I recently found a poem by Paul Éluard on the BitterGrace Notes blog, in translation. It turns out that the French original was published in a book called Facile, with photographic illustrations by Man Ray. The translation differed from original, in its sense of flow and cadence, so I decided to translate from the French myself, and thought I’d share the result. I make no pretense that it’s born of deep contextual scholarship, and I’m aware of various “strictly the French reads…” moments which it might engender, but hopefully someone can take enjoyment from it and perhaps feel closer to reading the original.
Easy is good
Easy is beautiful beneath your eyelids
As a gathering of pleasure
Dance and what follows
I have spoken of the fever
The best of all arguments for fire
That you be pale and luminous
A thousand winning poses
A thousand losing embraces
Repeated as they forget themselves
You fall dark you raise your veil
A mask you soften
It resembles you vividly
And you never look better than nude
Nude in shadow and dazzlingly nude
As a sky shivering with lightning
You give yourself up to your own self
To give yourself up to others.
Paul Éluard (trans. Sarah Marr)
And the original:
Facile est bien
Facile est beau sous tes paupières
Comme l’assemblée du plaisir
Danse et la suite
J’ai dit la fièvre
Le meilleur argument du feu
Que tu sois pâle et lumineuse
Mille attitudes profitables
Mille étreintes défaites
Répétées vont s’effaçant
Tu t’obscurcis tu te dévoiles
Un masque tu l’apprivoises
Il te ressemble vivement
Et tu n’en parais que mieux nue
Nue dans l’ombre et nue éblouie
Comme un ciel frissonnant d’éclairs
Tu te livres à toi-même
Pour te livrer aux autres.
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