Friday, 12 December 2008

The Disconsolate One (Gérard de Nerval)

I am the Darkness, — the Widowed, — the Scream,
The prince of Aquitaine, his Tower abolished:
My only Star is dead, — and my celestial lute
Bears the black Sun of Melancholy.

In the night of the Tomb, you who consoled me,
Bring me back Posilippo and the Italian sea,
The flower that so pleased my aching heart
And the trellis where the Vine and the Rose entwine.

Am I Love or Phoebus? … Lusignon or Biron?
My forehead is still red with the kiss of the Queen,
I dreamt in the Grotto where the Siren swims …

And twice a victor I crossed the Achéron stream
Modulating by turns on the lyre of Orpheus
The sighs of the Saint and the cries of the Fairy.

This is my version of Gerard de Nerval’s “El Desdichado” (1854), translated from the French. The original may be found here.

And I just found another excellent page with lots of explanation and interpretation here.

Searching Google books, I found another translation in the Penguin of Nerval’s selected works by Richard Sieburth. I hadn’t seen this, but his translation is incredibly similar to mine!

Also, a further commentary here…


  1. Okei, this is truly one MAGNIFICENT POEM. You don't write quite often, but when you do, you make an outstanding view that delights the eyes, and feeds the imagination. By the way, who's that 'disconsolate' one?....Oh!... Gerard! ... iiiissszzz
    Happy weekend, my friend.

  2. Wow! If only this were written by me! In French, I think it's supposed to be a really famous poem - I've just rendered it in English with a little help from's merely my "version".

    Ah, good point! Thank goodness, it wasn't written by me, or I would be the disconsolate one. Good weekend to you too!

  3. Of course it was written by you... in English. If one would have just literally translated it the ordinary word by word way, it wouldn't have come out this beautiful. You had your way of re-writing it, and that means you own this poem... in your shared right.

  4. You'd be surprised...the original is *that* good! But thanks! :^)

    Searching Google books, I found another translation in the Penguin of Nerval's selected works by Richard Sieburth. I hadn't seen this, but his translation is incredibly similar to mine! But I'll claim mine's better, ;^). Lol.

  5. Oh this is lovely! And you've translated it so very well. I'm sure the original is good, but to translate poetry from a different language can't be easy!

    Hmm... I might try translating some local Malaysian poems, and see if I could be almost as good as you

  6. Then, you're both great writers, dude.

  7. Thanks! It was with the help of a commentary I read, but really the poem was so good that I just tried to make it as literal as possible to capture the original.

    That's a great idea to translate some poems you like from Malay; there are probably many that haven't been done before even.