Reading Valéry in English
The translator would like to dedicate this work to Harold Bloom.
In 1955, near the end of his life, Wallace Stevens recalled that in the months and days preceding Rilke’s death (December 1926), Rilke had been translating Valéry. For Rilke this was a project that had begun more than five years earlier — in spring 1921 — when he first read, then translated “Le Cimetière marin” (the poem was first published in the June 1920 issue of Nouvelle Revue Française; Rilke discovered the poem — and Valéry — while turning through NRF a year later). Soon after came the ecstatic days in 1922 when Rilke completed the Duino Elegies and composed the Sonnets to Orpheus. Translations of Valéry were Rilke’s last, major creative project, and perhaps it was with Rilke in mind, that in Stevens’ death poem “Of Mere Being,” Stevens also turned to Valéry — not only to “Palme,” whose angel, together with Rilke’s, had already influenced Stevens’ “necessary angel of the earth” — but to “Anne,” the penultimate poem in Valéry’s 1920 volume, Album de vers ancien. Here are the first stanzas from “Of Mere Being”:
And here is the last stanza of Valéry’s poem:
Perhaps reading Stevens with Valéry in mind can be one way that a translator can begin to find Valéry in English.
Printed from Cerise Press: http://www.cerisepress.com
Permalink URL: http://www.cerisepress.com/03/07/reading-valery-in-english
Page 1 of 4 was printed. Select View All pagination to print all pages.