Archive for Translation

Calypso’s Cave

Posted in Greece, Painting, Poetry with tags , , , , , on September 16, 2015 by Dylan Thomas Hayden
Jan Brueghel the Elder, Odysseus and Calypso in the Caves of Ogygia, 1616

“Large was the grot, in which the nymph he found
(The fair-hair’d nymph with every beauty crown’d).
The cave was brighten’d with a rising blaze;
Cedar and frankincense, an odorous pile,
Flamed on the hearth, and wide perfumed the isle;
While she with work and song the time divides,
And through the loom the golden shuttle guides.
Without the grot a various sylvan scene
Appear’d around, and groves of living green;
Poplars and alders ever quivering play’d,
And nodding cypress form’d a fragrant shade:
On whose high branches, waving with the storm,
The birds of broadest wing their mansions form,—
The chough, the sea-mew, the loquacious crow,—
and scream aloft, and skim the deeps below.
Depending vines the shelving cavern screen.
With purple clusters blushing through the green.
Four limped fountains from the clefts distil:
And every fountain pours a several rill,
In mazy windings wandering down the hill:
Where bloomy meads with vivid greens were crown’d,
And glowing violets threw odours round.
A scene, where, if a god should cast his sight,
A god might gaze, and wander with delight!”

–Homer, Odyssey Book V, translated by Alexander Pope, 1725-26

“But when he had now reached that far-off isle, he went forth from the sea of violet blue to get him up into the land, till he came to a great cave, wherein dwelt the nymph of the braided tresses: and he found her within. And on the hearth there was a great fire burning, and from afar through the isle was smelt the fragrance of cleft cedar blazing, and of sandal wood. And the nymph within was singing with a sweet voice as she fared to and fro before the loom, and wove with a shuttle of gold. And round about the cave there was a wood blossoming, alder and poplar and sweet-smelling cypress. And therein roosted birds long of wing, owls and falcons and chattering sea-crows, which have their business in the waters. And lo, there about the hollow cave trailed a gadding garden vine, all rich with clusters. And fountains four set orderly were running with clear water, hard by one another, turned each to his own course. And all around soft meadows bloomed of violets and parsley, yea, even a deathless god who came thither might wonder at the sight and be glad at heart.”

–The same passage translated by Samuel Henry Butcher and Andrew Lang, 1879

“Who has not heard of Calypso? her grove crowned with alders and poplars; her grotto, against which the luxuriant vine laid forth his purple grapes; her ever new delights, crystal fountains, running brooks, meadows flowering with sweet balm—gentle and with violet; blue violets which like veins enamelled the smooth breasts of each fragrant mead! It were useless to describe over again what has been so well told already;”

And paraphrased in The Adventures of Ulysses by Charles Lamb, 1808

Kurdish Fragment

Posted in Dylan Thomas Hayden, Original, Photo, Poetry with tags , , on September 25, 2014 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

Looking yesterday at these images of Syrian Kurds attempting to flee the ongoing catastrophe in that country I recalled the late Christopher Hitchens’ advocacy of Kurdish liberty. As he never tired of repeating, the Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world to have no state of their own. I also remembered an anonymous fragment of Kurdish poetry that I translated many years ago, via an Italian intermediary. Apart from its approximate age I have no further details of the poem nor of its Italian translator. It was written in the 7th or 8th century and shows that persecution is far from being a new experience for the Kurdish people.

The places of prayer are destroyed
The fires spent
The greatest men hidden
Cruel Arabs raze
the peasant villages as far as Sharazar
Enslaved are wives and daughters
Brave men are rolled in blood
The rites of Zarathustra are no more
The Wise Lord has no pity on us

La Bonne Heure II

Posted in Dylan Thomas Hayden, Poetry with tags , on July 13, 2014 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

the ruined fruits
the ragged walls
the dead snow
the sullied hours
the locked steps
have broken the streets
the shame of living
floods my eyes

the lightless homes
the toothless laugh
the crushed squares
the harried old age
profiled in the hearth
all the misery
to walk over
disemboweled horses
in the arena of heads
the stolen shutters
the open houses
the children outside
words of straw
the only truth

empty mattress
for no sleep
neither laughter nor dream
cold in the gut
iron in the snow
burning in the throat

what have you done what have you done
with the warm hands of tenderness
have you lost the sky
in the head by the world
in the stone in the wind
friendship and the smile
like stray dogs
like dogs

–Tristan Tzara, trans. DTH

Listening to Shells

Posted in Dylan Thomas Hayden, Original, Poetry, Surrealism with tags , , on May 20, 2010 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

