Prison Souvenirs, Translation of Paul Verlaine’s poem : Souvenirs de prison, March 1874*
(Verlaine was sentenced to serve a term of two years in prison for having shot his erstwhile lover in the arm/hand, the legendary poet Arthur Rimbaud, ten years his junior, on July 9th or 10th, 1873, in Bruxelles ; yet he was deeply in love with his wife : Mathilde, left to nurse his son in Paris. He was also sentenced to a month in prison in 1885, following a complaint by his mother and another Dave, for drunkenness. Cf. Yves-Alain Favre, Ed. Paul Verlaine : Œuvres Poétiques Complètes. Paris : Robert Laffont, 1992.)
About a year now and more, I haven’t seen the butt-end
Of a newspaper. « Could the « Blue Library » be
Sometimes I tell myself, despite myself : « Would you
have believed it ? »
Oh ! Well ! One can’t die for the lack of it. First of all,
it’s undigestible a bit,
A little bit too insipid, the experienced eye gets angry.
But the spirit ! Since it laughs and triumphs, lets it be !
And then again, it’s a patriotic pleasure, besides being
Not to want to know anything of this century turned
And not to continue to watch during this last spate of
This abominable agony which plagues La France.
• There’s a reference to Verlaine’s letter to Lepelletier, dated August 22, 1874, and poems titled : Vieux Coppées.
© T. Wignesan – Paris, 2013