Aesthetic Realism Online Library Poetry


Two Stanzas from French Literature about Death:
Stances à Du Perrier, By François de Malherbe

                                                       Translation by Eli Siegel 


But she was of the world, where the most beautiful things
Have the worst fate.
And a rose, she has lived the life of roses,
The space of a morning.


The poor man in his cabin, with straw overhead,
Is subject to its laws.
And the guard which watches at the entrance of the Louvre
Cannot from death defend Kings.


Two Stanzas from French Literature about Death: In Stances à Du Perrier, By François de Malherbe. 1950. It is one of the fine possibilities of poetry, to join the stately and the tender. In poetry the sedateness and nobleness of a temple may be deeply mingled with the tear of friendliness and the trembling of love that is near. The French poet Malherbe, chiefly known for his stateliness, his unrelenting verse architecture, has for many years been regarded as one who also depicted death truly and tenderly. The tears of things are within the stately, resonant quatrains of Malherbe, whose manners as a person had something of the effective arrogance of Samuel Johnson and the jeering awareness of pretense given to Thomas Carlyle. Yet the presence of Malherbe, wisely arranged, can be of pleasing use to all. This use is within the music, thoughtfulness and lachrymatory wit of the first stanza translated. It simply lives, the stanza does, in French poetry, even with the advent of Mallarmé and Michaux. And the second stanza given English words is different from the first, because it is expansive; has a touch of history; includes renowned architecture. Yet this stanza also throbs accurately and intimately through the presence of ageless strings, honestly touched. If we give a most effective guitar to the formidable François de Malherbe—questioned by some as a poet—we shall not be unseemly at all.

From Hail, American Development (Definition Press)
© 1968 by Eli Siegel

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