Le dormeur du val

I’m reposting this poem by Rimbaud and my translation, written last year, in a small tribute to the victims of war.

Bleuet_de_France_circa_1950.jpg

This is a poem all my children learnt by heart at primary school. And strangely enough, they all loved it. I don’t know much French verse but I do like this one. Here is the original poem, by Arthur Rimbaud, courtesy of Poésie française, followed by my attempt at a translation.

Le dormeur du val

C’est un trou de verdure où chante une rivière,
Accrochant follement aux herbes des haillons
D’argent ; où le soleil, de la montagne fière,
Luit : c’est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.

Un soldat jeune, bouche ouverte, tête nue,
Et la nuque baignant dans le frais cresson bleu,
Dort ; il est étendu dans l’herbe, sous la nue,
Pâle dans son lit vert où la lumière pleut.

Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant comme
Sourirait un enfant malade, il fait un somme :
Nature, berce-le chaudement : il a froid.

Les parfums ne font pas frissonner sa narine ;
Il dort dans le soleil, la main sur sa poitrine,
Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges au côté droit.

 

 

The sleeper in the valley

 

There’s a haven of green where the river loud,

Clasps raggedy banks and between them teams

Silver; where sun over mountains proud,

Shines: a small vale brimming bright with beams.

 

A young soldier, lips parted, cap in the grass,

His head bathed in the damp of blue cress stalks tall,

Sleeps in the dew while the white clouds pass,

Pale on his bed where the sunbeams fall.

 

His feet in the flowers, he smiles in his sleep,

As a sick child would smile, when he ceases to weep.

Coax the cold from his bones, Nature, with him bide.

 

No suave, wild scents disturb his rest;

He lies in the sun, one hand on his chest,

Quite peaceful. He has two red holes in his side.