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Old 05-05-2009   #1
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Dark Literary Quotations

"Qui peut lecher peut mordre, et qui peut embrasser peut etouffer."

"He who can lick can bite, and he who can kiss can smother."

--Alfred de Musset (1810-1857)

"We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."
--Henry James (1843-1916)
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Old 05-05-2009   #2
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

"Les charmes de l'horreur n'enivrent que les forts."

"The charms of horror tempt only the strong."

--from "Danse Macabre" by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
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Old 05-05-2009   #3
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

Quote Originally Posted by Daisy View Post
"Les charmes de l'horreur n'enivrent que les forts."

"The charms of horror tempt only the strong."

--from "Danse Macabre" by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Shouldn't it be translated as:

"The charms of horror intoxicate only the strong"?
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Old 05-06-2009   #4
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

"The dead don't die. They look on and help."
--D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
--Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

"'Tis strange that death should sing."
--William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

"We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."
--Henry James (1843-1916)
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Old 05-06-2009   #5
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

"Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hours upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

-Shakespeare, MACBETH.

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Old 05-06-2009   #6
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

Quote Originally Posted by Jezetha View Post
Quote Originally Posted by Daisy View Post
"Les charmes de l'horreur n'enivrent que les forts."

"The charms of horror tempt only the strong."

--from "Danse Macabre" by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Shouldn't it be translated as:

"The charms of horror intoxicate only the strong"?
Richard Howard, widely considered to be the finest translator of Baudelaire into English, interprets the line as:

"The charms of Dread are not for everyone."

Given the context in which this line appears, Howard's colloquial rendering is very astute, as it captures the bitter, ironical tone of the poet. Here, in Howard's translation, are the three stanzas leading up to that line, and the stanza following it:

Will music and the flaring lights beguile
a mocking nightmare you cannot escape?
Is it the torrent of orgies you require
to douse the hellfire kindled in your heart?

Inexhaustible pit of folly and sin!
Eternal alembic of the ancient pain!
Threading the twisted trellis of your ribs
the insatiable worm, I see, is still at work!

To tell the truth, I fear your coquetry
will fail to find the victims it deserves:
which of these mortal hearts can take your jokes?
The charms of Dread are not for everyone.

What visions cloud the chasm of your eyes?
Even the bravest partner joins the dance
with a twinge of terror as he contemplates
the eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth!


In light of this I think Nicole was on the right track with "tempt."

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 05-06-2009   #7
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

Thanks, B&I!

I didn't know Richard Howard. I like his translation. He doesn't try to reproduce the rhymes of the original, but he does retain a metre (Alexandrine in the original, iambic pentameter in his translation). Which, I think, forces him to 'The charms of Dread are not for everyone'. But Baudelaire, to be as colloquial as Howard, says in effect (and just as ironically) 'only the strong get high on the charms of Dread'. So - neither 'tempt' nor 'are not for everyone'do justice to the word 'enivrent'. The first is wrong qua meaning and the second is too flat.

All IMO, of course.
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Old 05-06-2009   #8
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

Quote Originally Posted by Jezetha View Post
Thanks, B&I!

I didn't know Richard Howard. I like his translation. He doesn't try to reproduce the rhymes of the original, but he does retain a metre (Alexandrine in the original, iambic pentameter in his translation). Which, I think, forces him to 'The charms of Dread are not for everyone'. But Baudelaire, to be as colloquial as Howard, says in effect (and just as ironically) 'only the strong get high on the charms of Dread'. So - neither 'tempt' nor 'are not for everyone'do justice to the word 'enivrent'. The first is wrong qua meaning and the second is too flat.

All IMO, of course.
For an English poet the act of composing in iambic pentametre is as natural as breathing; in fact, if one eavesdrops on general conversation aboard a tram or train, for instance, one overhears people forming clauses instinctively in that metre. To suggest that a writer as accomplished as Howard was constrained by his choice of metre and hence "forced" into his particular rendering of the line is insupportable. But, with that said, you are quite right to say that it "falls flat." Here are three additional translations:

Do you come to trouble with your potent grimace
The festival of Life? Or does some old desire
Still goading your living carcass
Urge you on, credulous one, toward Pleasure's sabbath?

