Guillaume Apollinaire: The Mirabeau Bridge (From French)

This poem functions as a touching record of the end of Apollinaire's long love affair with Marie Laurencin, as Apollinaire himself wrote in a letter to Madeleine Pagès: "Le Pont Mirabeau est...la chanson triste de cette longue liaison brisée..."
The familiar lyrical themes of time's passage and the end of love are linked symbolically with the river's flow in a confessional poem whose self-revelation is masked under the merest hint of irony and philosophical generalization. The unstoppable movement of events passing by the man fixed in his unhappiness is brilliantly conveyed by the refrain, as well as the structure of the poem whose first line is also its last, whose beginning is also its end.
The development of the poem's typographical presentation between its appearance in Les Soirées de Paris and in the Les Alcools sheds light on Apollinaire's concern with the visual display of poetry. Lines 2 and 3 of each stanza originally in the printed version formed one line, giving a stanza of three monorhyme lines. The breaking up of the single line into two lines of unequal length gives a more interesting visual pattern. The removal of all punctuation also gives a more fluid and ambiguous flavor to the poem.

The Mirabeau Bridge
By Guillaume Apollinaire
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click here to hear me recite the original

Below the Mirabeau bridge there flows the Seine
As for our love
Must I recall how then
After each sorrow joy would come again

Let night come toll hours away
Days go by me here I stay

Let us stay hand in hand face to face
While down below
The bridge of our embrace
Roll the waves weary of our endless gaze

Let night come toll hours away
Days go by me here I stay

Love goes away the way the waters flow
Love goes away
How life is long and slow
How hope of life can deal so strong a blow

Let night come toll hours away
Days go by me here I stay

The days the weeks are passing from our ken
Neither time passed
Nor love can come again
Below the Mirabeau bridge there flows the Seine

Let night come toll hours away
Days go by me here I stay


The Original:

Le Pont Mirabeau

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
Et nos amours
Faut-il qu'il m'en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine

Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure

Les mains dans les mains restons face à face
Tandis que sous
Le pont de nos bras passe
Des éternels regards l'onde si lasse

Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure

L'amour s'en va comme cette eau courante
L'amour s'en va
Comme la vie est lente
Et comme l'Espérance est violente

Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure

Passent les jours et passent les semaines
Ni temps passé
Ni les amours reviennent
Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure

8 comments:

  1. I am very impressed by your ability to give your translations from the Spanish and the French a sound and a movement at least something like that of the originals. This translation, your translation of Verlaine's "Claire de lune," and the translation of Juan de la Cruz's "Noche oscura" are all among the very best that I have seen and they deserve a wide audience.

    Have you considered translating Garcilaso or the anonymous lyrics of the cancionero tradicional? It would be very interesting to see what you would do with beautiful poems like "Al alba venid, buen amigo" or "De los álamos vengo, madre.”

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  2. First off: thank you mightily for the compliments. It's wonderful to know that at least some of what I'm attempting is working.

    Re: Garcilaso. I actually have a draft of "En tanto que de rosa y azucena" in the works. In the earlier days of this site, I'd have just posted the draft and then kept working on it over time. But now, seeing as how (according to google anyway) most of my readers access it through Google Reader, rather than directly through their browser, (and since Google Reader stops updating its cache for content more than a couple days old and has recently disabled the "track changes" function) I feel I should make sure my work is at least presentable before posting.

    Ditto with the cancionero. I have some drafts deep in the bowels of my hard drive, but I'm not quite happy with them yet- a large reason for that is that I'm unsure about what register of English is most appropriate to them.

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  3. I have read quite a number of translations of this beautiful poem and yours is certainly the best one I have found. Well done. Your knowledge of languages is amazing.

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  4. wow! You recite without any american accent! You're very gifted!

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  5. umutsuzlugun acimasizligi ve ask nehre akip gitti(mi)

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  6. that's good i was looking for something like this - you read it really differently to how i imagined it however, i imagined short pauses between the lines i.e. vienne la unit (pause) sonne l'heur

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  7. "Sous le pont mirabeau" is a poem that moves me every time I read it. That's probably why I hesitated before trying to look for a translation. You, sir, have done this poem justice. Thank you.

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  8. This is excellent, thank you.

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