Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh, how I love the Clouds

The following poem, which in reality is a prose poem, played a crucial role in my life: it was the origin of a chain of important events.

The first time I read it (I was about 13 or 14) I was so impressed that I decided I had to learn French, at any costs, in order to enjoy the original of such a marvel (by the way, in a future post, I will discuss my belief that poetry is radically untranslatable). From learning the language I went on marrying a French woman, living some years in Paris, graduating in French...

I fully identify myself with the "stranger"' for his love of clouds, which offer a show "for ever new", for ever changing.
If you take the time to watch the clouds intensely, you will perceive innumerable forms and you will realize also that they are not simply white or grey but they show an infinite range of hues and nuances.

But, let us to the poem:

- Qui aimes-tu le mieux, homme énigmatique, dis ? ton père, ta mère, ta sœur ou ton frère ?
- Je n’ai ni père, ni mère, ni sœur, ni frère.
- Tes amis ?
- Vous vous servez là d’une parole dont le sens m’est resté jusqu’à ce jour inconnu.
- Ta patrie ?
- J’ignore sous quelle latitude elle est située.
- La beauté ?
- Je l’aimerais volontiers, déesse et immortelle.
- L’or ?
- Je le hais comme vous haïssez Dieu.
- Eh ! qu’aimes-tu donc, extraordinaire étranger ?
- J’aime les nuages... les nuages qui passent... là-bas... là-bas... les merveilleux nuages !

From Le Spleen de Paris by Charles Baudelaire


- Who do you love the best, - tell me oh enigmatic man - your father, your mother, your sister or your brother?
- I have neither father, nor mother, nor sister nor brother.
- Your friends?
- There, you are using a word whose meaning, so far, has remained unknown to me.
- Your fatherland?
- I don't know at what latitude is situated.
- Beauty?
- I would eagerly love her, goddess and immortal.
- Gold?
- I hate it as you hate God.
- Eh! What do you love then, amazing stranger?
- I love the clouds...the clouds passing...yonder...yonder...the wonderful clouds!

Listen to L'étranger

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