Quivering Craziness

Robert Bly published ten of his translations from Francis Ponge and ten of his own poems inspired by Ponge. Let’s take a look a single phrase.

Les papillons miteux […] tous frémissent aux bords d’une frénésie voisine de la stupeur.

There is quite a challenge here with the alliteration. Bly preserves the rolling “r”.

The seedy moths […] they all tremble on the brink of a mania close to stupor.

Bly giving “mania” where one might expect “frenzy” but it is his “tremble” that sent me to Google’s on line translation tool where I found the following list of English renderings of the verb “frémir”.

go crazy

And so I am led to “all crazed, they quiver on the brink of stupifaction.”

Where the French would put the frenzy and the stupor in neighbourly proximity, the English seems to call for a causal relation — one leading to the other. In any event, without Bly there would be no attention to the tension generated by the alliterative use of the fricatives.

And so for day 1172

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