French Poetry: From Medieval to Modern Times

French Poetry: From Medieval to Modern Times

by Patrick Mcguinness (Editor)


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A beautifully jacketed hardcover collection of verse by French-speaking poets from cultures across the globe, spanning the ages from medieval to modern. EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY POCKET POETS. 

From the troubadours of the Middle Ages to the titans of modern poetry, from Rabelais and Ronsard to Aimé Césaire and Yves Bonnefoy, French Poetry offers English-speaking readers a one-volume introduction to a rich and varied tradition. Here are today’s rising stars mingling with the great writers of past centuries: La Fontaine, François Villon, Christine de Pizan, Marguerite de Navarre, Louise Labé, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé, Apollinaire, and many more. Here, too, are representatives of the modern francophone world, encompassing Lebanese, Tunisian, Senegalese, and Belgian poets, including such notable writers as Léopold Senghor, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, and Hédi Kaddour. Finally, this anthology showcases a wide range of the English language’s finest translators—including such renowned poet-translators as Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, John Ashbery, and Derek Mahon—in a dazzling tribute to the splendors of French poetry.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101907832
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/11/2017
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 625,728
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

PATRICK MCGUINNESS is a British academic, critic, novelist, and poet. He is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Oxford, where he is Fellow and Tutor at St. Anne's College. He was born in Tunisia to an Irish father and Belgian mother, and grew up in Belgium.

Read an Excerpt

‘For the best part of a thousand years English poets have gone to school to the French’, wrote Ezra Pound: ‘The history of English poetic glory is a history of successful steals from the French.’
Pound spoke many languages, and exaggeration was one of them, but his typically bold statement tells us something of the relationship between French- and English-language poetry from the age of Chaucer to the age of Pound and Eliot and beyond. Languages are not nations, and thanks to translation they have no borders. From the earliest days, when Chaucer was looking across the Channel for his motifs and his techniques, to the French Romantics and Symbolists of the nineteenth century and the Surrealists of the twentieth, France has given the world an anthology of models and inspirations. Louise Labe, du Bellay, Ronsard, Hugo, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarme, Laforgue, Aragon, Eluard, and countless other French poets have changed not just their own national traditions but those of other cultures.
This anthology presents a selection of French poems over nine centuries, starting with Marie de France and finishing with Valerie Rouzeau. Along the way it introduces the reader to a range of forms, from the ballad and sonnet, by way of the prose poem and free verse, to the experimental techniques of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It gives due prominence, too, to women poets and to writers from what is known as ‘francophonie’: French-language cultures which, whether through colonization or more benign forms of cultural affiliation, express themselves in the language of Racine and Baudelaire. But they also change that language, extending and enriching it, as we see in the work, notably, of Aime Cesaire and Leopold Sedar Senghor, poets who were also politicians and who played important roles in their countries’ post-colonial history.
While the poets tell their own story, the translators too are representative of their art. There are many kinds of translation: the faithful translation (but faithful to what? faithful to whom?), the free translation (free from what? according to what rules?), the version, the adaptation, and the translation so removed from its original that we think it may as well declare itself a poem and have done with it.
I have included translations by poets such as Marianne Moore, John Ashbery, Marilyn Hacker, Beverley Bie Brahic and Pound himself, but also translators, such as Richard Sieburth, Martin Sorrell, Mary Ann Caws and Norman Shapiro, whose work over the years has done much to keep open the lines of communication between today’s English-language reader and the poets of the past. There are occasional surprising meetings, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s version of Rimbaud’s ‘Voyelles’, Wallace Stevens’s Le´on-Paul Fargue, or G. K. Chesterton’s du Bellay, which remind us that, for some, translation is a lifetime’s travel, and for others a unique, one-off foray into a foreign land.
To say there are love poems, both requited and unrequited, poems about life and death, war, triumph and defeat, is not to make a statement either about French poetry or about its Frenchness. But French poetry is among the most influential in the Western world because it has been so responsive and so curious about the literatures of others. Since the medieval period, French poets have been great cosmopolitans, and the import-export of translation has ensured that they themselves ‘borrowed’ as much as they lent to others. French renaissance poets read the classics, but also looked to far-off countries for their inspiration, while the nineteenth-century Romantics looked across to England or to Germany and Spain. America and American literature (not just Britain and British) have always been part of this exchange, and the French have always had a special affinity with America and its literature. After all, Baudelaire claimed to have learned English to translate Poe, while the Symbolists of the 1880s and 1890s read and translated Whitman, using him to justify their own experiments with ‘free verse’.
Poetry is an international language, but we rely on translation to make it so.
--Patrick McGuinness

