see my note to the previous post for an introduction to the origins of this chapbook—
Published February 1997
As the name implies, Captain Hook Books
is a pirate press. From time to time, we will
publish books which ought to exist.
P A U L V E R L A I N E ' S
CLAIR DE LUNE
a collection of translations
CAPTAIN HOOK BOOKS
Your soul's a happy pastoral where trimly
The lawns are kept and merry dancers go
To melody of lutes, still wondering dimly
Behind their masks if they are happy so.
And happy life that hath sweet love for guerdon
They praise in sad notes of the minor scale,
But with wry faces that belie the burden
That melts away into the moonlight pale.
And the calm moonbeams fill the birds a-sleeping
With silver dreams, and the tall fountains spear
The dusk with silver jets that fall a-weeping
On marble basins for a bliss too dear.
Your soul is an exquisite landscape
That bergamasks have charmed. Enchanting bands
Playing the lute and dancing to escape
The sadness left untouched by mummers' hands.
Chanting the while upon the minor mode
Of happy love and of life's long delight
Shyly they tread upon the happy road
And their sweet sighs in the moonlight.
In sad moonlight, serene in its beauty,
Birds cease their song and dream under its spell;
And graceful waters sob in ecstasy
Surging from the marble in which they dwell.
Your soul is like a chosen scene
Where masqueraders, quaintly clad,
To tune of lute strings dance serene—
Yet 'neath their strange disguise are sad.
In singing thus in some lighter vein
Of vanquishing love, and of life opportune,
They seem to forget its glad refrain,
And their song is lost in the light of the moon.
In the pensive moonlight, calm and clear,
Which lulls the nightingale to sleep,
The fountain‑sprays—each drop a tear—
From the bowls in a mist of silver leap.
Your soul's a charméd landscape wherein go
Fantastic routs beneath enchanted skies;
They dance and lute, and yet it seems as though
Some sadness haunts them 'neath their gay disguise.
They sing of Conquering Love, of draining all
Life offers; yet the mode's a minor one,
For doubt pervades the ghostly festival,
Whose song is bathed in radiance of the moon,
The calm sad moon that sets the still birds dreaming
In spell-bound trees and fills with ecstasy
The slim and sobbing fountains tall and gleaming,
While marble statues look on silently.
Your soul is like a chosen country set
To be traversed by rout and masquerade,
Dancing unto the sound of lutes; and yet,—
'Neath their disguise fantastic these are sad.
All of them sing within some minor key
Of conquering love, and the life void of care;
Heedless they seem of happy destiny;
Their chorus mixes with the moonbeams fair.
The moonbeams fair and clear, yet pensive too,
That lull the birds upon the boughs to sleep,
And make the water jets' glad tears to flow,—
The tall thin jets that 'mid the statues leap.
Your soul is a sealed garden, and there go
With masque and bergamasque fair companies
Playing on lutes and dancing and as though
Sad under their fantastic fripperies.
Though they in minor keys go carolling
Of love the conqueror and of live boon
They seem to doubt the happiness they sing
And the song melts into the light of the moon,
The sad light of the moon, so lovely fair
That all the birds dream in the leafy shade
And the slim fountains sob into the air
Among the marble statues in the glade.
Your soul is like a landscape choice and fair,
Joyous with dancing, lutes, and masquerade,
Wherein the folk, though gay the garb they wear,
Look almost sad throughout the long parade.
All singing in the minor of love's kisses,
And life the willing slave of love the strong,
They seem as though they doubted of their blisses,
And dreamy moonlight mingles with their song:
The dreamy moonlight of a Watteau painting,
That silences the birds, and where one sees
The sobbing fountains all like figures fainting,
Tall, slim, amid the statues and the trees.
Your soul is like a landscape always glad,
Peopled by merry maskers with bright eyes,
Who play the lute and dance yet are half sad
Beneath the tinsel of their quaint disguise.
Who sing upon a strangely minor mode
Of love's success and life so opportune,
As they go tripping lightly on their road,
Mingling their songs with rays caught from the moon,
The moonlight rays so sad but O how fair!
That make the drowsy birds dream in their trees,
And sob with ecstasy the fountain clear
That from its marble bed jets in the breeze.
Your soul is like a chosen landscape where
In masque and bergamasque a magic lies;
Some touch the lute; some dance; on all an air
Of sadness rests under each strange disguise.
While they are praising in the minor key
All-conquering love, the life that goes aright,
They seem to doubt their own felicity;
Their song is caught up in the moon's calm light.
Mournful and lovely is the moon's calm light,
Which moves the bird upon the bough to dream
And makes the fountains sob in quick delight,
The slim tall fountains where the marbles gleam.
Your soul is like a painter's landscape where
charming masks in shepherd mummeries
are playing lutes and dancing with an air
of being sad in their fantastic guise.
Even while they sing, all in a minor key,
of love triumphant and life's careless boon,
they seem in doubt of their felicity,
their song melts in the calm light of the moon,
the lovely melancholy light that sets
the little birds to dreaming in the tree
and among the statues makes the jets
of slender fountains sob with ecstasy.
How like a well-kept garden is your soul,
With bergomask and solemn minuet!
Playing upon the lute! The dancers seem
But sad, beneath their strange habiliments.
While, in the minor key, their songs extol
The victor Love, and life's sweet blandishments,
Their looks belie the burden of their lays,
The songs that mingle with the still moon-beams.
So strange, so beautiful, the pallid rays;
Making the birds among the branches dream,
And sob with ecstasy the slender jets,
The fountains tall that leap upon the lawns
Amid the garden gods, the marble fauns.
