TRANSLATION -Selected Poetry from the Old French, Occitan, and Langue d’Oc

Translated by Uche Ogbuji

Arlesian Venus

translation from Occitan of “La Venus d’Arle” by Théodore Aubanel

You’re lovely O Venus of Arles, fount of folly!
Your head proud and suave, tenderly bowed at collar.
Breathing forth kisses, breathing forth mirth,
What message for us in your fresh, florid mouth?
Love locks, bound gracefully with a ribbon,
Your long hair on forehead in petite wavy bangs.
O white Venus of Arles, O Provençal queen!
No concealing mantle, your superb shoulders plain;
Seen as goddess and daughter of blue sky;
Your fine bosom fixes us, and the eye
Full of indulgence sublimes with pleasure before
Young swells of apples of your breasts, so round, so pure.
How lovely you are!… Come people, come suckle sweet
Love and beauty at her gorgeous, twin teats.
O without beauty what would become of the world?
Shine, all that is fine, all things ugly obscured!
Show us your naked arms, bare breasts, bare loins!
Show yourself off fully nude, O Venus divine!
Beauty dresses you better than your white gown;
Let fall to your feet your hip-fastened dress
That veils your own greater loveliness;
Abandon your belly to kiss of the sun!
Like ivy that laces bark of tree trunks
Let me fully seize your marble in my embrace;
Let my eager mouth and trembling fingers race
Amorously over all your white body in pursuit!
O sweet Venus of Arles, O sprite of youth!
It’s your pulchritude lights all Provence,
Makes our girls pretty, straps our boys potence;
Beneath this bronzed flesh, O Venus, your blood,
Always lively, ever hot. And our young girls heads up
See why they go forth with uncovered breasts;
And our carefree lads, see source of their strength
In the bullfights, in love and in death
See why I love you—and your beauty is my hex—
And why Christian as I am, I sing you thus, O grand paean!

 

La Venus d’Arle

Siás bèla, ò Venús d’Arle, a faire venir fòu!
Ta tèsta es fiera e doça, e tendrament ton còu
Se clina. Respirant li potons e lo rire
Ta fresca boca en flor de qu’es que vai nos dire?
Lis Amors, d’una veta, emé gràcia an nosat
Ti lòng peus sus ton frònt pèr ondadas frisat.

Ò blanca Venús d’Arle, ò rèina provençala,
Ges de mantèu n’escond ti supèrbis espatlas
Se vei que siás divessa e filha dau cèu blu;
Ton bèu pitre nos bada, e l’uelh plen de belucs
S’espanta de plesir davant la joina autura
Di pomas de ton sen tan redona’ e tan puras.
Que siás bèla! Venètz, pòbles, venètz tetar
A si bèu sens bessons l’amor e la beutat.
Ò! Sensa la beutat de qué seriá lo monde?
Luse tot çò qu’es bèu, tot çò qu’es laid s’esconde!
Fai veire ti braç nus, ton sen nus, ti flanc nus;
Mòstra te tota nusa, ò divina Venús!
La beutat te vestís mielhs que ta rauba blanca;
Laissa ti pè tombar la rauba qu’a tis ancas
S’envertolha, mudant tot çò qu’as de pus bèu:
Abandona ton vèntre i potons dau solèu!
Coma l’èurre s’aganta a la rusca d’un aubre
Laissa dins mi braçada’ estrénhe’ en plen ton maubre;
Laissa ma boca ardènta e mi dets tremolants
Córre’ amorós pertot sus ton cadavre blanc!
O doça Venús d’Arle: ò fada de jovença!
Ta beutat que clareja en tota la Provènça
Fai bèlas nòstri filha’ e nòstri dròlles sans;
Sota aquela carn bruna, ò Venús, i a ton sang,
Sempre viu, sempre caud. E nòstri chata’ alèrtas
Vaquí perqué se’n van la peitrina dubèrta;
E nòstri gais jovènts vaquí perqué son fòrts
I luchas de l’amor, di braus e de la mòrt;
E vaquí perqué t’ame – e ta beutat m’engana, –
E vaquí perqué, ieu crestian, te cante, ò grand pagana!

