A Poem by Jacques Prevert


I just read a poem by Jacques Prevert, my interest having been rekindled by a ridiculously cheap selection of 9 French poets which I bought at the old Book City in Shenzhen last Sunday. In fact I read quite a few and this is only one of them. I like it very much. It is simple, direct, unpretenious. Since I did not find any English translation, I’ll translate it now. Here it is:
 
    Les enfants qui s’aiment    Jacques Prévert                           Children Lovers
                          
Les enfants qui s’aiment s’embrassent debout                                             The children lovers embrace upright
       Contre les portes de la nuit                                                                           Against night’s doors
Et les passants qui passent les désignent du doigt                             And passers-by who pass by point their finger at ‘em
       Mais les enfants qui s’aiment                                                                         But the children lovers
         Ne sont là pour personne                                                                             Are there for no one
       Et c’est seulement leur ombre                                                                    And it’s only their shadow
          Qui tremble dans la nuit                                                                            Which quivers in the night
      Excitant la rage des passants                                                                Stirring up the anger of the passers-by
Leur rage, leur mépris, leur rires et leur envie                                   Their anger, their contempt, their laughs and their desire
Les enfants qui s’ aiment ne sont là pour personne                                     The children lovers are there for no one
      Ils sont ailleurs bien plus loin que la nuit                                          They’re elsewhere much further than the night
          Bien plus haut que le jour                                                                          Much higher than the day
Dans l’éblouissante clarté de leur premier jour.                                           In the dazzling light of their first day.
 
I like the line up of the range of emotions of the passers-by, the force of the last emotion highlighted and contrasted with those preceding it on the one hand and the utter indifference of the puppy lovers to them on the other. The contrast of the old and the young, the night and the day, and the suggestiveness of the "doors of the night" are obviously well thought out. The word "debout" (upright/standing up) seems also to suggest the moral superiority of the innocence of the children over the fluctuating and hypocritical emotions of the adults.
 
Jacques Prevert (1900-1977) lived most of his life in Paris and wrote about what he saw and felt there. He has written many songs and poems which have since been set to music. He only completed primary education. Another example of how people can still bloom outside of the grist-mill of formal education and perhaps because of staying outside of it. 
                                  
I shall translate one more each day, for as long as my interest lasts and for as long as I can squeeze in the time.
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6 Responses to A Poem by Jacques Prevert

  1. sai says:

    Anthony, Ever thought of translating some into Chinese as you did for those Spanish poems?Peter

  2. el says:

    I wish I had more time. English translation takes about maybe 1/5 of the time for doing so in Chinese. It takes more time to physically write out Chinese words. Besides my Chinese is perhaps 10 times worse than my English!

  3. Barry Breen says:

    My copy says”de leur premier amour” not “jour” and “amour” makes much more sense.

  4. Leo says:

    Iiiiii’m sorry but it’s “dans l’éblouissante clarté de leur premier amour”, which would translate as “their first love”. Anyway, thanks for this beautiful translation!

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