Sunday, September 21, 2008


I've had a long standing project in the back of my mind to translate Cyrano de Bergerac into English in heroic couplets. I took a first swing at it yesterday, starting at the end, and so:
Que dites-vous? C'est inutile? Je le sais!
Mais on ne se bat pas dans l'espoir du succès!
Non! non! C'est bien plus beau lorsque c'est inutile!
Qu'est-ce que c'est tous ceux-là? Vous êtes mille?
Ah je vous reconnais, tous mes vieux ennemis!
Le Mensonge? Tiens, tiens! Ha! Ha! Les Compromis!
Les Préjugés, les Lâchetés! Que je pactise?
Jamais, jamais! Ah! te voilà, toi, la Sottise!
Je sais bien qu'à la fin vous me mettrez à bas;
N'importe: je me bats ! je me bats ! je me bats!
Oui, vous m'arrachez tout, le laurier et la rose!
Arrachez ! Il y a malgré vous quelque chose
Que j'emporte, et ce soir, quand j'entrerai chez Dieu,
Mon salut balaiera largement le seuil bleu,
Quelque chose que sans un pli, sans une tache,
J'emporte malgré vous, et c'est. . . mon panache.
What now? It is not practical I know.
To cast a loaded dice for one more throw.
No, no; a beautiful, a hopeless stand
What is this horde? I shall not stay my hand.
I know you now, old foes, old enemies!
Dissembling, Prejudice and Treacheries!
Deception! Here's my sword's point, ask no truce.
I fight and will die fighting. No excuse.
Take what you will, you send me to repose.
Am I the prize, the laurel and the rose?
You've done your worst and yet I still retain,
Respect you cannot strip me of or stain.
And when I leave tonight to meet my Lord
May heaven's azure vault be my reward.
All I leave behind on earth is ash.
Despite you all I kept, and keep still my .... panache!
It was an interesting exercise. Google language tools did the grunt work on a literal translation but I had to loosen it up quite a bit to render 12 syllable French lines into rhyming iambic pentameter, including nicking a line from Joan Armatrading as I don't know what "the laurel and the rose" signifies.

I finish with an alexandrine to doff my cap to the original.

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