With the flames of candles, with songs of violins,
Do you hope to chase away your mocking nightmare,
And do you come to ask of the flood of orgies
To cool the hell set ablaze in your heart?

Inexhaustible well of folly and of sins!
Eternal alembic of ancient suffering!
Through the curved trellis of your ribs
I see, still wandering, the insatiable asp.

To tell the truth, I fear your coquetry
Will not find a reward worthy of its efforts;
Which of these mortal hearts understands raillery?
The charms of horror enrapture only the strong!

The abyss of your eyes, full of horrible thoughts,
Exhales vertigo, and discreet dancers
Cannot look without bitter nausea
At the eternal smile of your thirty-two teeth.

-- William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

Come you to trouble with your strong grimace,
The feast of life? Or has some old desire
Rowelled your living carcase from its place
And sent you, credulous, to feed its fire?

With tunes of fiddles and the flames of candles,
Hope you to chase the nightmare far apart,
Or with a flood of orgies, feasts, and scandals
To quench the bell that's lighted in your heart?

Exhaustless well of follies and of faults,
Of the old woe the alembic and the urn,
Around your trellised ribs, in new assaults,
I see the insatiable serpent turn.

I fear your coquetry's not worth the strain,
The prize not worth the effort you prolong.
Could mortal hearts your railleries explain?
The joys of horror only charm the strong.

The pits of your dark eyes dread fancies breathe,
And vertigo. Among the dancers prudent,
Hope not your sixteen pairs of smiling teeth
Will ever find a contemplative student.

-- Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

doest come to trouble, with thy potent sneer
Life's festival? or does some ancient fire
— of fool! — still prick thy living carcass here
making thee seek this Sabbath of Desire?

dost hope, by violins and lights beguiled,
to slay that mocking nightmare of unrest?
art come to urge the orgy's torrent wild
to quench the hell-fire blazing in thy breast?

exhaustless fount of every stupid sin!
alembic of our old, eternal woe!
I see thy ribs, and wandering within,
the sateless asp, still wriggling to and fro.

but, truth to tell, I fear thy coquetry
may find no guerdon for its labours long;
which of these death-doomed hearts can laugh with thee?
nay, horror's wine is only for the strong!

those eyes, deep gulfs where ghastly secrets lurk,
breathe giddiness. no prudent cavaliers
can gaze unsickened on the eternal smirk
that on thy two and thirty teeth appears.

-- Lewis Piaget Shanks, Flowers of Evil (New York: Ives Washburn, 1931)

I quite like "enrapture," yet it ignores the quintessentially Baudelairean notion of sin, of trespass. I wonder if there is an English word which connotes a rarefied intoxication availble only to those strong enough to abandon themselves to a remote and aesthetic temptation.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 05-06-2009   #9
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

Quote Originally Posted by Bleak&Icy View Post
I quite like "enrapture," yet it ignores the quintessentially Baudelairean notion of sin, of trespass. I wonder if there is an English word which connotes a rarefied intoxication availble only to those strong enough to abandon themselves to a remote and aesthetic temptation.
I like 'enrapture' too, though I agree it is not dangerous enough. Many thanks for an excellent ripost(e)!

Last edited by Jezetha; 05-06-2009 at 08:35 AM..
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Old 05-06-2009   #10
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

However it's translated, the quote itself is a bit of misguided bravado. But then, any line of Baudelaire can appear facile in isolation, as his writing is richly flavoured with irony and faux-cynicism.

English Decadents who mimicked Baudelaire's vocabulary and cadences had little sense of what he was writing about: his abrupt mood swings, self-destructive gestures and calculated shifts between beauty and profanity are intended to corrode the pomposity of the poetic tradition, to shatter it from within. He has far more in common with the Beat poets than with the Decadents. When I read Baudelaire I often think of these lines from a Bob Dylan poem:

the only beauty's ugly, man
the crackin, shakin, breakin sounds're
the only sounds I understand
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