 

Listen to Uche Ogbuji read from La Venus d’Arle, first in the original Occitan, then his English translation:

 

 

Canso

from the Langue d’Oc of Guilhem de Poitiers

Out of the new season’s smooth sweets
Trees break into leaves, birds into song,
Each in its own odd tongue of tweets,
In verse which uniquely trips along;
So each man must take his own ease
With whose attentions dearly please.

It’s nicer, lovelier over there
From where I’ve seen nor message nor sign,
So mirthless and sleepless I dare
Not set forth beyond this line,
Such dilemma! Too well I know
That I myself demanded it so!

And just so with our love it goes:
When a branch on the hawthorn tree,
Shivering from overnight snows,
From frosting over all its greenery
Until at last, the new day begun,
That branch, those leaves glow, blasted by sun.

That morn springs back to my recall,
We acted out the war’s surcease;
Such a great gift made me withal,
Her love and her ring sealed our peace.
God grant me life enough by his plans
To part her coat once more with my hands.

I care not what they say elsewhere
That I should shun my “Dear Neighbor”;
Of these vain words I’m quite aware
And which sermons they belabor…
What love their idle boasts pretend
Is our actual fare and dividend.

 

Canso

Ab la dolchor del temps novel
Foillo li bosc, e li aucel
Chanton, chascus en lor lati
Segon lo vers del novel chan;
Adonc esta ben c’om s’aisi
D’acho don hom a plus talan.

De lai don plus m’es bon e bel
Non vei messager ni sagel,
Per que mos cors non dorm ni ri,
Ni no m’aus traire adenan
Tro que eu sacha ben de fi
S’el’ es aissi com eu deman.

La nostr’amor vai enaissi
Com la branca de l’albespi
Qu’esta sobre l’arbre treman,
La nuoit, a la ploja ez al gel,
Tro l’endeman, que-l sols s’espan
Pel la fueillas verz e-l ramel.

Equer me membra d’un maiti
Que nos fezem de guerra fi,
E que-m donet un don tan gran,
Sa drudari’e son anel:
Equer me lais Dieus viure tan
C’aja mas manz soz so mantel.

Qu’eu non ai soing d’estraing lati
Que-m parta de mon Bon Vezi;
Qu’eu sai de paraulas com van,
Ab un breu sermon que s’espel,
Que tal se van d’amor gaban,
Nos n’avem la pessa e-l coutel.

 

 

Round XI

translation from French of Rondeau/Chanczon XI by Alain Chartier

Out! Out! You must be prised right out
Joyless desire and love’s conceit!
You’ve cranked at my heart such a treat,
Nothing’s left there for your grubby onslaught.

Now for my own good might I forget about,
Shrug off this tenant of my very suite.
Out! Out! You must be prised right out!

I took you in without sufficient thought.
Get out! Go find yourself another beat!
Don’t so much as skirt my heart’s remotest street!
Too long cowed I’ve dwelt, under your harsh, grim clout.
Out! Out! You must be prised right out!

 

Rondeau/Chanczon XI,

Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier
Desir sans joye et pensee d’amours!
Tant aves fait en mon cuer de voz tours
Qu’il n’y a plus pour vous que fourragier.
Nonchaloir vueil desormais hebergier
Avec oubly pour moy donner secours.
Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier!
Je vous receu ung pou trop de legier.
Departez vous! Allez logier aillours!
N’aprochez plus de mon cuer les faulxbours!
Trop ay vescu soubz vostre dur dangier.
Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier!

 

 

Uche Ogbuji (@uogbuji) was born in Calabar, Nigeria. He lived, among other places, in Egypt and England before settling near Boulder, Colorado. A computer engineer and entrepreneur by trade, his collection of poetry, Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich press, 2013) is a Colorado Book Award Winner. His poems, fusing Igbo culture, European Classicism, U.S. Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop influences, have appeared worldwide. He is editor at Kin Poetry Journal, founding and former editor at The Nervous Breakdown, and runs the @ColoradoPoetry Twitter project. He is also a founding member of the Stanza Massive, a small, DIY-minded group promoting poetry, collaboration and multimedia.

Featured image by Kenny Ong.

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