Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poem of the Soul

I've been completely negligent celebrating National Poetry Month - and it's already the 17th! Seriously, I book-marked poems, I had plans! So: apologies. Life happens. In lieu of a fancy post (things to do! people to see!) on all things poetic, let me plunk down this section of a poem, that moved me beyond words when I was sixteen and visiting France for the first time. We were in Lyon for a few days, I was terribly homesick for boring old eastern Washington (my homestay host pushed some suspicious congealed gel at me saying, "Yoplait! Yoplait!" and I started to cry). Only when you're that raw can you have spiritual experiences- like I did, at the Musee des Beaux Arts de Lyon.

Louis Janmot spent his entire life trying to complete the series Le poeme de l'ame (and the epic poem partnered with the paintings) but never did. Not to say he didn't try; by the time he died he completed 34 giant compositions accompanied by more than 2,800 verses. I read the entire poem in French, at the (unimpressive) climax of my French language skills. Sixteen, sheltered and in a foreign country, being exposed to works of art with no equivalent...little touches your soul more.

Rayons de soleil*

Dansez, dansez, troupe rieuse,
Avant que de ses rudes mains
La douleur ne touche et ne creuse
Vos fronts aujourd'hui si sereins

* I won't harass you with my translation, but my museum guide suggests that: "the text...lyrically invokes the ephemeral nature of 'innocence, youth, and love'." If you can't figure out the depressing autumn landscape behind them, I disown you. Giant, existentialist hint: Winter is coming.


Sarah said...

This is what Babel online has for a translation:

Dance, dance, merry troop, Before with its hard hands the pain does not touch and does not dig Your faces today so serene

Is Babel missing the poetic graces a bit?

sharon.horowitz said...

Hmmm. I've always been a fan of "there one was a man from Nantucket..."