Academic journal article Journal of European Studies

Three English Versions of Jules Laforgue's 'Pierrots' No. 1 (from 'L'Imitation De Notre-Dame la Lune')

Academic journal article Journal of European Studies

Three English Versions of Jules Laforgue's 'Pierrots' No. 1 (from 'L'Imitation De Notre-Dame la Lune')

Article excerpt

C'est, sur un cou qui, raide, emerge

D'une fraise empesee idem,

Une face imberbe au cold-cream,

Un air d'hydrocephale asperge.

Les yeux sont noyes de I'opium

De I'indulgence universelle,

La bouche clownesque ensorcele

Comme un singulier geranium.

Bouche qui va du trou sans bonde

Glacialement desopile,

Au transcendental en-alle

Du souris vain de la Joconde.

Campant leur cone enfarine

Sur le noir serre-tete en soie,

Ils font rire leur patte d'oie

Et froncent en trefle leur nez.

Ils ont comme chaton de bague

Le scarabee egyptien,

A leur boutonniere fait bien

Le pissenlit des terrains vagues.

Ils vont, se sustentant d'azur,

Et parfois aussi de legumes,

De riz plus blanc que leur costume,

De mandarines et d'oeufs durs.

Ils sont de la secte du Bleme,

Ils n'ont rien a voir avec Dieu,

Et sifflent: "Tout est pour le mieux

Dans la meilleur' des mi-careme!"

There, on a neck emerging, spare,

Out of a ruff that's starched idem,

A face with cold-cream bearded hem --

A hydrocephalic beanpole's air.

The eyes are drowned in the opium

Of universal licence granted,

The clownish mouth holds all enchanted,

Just like a singular geranium.

Mouth that goes from bottomless pit,

Icily screaming out its laughter,

To the transcendental gone, after

That vain smile, Mona Lisa's bit.

Sticking their cone, all floured white,

On a black silk pirate's scarf,

They're going to make their crow's-feet laugh

And pucker up their noses tight.

As stones set in their rings they found

The scarabs that Egyptians loved,

In well-made button-holes they've shoved

The dandelions of waste ground.

Living on air, they taste their legs

And vegetables once or twice,

And white, just like their costumes, rice,

And mandarins and hard-boiled eggs.

They're of the Sect Cadaveral,

They have no truck with God in this.

"Everything's for the best", they hiss,

"In the best mid-Lenten carnival."


It's, on a stiff neck emerging thus

From similarly starched lace,

A callow under cold-cream face

Like hydrocephalic asparagus.

The eyes are drowned in opium

Of universal clemency,

The mouth of a clown bewitches

Like a peculiar geranium.

A mouth which goes from an unplugged hole

Of refrigerated levity,

To that winged transcendental aisle

And vain, the Gioconda's smile.

Flour-sprinkled, a cone reposes

On their headband of black silk,

They make their crow's-feet giggle,

Indenting to trefoils their noses.

For settings their finger rings possess

Rampant Egyptian scarabs,

Their buttonholes accommodate

Dandelions of the wilderness.

Pierrots feed on the absolute,

And sometimes on vegetables too,

On rice whiter than their costume,

On hard-boiled eggs and fruit.

They are the Pallid Regiment,

They have nothing to do with God;

And whistle "All is for the best

At this best of carnivals in Lent'"


Upon a neck stiff as sarcophagus

from a ditto boardstiff ruff doth stem

a prepilose fizzogue in cold cream

like hydrocephalic asparagus.

The eyes full fathom five with opiates

of universal suffrance (see 'em?);

and like a singular geranium

a Yorickalcomical gob fascinates,

a mouth that comes up from the hole unbunged

with all the cheer of some icecold punch

to the transcendental gonetolunch

of the hollow smile of lil Ms Jocond. …

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