To begin . . .
The following sonnet, if it has any purpose at all, illustrates (I believe) the universality of poetry. I came across the poem many years ago, and was moved by the pathos of unrequited love which it reveals. So, in order not to exclude the experience from those to whom French is literally a foreign language, I tried to translate it into English verse. You must be the judge of how far I succeeded in conveying the feeling in French poet's work.
by Félix Arvers
Mon âme a son secret; ma vie a sa mystère;
Un amour éternel, en un moment conçu,
Le mal est sans espoir, aussi j'ai dû le taire,
Et celle qui l'a fait n'en a jamais rien su.
Hélas ! j'aurai passé près d'elle inaperçu,
Toujours â ses côtés, et pourtant solitaire,
Et j'aurai jusqu'au bout fait mon temps sur la terre
N'osant rien demander, et n'ayant rien reçu.
Pour elle, quoique Dieu l'ait faite douce et tendre,
Elle ira son chemin, distraite et sans entendre
Ce murmure d'amour élevé sur ses pas;
A l'austère devoir pieusement fidèle,
Elle dira, lisant ses vers tout remplis d'elle,
'Quelle est donc cette femme ?' et ne comprendra pas.
My soul its secret has, my life its mystery;
A never-ending love, born in a moment's span.
The sickness lacks all hope, and I must silent be,
And she who is its cause has never known, nor can.
Alas ! that I shall pass so near her unperceived,
Forever by her side, and yet so much alone,
And, till my span of time upon the earth has flown,
Daring to ask for naught, and having naught received.
For she, though God has made her tender and sincere,
Will go upon her way, careless, and will not hear
The murmur of my love about her on each hand.
Of this devoted task, this faith that I aver,
She'll say, when she has read these lines so full of her ,
'Who is this woman then ?' and will not understand.
I once read somewhere that literary translations are like women. When they're beautiful, they're not faithful, and when they're faithful they're not beautiful
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