the woman poet

Je me suis toujours plu à chercher dans la nature extérieure et visible des exemples et des métaphores qui me servissent à caractériser les jouissances et les impressions d’un ordre spirituel. Je rêve à ce que me faisait éprouver la poésie de Mme Valmore quand je la parcourus avec ces yeux de l’adolescence qui sont, chez les hommes nerveux, à la fois si ardents et si clairvoyants. Cette poésie m’apparaît comme un jardin ; mais ce n’est pas la solennité grandiose de Versailles ; ce n’est pas non plus le pittoresque vaste et théâtral de la savante Italie, qui connaît si bien l’art d’édifier des jardins (aedificat hortos) ; pas même, non, pas même la Vallée des Flûtes ou le Ténare de notre vieux Jean-Paul. C’est un simple jardin anglais, romantique et romanesque. Des massifs de fleurs y représentent les abondantes expressions du sentiment. Des étangs, limpides et immobiles, qui réfléchissent toutes choses s’appuyant à l’envers sur la voûte renversée des cieux, figurent la profonde résignation toute parsemée de souvenirs. Rien ne manque à ce charmant jardin d’un autre âge, ni quelques ruines gothiques se cachant dans un lieu agreste, ni le mausolée inconnu qui, au détour d’une allée, surprend notre âme et lui recommande de penser à l’éternité. Des allées sinueuses et ombragées aboutissent à des horizons subits. Ainsi la pensée du poète, après avoir suivi de capricieux méandres, débouche sur les vastes perspectives du passé ou de l’avenir ; mais ces ciels sont trop vastes pour être généralement purs, et la température du climat trop chaude pour n’y pas amasser des orages. Le promeneur, en contemplant ces étendues voilées de deuil, sent monter à ses yeux les pleurs de l’hystérie, hysterical tears. Les fleurs se penchent vaincues, et les oiseaux ne parlent qu’à voix basse. Après un éclair précurseur, un coup de tonnerre a retenti : c’est l’explosion lyrique ; enfin un déluge inévitable de larmes rend à toutes ces choses, prostrées, souffrantes et découragées, la fraîcheur et la solidité d’une nouvelle jeunesse !
― Charles Baudelaire, Sur mes contemporains : M. Desbordes-Valmore, OC II, pp. 148-149
I always took pleasure in seeking in external and visible nature, examples and metaphors that helped me to characterize the pleasures and the impressions of a spiritual order. I dream of that, which the poetry of Mme Valmore made me feel when I traversed it with these eyes of adolescence that are, in nervous men, at once so ardent and so clear-sighted. This poetry presents itself to me as a garden; but it is not the imposing solemnity of Versailles; neither is it the vast and theatrical picturesque of learned Italy, who knows so well the art of edifying gardens (aedificat hortos); not even, not, not even the Valley of the Flutes or Tænarum of good old Jean-Paul. It is a simple English garden, romantic and novelistic. Flowerbeds represent therein the abundant expressions of sentiment. Ponds, limpid and motionless, which reflect all things resting upon the overturned vault of the skies, represent deep resignation all strewn with memories. Nothing is lacking in this charming garden of a past age, neither some Gothic ruins hiding in a rural spot, nor the unknown mausoleum that, at the turning of a pathway, surprises your soul and instructs it to think of eternity. Sinuous and shaded pathways end in sudden horizons. Thus the poet’s thought, having followed capricious meanders, emerges into vast perspectives of the past or the future; but these skies are too vast to be completely unclouded, and the temperature of those climes too warm to forestall the buildup of storms. The stroller, in contemplating these expanses veiled in mourning, feels his eyes well up with the tears of hysteria, hysterical tears. The flowers lean over in defeat, and the birds speak only in low voice. After a precursory flash, a thunderclap resounded: it is the lyric explosion; at last an inevitable flood of tears returns to all these prostrate, suffering, and discouraged things, the freshness and the solidity of a new youth!
― translated by MZ


Portrait de Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, par Nadar

5 thoughts on “the woman poet”

  1. I just “added” you. You don’t have to “add” me back if you don’t wanna. I can be erratic and tedious, and my tastes veer toward the infantile. But your poems amuse me and I can’t read French or Russian so it’s nice to have someone translate them. Besides, anyone in L.A. who cares about Peter Cook and Baudelaire is worth a few of my minutes, I’m guessing.

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