With his Stéphane Mallarmé: Collected Poems (California, 1994, 1996), Henry Weinfield set a new standard and an extraordinarily high bar for the translation into English of complex and abstract French poetry. The lovely Chimères by Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855), musical and mystical jewels and among the most refined and rarified verse pieces in French poetry, present a daunting challenge to the reader and a formidable challenge to the translator. As a writer himself of refined and elegant verse poetry, a critic and scholar of French literature and of Western literature in general, Weinfield brings to bear, in this undertaking, the indispensable constellation of art, skill, and knowledge, and the resulting translations capture fully the evocative power and mystical beauty of Nerval’s poems. This is both an impressive accomplishment and a tremendous service to the Anglophone reader. —Alain Toumayan
Reading Les Chimères we feel Christianity almost tearing itself apart. Gérard de Nerval shows us the religion in crisis; he also opens a path beyond it, one that Rimbaud, George and Rilke were all to take. Henry Weinfield gives us these daring poems as freshly and as fitly as it is possible to imagine them in English. —Kevin Hart
I am the dark, the bereaved, disconsolate knight,
The prince of Aquitaine of the ruined tower:
My sole star is dead, and my guitar
Has the Black Sun of Melancholy etched on it.
You who consoled me in the tomb’s dark night,
Give back Posilipo and the Italian shore,
That which so pleased my wasted heart, the flower,
And the trellis, where grape-vine and rose unite.
Am I Lusignan, Biron? . . . Phoebus or Amor?
From the kiss of the queen my forehead still burns.
I’ve dreamt in the grotto where Sirens swim,
And twice as a victor crossed Acheron’s stream:
Tuning on Orpheus’ lyre by turns
The sighs of the saint and the fairy’s clamor.
HENRY WEINFIELD’s previous verse-translations include versions of the Collected Poems of Stéphane Mallarmé (1994; 1996) and Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days (2006; done in collaboration with Catherine Schlegel). In 2018 he received an NEA fellowship to complete a translation of the selected sonnets and other poems of the sixteenth-century French poet, Pierre de Ronsard. His most recent collections of poetry are Without Mythologies: New and Selected Poems and Translations (2008) and A Wandering Aramaean: Passover Poems and Translations (2012)—both with Dos Madres. His literary studies include The Poet without a Name: Gray’s Elegy and the Problem of History (1991), The Music of Thought in the Poetry of George Oppen and William Bronk (2009), and The Blank-Verse Tradition from Milton to Stevens: Freethinking and the Crisis of Modernity (2012). He is the editor of From the Vast and Versal Lexicon: Selected Poems by Allen Mandelbaum (2018). He taught at the University of Notre Dame from 1991 to 2019.
DOUGLAS KINSEY, the noted painter and print maker, has had more than 80 one-man shows, including at galleries in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, and Houston, and in England, Japan, and Sweden. He has illustrated more than 20 books, including by such poets as Barry Goldensohn, John Matthias, Ernest Sandeen, and Henry Weinfield. He taught at the University of Notre Dame from 1968 to 1999.