The Disinherited [El Desdichado], by Gérard de Nerval

Posted: September 17, 2010 in Nerval, El Desdichado, Translations
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Nerval’s El Desdichado is to be read and/or listened to here (accompanied by a very bad piece of practical criticism…); it was also put into music, along with lots of other poems by Nerval, in the CD collection “Poètes et Chansons”.

I am the twilight – the widow – the unconsoled,
Nobility in whose towers the weeds now bloom;
My only star dead and all the strings sold
From my lute inscribed with the dark sun’s Gloom.

You who consoled me in the graveyard night,
Give me Pausillippo, Italy’s seas,
The flower to be my sad heart’s delight,
And the trellis whose vines the roses seize.

Apollo or Eros? … Arthur or Henry?
Still I blush from the kiss of the queen;
I have dreamt in the grotto where sirens are seen…

And I have crossed Hell twice to victory:
As Orpheus playing, now loud now faint,
The cries of the fairy, the sighs of the saint.

Translated by James Harriman-Smith


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