a bigger wave, a hurtful one,

robs them of the desire

 

to seek the intimacy of eternity. We too

believed the earth spun about

 

in our arms, and would always turn

like the sun about the apple tree

 

—  O, drowsy peacefulness, when already

the worm was beneath the bark

 

tools sharpened in the burning shed

and blood boiling in the muscles

 

of the dream-butchers.

 

Michael Bishop

 

 

To say that we believed in happiness

like kids playing with sailboats

 

on water standing in a backyard

—  they know that next to nothing is enough

 

to turn the sea on its keel

but they just make believe until

 

a higher wave that is destructive

takes away the taste

 

for being on first name terms with eternity. We too,

we believed that the earth turned

 

between our arms, turning forever

like the sun around the apple-tree

 

—  oh, drowsy peacefulness, even then

the worm had entered the bark,

 

the tools sharpened in the burning shed

and the blood boiling in the muscles

 

the hewers of dreams.

 

Nina Parish

 

 

To think that we believed in happiness

like kids sailing boats

 

on stagnant water in the yard

—  they know how little it would take

 

to upend the sea on its keel,

but carry on while waiting

 

for a bigger wave to come and hurt them

and take away the desire

 

to get close to eternity. We, too,

believed that the world turned

 

in our arms, and would always turn

like the sun around the apple tree

 

—  O drowsy peacefulness, when already

the worm was under the bark,

 

tools sharpened in the burning shed

and blood pulsing in the muscles

 

of the dream-carvers.

 

Emma Wagstaff

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