London, Translation of Paul Verlaine’s poem : Londres
…a serious and well-behaved Englishman, well-attired, handsome clothes (Victor Hugo)
(In this poem, I didn’t feel adhering strictly to the rhyme scheme would have served a higher purpose. T. Wignesan)
One summer Sunday when everything’s bathed in sunshine
London turns into a real feast for délicate souls tuned in :
Trees strong and rotund from frail lawns sprouting
Tender green, an air far from mists and gases grows fine.
So much so they appear to be planted in pastoral country
Limpid sunshine feathery in the fine sky, though blue-ish
Hardly. One feels as if in a bath where wafts
The perfume of a lingering infusion of tea.
Ten-thirty, the hour of interminable services
Divine. Thousands of melodious bells toll through the air
Sonorous and volatile as though seized by strange caprices,
The psalms of David come snorting through clear fog.
Such silvery tintinnabulation that one hears not in France,
The country of intensely tolling bells of bitter bronze
Strike up a concert that’s most sweet, instilling of hope and joyous
Though perhaps a little too sweet, one must there fear Hell.
Tolling bells again greet the afternoon. Men in queues
Well-dressed women and children glide rather
Than walk, hold to their silence in a selfish manner
With their voices reserved instead for exclaiming amen.
All this people look pleased in their stiffening posture
Clasping, even if mistakenly, to their profession of faith
And their Protestantism being alike rough and spineless
Makes some look even set right above the reach of the law.
Hopes of the true christian, Peter’s ever-widening fish-pond,
Fish ready for the Fisher who may count on catching them ;
Holy-Ghost, God Almighty, let pour Thy light on them
So that Jesus’ worth they might at last come to understand.
Six o’clock. The drinkers find their way to the refreshment room,
The family its «home » and the street’s abandoned to God :
And in the dirty-looking sky a few stars look quite lonesome
Foreshadowing rain over homeless beggars out in the cold.
© T. Wignesan – Paris, 2013