Enid Rhodes Peschel:
Your soul is a selected landscape that maskers
And bergamasche go about beguiling
Playing the lute and dancing and quasi
Sad beneath their fantastical disguises.
While singing in the minor mood
Triumphant love and life that is opportune,
They do not seem to believe in their good fortune
And their song mingles with the moonlight,
With the calm moonlight sad and beautiful,
That makes the birds dream in the trees
And the fountains weep with ecstasy,
The great svelte fountains amid the marble statues.
Your soul is like a sylvan scene where pass
To sound of lute and dancing charmingly
Masquers and bergamasquers, all, alas,
Half-wistful 'neath their guise of fantasy.
Chanting a minor melody's distress
In praise of conquering love and fortune's chance
Scarcely they seem to feel their happiness,
As their song mingles with the moonlight's trance,
With the calm moonlight sad and silvery
That charms the birds within the boughs to dream
And breaks with sobs the slender ecstasy
Of fountains plashing to the marble's gleam.
Your soul is as a moonlit landscape fair,
Peopled with maskers delicate and dim,
That play on lutes and dance and have an air
Of being sad in their fantastic trim.
The while they celebrate in minor strain
Triumphant love, effective enterprise,
They have an air of knowing all is vain,—
And through the quiet moonlight their songs rise,
The melancholy moonlight, sweet and lone,
That makes to dream the birds upon the tree,
And in their polished basins of white stone
The fountains tall to sob with ecstasy.
JACQUES LE CLERCQ:
Your soul is a choice countryside astir
With charming lovers masked in graceful guises,
Dancing and playing lutes and, as it were,
Half-sad under their curious disguises.
So, as they sing, always in minor key,
Of Love (how brave!) and Life (how opportune!)
They seem to doubt their own felicity,
While their blithe song blends with the pallid moon
In calm clear light that only sad skies capture,
Making the nesting birds dream as it mounts,
As the tall jets of water sob with rapture,
The tall svelte jets rising from marble founts.
Your soul's a countryside extraordinary
Where masks and bergomasks enchanting roam,
Playing the lute and dancing, melancholy,
Under wild disguises quite unknown.
Although they're singing in a minor key
Of love triumphant and life opportune,
They do not seem to feel felicity,
Their song fades in the brightness of the moon,
The moonlight calm and sad and beautiful,
Which sets the birds a-dream on branches high;
Tall fountains sob with passion over-full,
And marble statues see their ecstasy.
H. A. SIEPMANN:
Your soul is like a fair and favoured haunt
Of dancers and lute-players, mime and masque,
Of wanderers whose sadness seems to flaunt
The brave disguises of their frolic task.
They sing of love, but in a minor key,
Of love triumphant and of life's delight,
But have no faith to share the ecstasy
Their music mingles with the clear moonlight;
That light, so calm and sad between the branches,
Which brings the birds their benison of dreams,
Makes marble fountains sob with joy, then stanches
Their throbbing with the softness of its beams.
Your soul is a landscape rare
Where masks and bergamasks charming pass,
Playing the lute and dancing, and almost
Sad beneath their fancy dress.
And while they sing on a minor note
Of conquering love and a favorable life,
They seem not to believe their happy lot,
And their song mingles with the soft moonlight.
With the calm moonlight, beautiful and sad,
That brings dreams to the birds in the trees
And sobs of ecstasy to the fountains,
To the tall fountains, slender among the statuary.
"S. K. T.":
Your soul is like a landscape rare
Where masques and bergamasques hold sway,
Touching the lute and dancing, half aware
Of sadness, underneath their guises gay.
Though singing in a minor mood
Love the triumphant, life the fair
A strain of sorrow seems to brood
Within their song, a moonlight-blended air;
A melody of moonlight, sad and clear,
Wooing the birds within the trees to dreaming,
Charming to sobs the fountains far and near,
The slender founts, amid the marbles gleaming.
Your soul is a lovely garden, and go
There masque and bergamasque charmingly,
Playing the lute and dancing and also
Sad beneath their disguising [fantasy].
All are singing in a minor key
Of conqueror love and life opportune,
Yet seem to doubt their joyous revelry
As their song melts in the light of the moon.
In the calm moonlight, so lovely fair
That makes the birds dream in the slender trees,
While fountains dream among the statues there;
Slim fountains sob in silver ecstasies.
WILLIAM FREDERICK GIESE:
Your spirit is a landscape exquisite
Where masks and mummers flutter merrily,
Strumming the lute and dancing, yet a bit
Sad in their quaint fantasticality.
In minor key the fluting notes express
Victorious love more joyous than our dreams;
Yet, half mistrustful of this happiness,
The lute-strains faint among the pale moonbeams--
Calm, pallid beams that sorrowfully mount
Where leaf-hid songbirds twitter drowsily,
And tossed in silver spray the slender fount
Among white marbles sobs in ecstasy.
The first of these versions (by Arthur O'Shaughnessy) appeared in 1881; the most recent is from 1975 (Richardson).
This booklet contains most of the verse translations I was able to find in the Boston Public Library.
The O'Shaughnessy is probably the best, though my attitude toward even the inferior ones is like Frank O'Hara's toward the various actors who portrayed Tarzan. He was, he exclaimed in a poem, unwilling to "prefer" Johnny Weismuller over Lex Barker. Similarly, I am unable to choose favorites among these—even the least seems worth my time: I won't apologize for gathering them here, no matter how "dated" they may appear to cynical eyes.
I have changed nothing from the translations as they originally appeared in books and mags.