Saturday 17 March 2018

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: French poet with look of a seanchaí

Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire

Ulick O'Connor

Imagine my excitement when Penguin books asked me if they could use a poem I translated of Charles Baudelaire in a collection of the poet they were bringing out in English.

The French poet was for me what Shakespeare was to England, and Goethe to Germany. To handle such fragile furniture and not drop it when it came before the public eye was a delicate affair. The 150th anniversary of his death comes at the end of this month.

Here is the translation, as it appeared in Baudelaire in English, a collection of translations by poets from many countries including as Roy Campbell, Seamus Heaney, James Elroy Flecker and Philip Larkin.

By the way, I often wondered if Baudelaire had any Irish blood. Photographs of him in his later years suggest a look of a successful seanchaí.


Beneath a thin sun

Life writhes without reason

Moves shamelessly, runs,

Till on the horizon

Comes sensuous night,

And as hunger eases

Shame takes its flight.

The poet says 'Oh Jesus

My spirits oppress me,

My back cries for respite,

Through dark dreams enmesh me

I will roll with delight

In the curtain of night,

Whose shades will refresh me'.

Charles Baudelaire 1821-1867

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