I had not begun to see you you were AUBE

Nothing was unveiled
All the boats rocked at the shore
Unknotting the favours (you know) of these pink and white boxes of sweets between which a silver shuttle runs
And trembling I named you Aube

Ten years after
I find you again in the tropical flower
A single snow crystal that overflowed the cup of your two hands
In Martinique they call it the fleur du bal
She and you share the mystery of existence
The first grain of dew far ahead of all the others madly iridescent containing all

I see what is forever hidden from me
When you sleep in the clearing of your arm beneath the butterflies of your hair
And when you are reborn from the phoenix of your spring
In the mint of memory
Of the enigmatic moiré of the likeness in a bottomless mirror
Pulling the pin of that which one will see only once

In my heart all the wings of the milkweed
Lease what you tell me

You wear a summer dress unknown to yourself
It is constellated in every sense with horseshoe magnets of a handsome lead red with blue feet

Sur mer, 1946

–André Breton, translation DTH

La revue Dada 2

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on May 2, 2010 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

pour Marcel Janco

Five black girls in a car
exploded following the five directions of my digits
when i put hand to breast to pray God [sometimes]
around my head there is the humid light of the old
     lunar birds
the saints’ green halo around cerebral evasions
that one sees now bursting in bombs

there’s a young man who eats his lungs
then he has diarrhea
then he lets a luminous fart
like the returning birds a poem sings
like death gushes from cannons
he let a fart so luminous that the house became midnight
the great sailboat opened its book like an angel though
     it was planned

     your leaves, spring, like a fine page of
zoumbaï zoumbaï zoumbaï di
your outline in my intestines has eaten good and evil
above all evil like a general’s joy
for since I am afraid the rats gnaw the church without a servant I have
     carried the draperies and on each one there was our Lord
     and on each lord there was my heart
my heart I gave for a drink heehee

–Tristan Tzara, translation by DTH

Xénophiles 2

Posted in Poetry, Surrealism with tags , on April 7, 2010 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

The remaining “Oceanic” poems from Breton’s Xénophiles


I love you in the face of seas
Red like the egg when it is green
You move me to a clearing
Soft to touch as a quail
You press me to a woman’s belly
As against an olive tree of pearl
You give me balance
You lay me down
By the fact of having lived
Before and after
Under my rubber eyelids


How beautiful the world
Greece has never existed
They shall not pass
My horse finds his ration in the crater
Some men-birds some arched swimmers
Flew about my head for
It is also me
Who am there
Three quarters buried
Jesting at ethnologists
In the friendly Southern night
They shall not pass
The plain is immense
Those who advance are ridiculous
The high images have fallen


Posted in Object, Poetry, Surrealism with tags , on February 25, 2010 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

Three rude and hasty translations of poems from André Breton’s collection Xénophiles. These poems were clearly inspired by the New Guinean sculpture which held a life-long fascination for Breton. I have tried to reunite the poems with their sources. The Korwar sculpture pictured may well be the one the poet saw, as it resides in the Louvre and fits the poem well. Breton owned a fine example of an Uli, or memorial figure but the available photographs of it are of rather poor quality. Dukduk was a secret society among the Tolai people of Papua New Guinea. Its members extorted money, particularly from women, disguised as spirit beings in a costume of leaves and a conical mask.


You hold like no other
You were taken as if you were leaving life
To re-enter it
I don’t know if it is in one sense or the other that
you shake the park railing
You have raised again the serpentine grass against your heart
And forever fastened the birds of paradise from the raucous sky
Your glance is extra-lucid
You are seated
And we also are seated
The skull again for some days
All our acts are before us
At arm’s length
In the tendril of the vine of our little ones
To us you yawn it beautifully over existentialism
You are not bitten by worms


For sure you are a great god
I have seen you with my eyes like no other
You are still covered in earth and blood you have just
You are an old peasant who knows nothing
To get well you have eaten like a pig
You are covered with spots of man
One sees that you have stuffed yourself to the ears
You listen no more
You eye us from the bottom of a seashell
Your creation tells you hands up and still you threaten
You frighten you astonish


Blood makes only one turn
When the dukduk deploys on the Gazelle Peninsula
And only the jungle opens a little on a hundred rising suns
That scatter in flamingos
Like a locomotive of nude women
At the exit of a tunnel of sobs
Up there cone

Poems by André Breton, 1948
Translations by DTH, 2010
More on Breton and Korwar sculpture