Table of Contents

Marie de France (fl. 1160–1215)
The Man and the Measuring Rod
Christine de Pisan (c. 1364–c. 1431)
Louise Labe (1420/22–66)
‘What good is it now, that you so perfectly’
‘As long as my eyes still have tears to cry’
‘I live, I die: I flare up & I drown’
Francois Villon (c. 1431–after 1463)
Ballad for the Dead Ladies
Marguerite de Navarre (1492–1549)
‘My time grows short’
Francois Rabelais (c. 1494–1553)
To the Reader
Clement Marot (1496–1544)
Rondeau of Antique Love
Maurice Sceve (c. 1501–c. 1564)
From Delie:
‘The Eye, too afire with my youthful errors’
‘Rhone, & Saone shall sooner be disjoined’
‘Some delight in tales well told’
‘The less I see her, the more I hate her’
‘Alone with myself, she with her husband’
‘If you wonder why two elements’
Pernette du Guillet (c. 1520–45)
From Epigrammes:
‘If you wish not to prize so much this ring’
‘No remedy I seek, in my defense’
Joachim du Bellay (c. 1522–60)
From The Regrets
‘O thou newcomer who seek’st Rome in Rome’
‘Happy, who like Ulysses’
Pierre de Ronsard (1524–85)
From Cassandra:
‘Whoever wants to see how Love can tame’
‘To think one thought hundreds, hundreds of times’
‘Set free from reason and enslaved to passion’
‘He who made this world, fashioned faithfully’
‘Sweet Sleep, that brings to everything its peace’
Catherine des Roches (1542–87)
Quenouille, mon soucy, je vous promets et jure
Madeleine de l’Aubespine (1546–96)
‘Let the earth cease its turning, suddenly’
Marie de Cleves (1553–74)
Jean de Sponde (1557–95)
‘Imagine yourself in the heavens,floating high’
Jean-Baptiste Chassignet (1571–1635)
‘Seat yourself on the edge of a wavy river’
Madeleine de Scudery (1607–1701)
‘To tell the truth, Job’s destiny’
Jean de la Fontaine (1621–95)
The Hen That Laid the Golden Eggs
Antoinette des Houlieres (1638–94)
Andre Chenier (1762–94)
From Hymne, a la France
‘Comme un dernier rayon’
Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)
The Roses of Saadi
The Lost Secret
Victor Hugo (1802–85)
Night on the Ocean
‘At dawn tomorrow, when the plains grow bright’
Louise Colet (1810–76)
For My Daughter
Theophile Gautier (1811–72)
Farewell to Poetry
Charles Baudelaire (1821–67)
To Each His Chimæra
The Swan
‘More memories than the fossils of the ages’
You’d Sleep with Anything
La Beaute
Anywhere out of the World
Intoxicate Yourself
To the Reader
The Mercenary Muse
Louise Michel (1830–1905)
Stephane Mallarme (1842–98)
‘To insert myself into your plot’
The Tomb of Edgar Poe
The Tomb of Charles Baudelaire
A Sigh
Jose-Maria De Heredia (1842–1905)
The Nemean Lion
Paul Verlaine (1844–96)
To Arthur Rimbaud
My Recurring Dream
Colloque sentimentale
Tristan Corbiere (1845–75)
The Toad
Arthur Rimbaud (1854–91)
The Drunken Boat
Evening Prayer
Sonnet to an Asshole
From Une Saison en Enfer
After the Deluge
On the Road
Jules LaForgue (1860–87)
The Dirge of the Poet’s Fetus
Paul Valery (1871–1945)
In the Sun
The Marine Cemetery
The Steps
Gerard D’Houville (1875–1963)
Leon-Paul Fargue (1876–1947)
A Fragrance of Night . . .
Anna de Noailles (1876–1933)
Offering to Pan
Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918)
‘Here’s the coffin’
‘I dreamt I was going’
The Mirabeau Bridge
The Night of April 1915
Calligram, 15 May 1915
Valery Larbaud (1881–1957)
The Old Station at Cahors
Catherine Pozzi (1882–1934)
Jules Supervielle (1884–1960)
Rain & the Tyrants
Blaise Cendrars (1887–1961)
The Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jeanne of France
Pierre-Jean Jouve (1887–1976)
Lament for the Stag
Paul Eluard (1895–1952)
Lady Love
Giorgio de Chirico
Andre Breton (1896–1966)
Always for the First
Pierre Reverdy (1889–1966)
. . . Is Ajar
Live Flesh
Tristan Tzara (1896–1963)
Proclamation without Pretension
Antonin Artaud (1896–1948)
Louis Aragon (1897–1982)
The Unoccupied Zone
The Lilacs and the Roses
Francis Ponge (1899–1988)
The End of Autumn
The Mollusc
Henri Michaux (1899–1984)
Slices of Knowledge
Benjamin Peret (1899–1959)
Little Song of the Maimed
Jacques Prevert (1900–77)
Pater Noster
Robert Denos (1900–45)
‘I have dreamed of you so long’
Last Poem
Marguerite Yourcenar (1903–87)
Poem for a Doll Bought in a Russian Bazaar
Jean Follain (1903–71)
Eugene Guillevic (1907–97)
From Carnac
Leopold Sedar Senghor (1906–2001)
The Young Sun’s Greeting
Patrice de la Tour du Pin (1911–75)
First Concert on Earth (Borlonge)
Aime Cesaire (1913–2008)
song of the sea horse link of the chain gang
Anne Hebert (1916–2000)
Yves Bonnefoy (1923–2016)
Imperfection Is the Summit
‘O flame’
Heather Dohollau (1925–2013)
Philippe Jaccottet (1925–)
The Voice
Venus Khoury-Ghata (1935–)
She Used to Throw Her Old Crockery
Henri Thomas (1913–93)
End of His Tether
Paul de Roux (1937–)
Day by Day
The Deep Street
Jacques Reda (1929–)
Prayer of a Passer-By
Michel Deguy (1930–)
‘Someone has been and is no longer’
Marie-Claire Bancquart (1932–)
Return of Ulysses
Hedi Kaddour (1946–)
Guy Goffette (1947–)
From A Speck of Gold in the Mud
False Lelian
Letter to the Unknown Woman across the Street
Gilles Ortlieb (1953–)
‘Through the window, a small man in a tan scarf’
‘Snow in Thionville’
Valerie Rouzeau (1967–)
18 Lines towards What
From Cold Spring in Winter 

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