Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grave Queen: Epi Oinopi Pontoi (After Valéry)

Grave Queen: Epi Oinopi Pontoi (After Valéry)

In the blue-green flood of sea
I rise, Helen once more:

ears hearing again the surf smashing on shore,

eyes feasting on hungry black ships slithering out of rose dawn

arms waving white to salt beards

fingers drawn again to dalliance

cheeks wet with tears.

Queen of two peoples, Helen weeps
to the sweep of their oars.

Breasts sway aquamarine with the windsong
of their victories, stretching out in the wake
of black ladyships.

Conch moans with desire.

Horns rise and flare.

I hear the sun-brown rowers singing over the billows.

I see them now--see my gods again:

upright on heroic prows winged with blood

belittling the very sea.

They wave, laughing with my eyes,
delighting in my flawless face and cruel smile.

[copyright EAC]

The starting point is Paul Valéry's "Hélène, la reine triste". This is less any form of translation than stepping forward in a new direction. Different versions have been carved out haltingly from a first stab, much changed, as far back as 1984. It is published here in final form for the first time.

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