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Old 05-06-2009   #11
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
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
To tell you the truth, I posted the “charms of horror” line from “Danse Macabre” specifically for Wilum’s amusement. Some time ago, he and I had a conversation in Flashchat about Baudelaire; I thought he’d appreciate a quotation from Les Fleurs du Mal in his new thread. I didn’t translate the line to the letter, and I certainly didn’t try to pass it off as representative of the poet’s entire oeuvre.

You’re right about Baudelaire and the Beats; those affinities need to be sussed out and explored at length. What Allen Ginsberg said of Gregory Corso could apply just as well to their “crackin, shakin, breakin” predecessor: “He curses like a brook, pure poetry.”

All best,

Nicole
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Old 05-06-2009   #12
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

I LOVE LOVE LOVE all of this literary "talk" -- it's something I thrive on. I have the Richard Howard 1982 translation in pb, but I love it so much (even the cover illustration seems beautifully poisonous) that I'm gonna get a second hand hardcover edition. I've got the Penguin Classics of 1975, translated by Joanna Richardson. I've enjoy'd, keenly, the translations by Clark Ashton Smith in the handsome three-volume set of his Collected Poems from Hippocampus, but I've not yet seen any criticism of them.

Richard Howard has a great quotation from Walter Benjamin at the beginning of his book:

"...a translation comes later than the original, and since the important works of world literature never find their chosen translators at the time of their origin, their translation marks their stage of continued life."

I always mistrust translations of non-English poetry into rhyme -- I prefer an accurate translation of the language, knowing that I will be missing much of the poetic genius of the original from not being able to understand its form, &c.

And I loved your quote from Baudelaire, Nicole!! It is EXACTLY the kind of thing that I am hoping to see on this thread -- so exactly "right" that I strive to live up to its perfection in the passages I discover. Thank you, all!

"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 05-13-2009   #13
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

Guilhelm IX of Aquitaine(fl.1090-1127): The song of nothing

(from "Songs of Chivalry" by Martin Best Medieval Ensemble)

A SONG of nothing I will write;
Not of myself or any wight,
And not of youth or loveís delight,
No, nor of aught.
On horseback fast asleep one night
Of it I thought.


Iíve no idea when I was born,
Iím neither happy nor forlorn,
Nor friend nor stranger, Iíll be sworn
óíTis destiny.
For thus on a high hill my Norn
Decreed for me.


When Iím asleep Iím unaware,
Or when Iím walking, I declare;
My heartís near breaking with despair,
With grief it faints
ó And not a farthing do I care,
By all the Saints.


Iím ill and like to die I fear,
But nothing know save what I hear;
Iíll seek a leech, but far or near
Find none I want.
If he can care, Iíll hold him dear
ó Not if he canít.


Iíve a sweetheart ó I know not who,
Iíve never seen her it is true,
Sheís pleased me neíer, done nought I rue,
Nor do I care,
For messenger from her unto
My house comes neíer.


Iíve seen her neíer, my love is mad,
Sheís never made me gay or sad,
When I donít see her I am glad,
I care no straw,
For one whoís fairer can be had,
And worth much more.


To ask me where she dwells were vain,
If on a hill or in a plain,
How she wrongs me I canít explain,
So none can know;
It grieves me sore here to remain,
So I shall go.


My song of nothingís at an end;
To one I send it who shall send
It by another to my friend
Down in Poitou,
That he to me may give or lend
The riddleís clue.

I know who you are
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Old 05-13-2009   #14
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

From Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian:

He took up the tumbler the judge had poured and he drank and set it down again. He looked at the judge. I been everywhere, he said. This is just one more place.
The judge arched his brow. Did you post witnesses? he said. To report to you the continued existence of those places once you'd quit them?
That's crazy.
Is it? Where is yesterday? Where is Glanton and Brown and where is the priest? He leaned closer. Where is Shelby, whom you left to the mercies of Elias in the desert, and where is Tate, whom you abandoned in the mountains? Where are the ladies, ah the fair and tender ladies with whom you danced at the governor's ball when you were a hero anointed with the blood of the enemies of the republic you'd elected to defend? And where is the fiddler and the dance?
I guess you can tell me.
I tell you this. As war becomes dishonored and its nobility called into question those honorable men who recognize the sanctity of blood will become excluded from the dance, which is the warrior's right, and thereby the dance will become a false dance and the dancers false dancers. And yet there will be one there always who is a true dancer and can you guess who that might be?
You aint nothin.
You speak truer than you know. But I will tell you. Only that man who has offered himself entire to the blood of war, who has been to the pit and seen horror in the round and learned at last that it speaks to his inmost heart, only that man can dance.
Even a dumb animal can dance.
The judge set the bottle on the bar. Hear me, man, he said. There is room on the stage for one beast and one alone. All others are destined for a night that is eternal and without name. One by one they will step down into the darkness before the footlamps. Bears that dance, bears that don't.
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Old 05-13-2009   #15
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

