Monday, December 8, 2008


It's been said that Dante Gabriel Rossetti was sent to earth to translate Dante Alighieri, and, had he lived longer than his lot allocated for him, he would've gotten past the New Life to give English the greatest Comedy it could have hoped for.

It's likely that gravity is a thing we get only with age. Presumably, the sun is elder to its circling spheres. Rossetti was just old enough to get the feeling of the New Life, but sometimes I think he'd have botched the Comedy had he approached it. I think him just shy of the gravity for Villon

He was half-sent to Earth to translate Dante, and half-trained from infancy by his father for that task; Villon, to him, would've seemed a beast. Rossetti was quite outside his orbit

In any manner, every first snow of the Winter, I'm reminded of this poem, in Rossetti's English, but I remember it differently. 'But where...' strikes me overly plaintive; I think it better as 'and where...' Additionally the 'but' throws a harsh 'b' in there that the 'and' doesn't, plus the 'and' keeps the sound above the surface. Another pad on that pool that I've inserted is the 'all' in that line

Villon was a criminal. He had no time for plaintive bemusings. I've made a few other improvements. This is the poem for snowfalls


François Villon (1431-1489)

TELL me now in what hidden way is
Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
Where's Hipparchia, and where Thais,
Neither of them the fairer woman?
Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
Only heard on river and mere,--
She whose beauty was more than human? . . .
AND where are all the snows of yester-year?

Where's Héloise, the learned nun,
For whose sake Abeillard, I ween,
Lost manhood and put priesthood on?
(From Love he won such dule and teen!)
And where, I pray you, is the Queen
Who willed that Buridan should steer
Sewed in a sack's mouth down the Seine? . . .
AND where are all the snows of yester-year?

White Queen Blanche, like a queen of lily,
With a voice like any mermaiden,--
Bertha Broadfoot, Beatrice, Aly,
And Ermengarde the lady of Maine,--
And that good Joan whom Englishmen
At Rouen doomed and burned,--
Mother of God, where are they then? . . .
AND where are all the snows of yester-year?

Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
Save with this much for an overword,--
AND where are all the snows of yester-year?

1 comment:

winski said...

For all snowfalls, perhaps, but more likely, snowfalls bereft of my presence.

I like it when you talk poems.