Traveling by Carriage
GERARD DE NERVAL
Waking Up, Enroute
"Le RéveIl en voiture," Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855), from Odelettes
This is what I saw, exactly:
the branches outside the carriage, above me,
were tangled and rushing
like an army in rout. Shoved by up-pushing
winds, the dappled road
rose and rose in waves, tossing clods
and cobblestones. Out on the broad,
green plain a bell-tower steeple, like a shepherd,
was leading another group
of white-plastered houses with red-tile roofs,
all trotting along like so many sheep
with red markings on their backs. Sheep!
The leaning mountains were
drunk, about to topple... And the river:
it had curled around the valley like a python
and was rippling, it had begun
to advance as if it would swallow
everything it could encircle.
I was enroute from... Maybe near.. .
I was just coming awake, somewhere.
The Carriage Way Station
"Le Relais," Gerard de Nerved from Odelettes
You travel a long waydust, ruts,
turnsthen there's a station. You climb out,
stiffly. Two low buildings. You step
between them into the unexpected.
The horses behind you, dulled by the whip
and clods and stones, are being stripped
of harness. They have, like you, a mask
of dazed fatigue, eyes tired of every task
of looking: bodies numb. And suddenly
here is this green silence, a valley.
A nearby ravine, dense with lilac,
is in full bloom; a defile of thick-
trunked poplars has an audible stream
twisting between them.
You sit in deep grass
and listen to living things live, as
weedy odors blow
around and across you like a slow
syrup. Road clatter and grime
have gone from the mind,
and not thinking
any longer of anything,
you look and look again
at the sky. Only one
necessary thing is absent,
and nowtoo badit does present
itself: the driver who shouts "Allo!
"Allo! Attention! Time to go!"
Translated from the French by Diane Furtney
Gerard de Nerval, 180855, was one of the early romantics. His real name was Gerard Labrunie. His writings include translations of Faust (1828) and other German works; short stories, notably in Les Filles du feu (1854, partial tr. Daughters of Fire, 1922); travel sketches; and poems. Les ChimEres (12 sonnets appended to Les Filles du feu) and AurElia, his fantastic spiritual autobiography, which mirrors a life that ended in madness and probable suicide, have had some influence on modern surrealists.
Diane Furtney's work appears in The Chicago Review, The Kenyon Review, Stand (England), Poetry Northwest, The Iowa Review and many other journals. Her translation of Nerval's "Vers Dores" won first prize in the Cream City Review's translation competition in 2001, and two Tanikawa translations were finalists for the recent Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. She has authored two award-winning chapbooks (Destination Rooms and It Was A Game) and two comic mystery novels under the pseudonym of DJH Jones. She currently works in the plant biology department at OSU.
Copyright 2005© Diane Furtney