None spoke. The judge sat half naked and sweating for all the night was cool. At length the expriest Tobin looked up.
It strikes me, he said, that either son is equal in the way of disadvantage. So what is the way of raising a child?
At a young age, said the judge, they should be put in a pit with wild dogs. They should be set to puzzle out from their proper clues the one of three doors that does not harbor wild lions. They should be made to run naked in the desert until...
Hold now, said Tobin. The question was put in all earnestness.
And the answer, said the judge. If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? The way of the world is to bloom and flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day. He loves games? Let him play for stakes. This you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think this will be again? Aye. And again. With other people, with other sons.
The judge looked about him. He was sat before the fire naked save for his breeches and his hands rested palm down upon his knees. His eyes were empty slots. None among the company harbored any notion as to what this attitude implied, yet so like an icon was he in his sitting that they grew cautious and spoke with circumspection among themselves as if they would not awaken something that had better been left sleeping.
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Old 05-14-2009   #16
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

--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 05-14-2009   #17
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

Whatever the translation, "Danse Macabre" is among my favorite poems.
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Old 06-10-2009   #18
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

"I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks, your loveliness and the hour of my death. O that I could have possession of them both in the same minute."

--John Keats (1795-1821)

"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 06-11-2009   #19
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

ODIN

One night, it is related, a man appeared at the court of Olaf Tryggvason, who had converted to the new faith. The man was old, enveloped in a dark cape, and the brim of his hat hung over his eyes. The King asked him if he knew how to do anything; the stranger answered that he knew how to play the harp and tell stories. He played ancient airs on the harp, spoke of Gudrun and Gunnar, and, finally, told of the birth of Odin. He related that three fates had appeared: the first two promised great happiness, but the third angrily announced: "The child will not live longer than the candle burning at his side." The parents snuffed the candle, then, so that Odin might not die. Olaf Tryggvason doubted the story; the stranger repeated that it was a true one; he took out the candle and lit it. While they watched it burn, the man said it was late and he must leave. When the candle had burnt itself out, they went to look for him. A few steps from the King's house, Odin lay dead.


Jorge Luis Borges and Delia Ingenieros, "Antiguas literaturas germŠnicas" (1951).

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Old 06-12-2009   #20
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Re: Dark Literary Quotations

[...] I asked for very little from life, and even this little was denied me. A nearby field, a ray of sunlight, a little bit of calm along with a bit of bread, not to feel oppressed by the knowledge that I exist, not to demand anything from others, and not to have others demand anything from me — this was denied me, like the spare change we might deny a beggar not because we're mean-hearted but because we don't feel like unbuttoning our coat.

[...] Ten thousand times my heart broke within me. I cannot count the sobs that shook me, the pains that ate into my heart.

Yet I have seen other things also which have brought tears into mine eyes and have shaken me like a stirred leaf. I have seen men and women giving life, hopes, all for others. I have seen such acts of high devotedness that I have wept tears of gladness. These things, I have thought, are beautiful, although they are powerless to redeem. They are the pure songs of the sun on the vast dung-heap of the world.

[...] I've witnessed, incognito, the gradual collapse of my life, the slow foundering of all that I wanted to be. I can say, with a truth that needs no flowers to show it's dead, that there's nothing I've wanted — and nothing in which I've placed, even for a moment, the dream of only that moment — that hasn't disintegrated below my windows like a clod of dirt that resembled stone until it fell from a flowerpot on a high balcony. It would even seem that Fate has always tried to make me love or want things just so that it could show me, on the very next day, that I didn't have and could never have them.


From "The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa", published by Grove Press, 2002.

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