Sunday, September 20, 2009

Robert Lowell

He was a handsome man. Just look at him. I want to lick his picture.
You’ve probably heard of him, and very probably have read at least one or two of his poems. This one, in keeping with the theme I’ve got going, is a very loose translation of a Spanish poem. I don’t read Spanish, but I’ve seen the text of the original, and it’s close enough to French that I feel confident pronouncing his version an improvement.

Robert Lowell has been one of my favorite poets for a long time, but this is the first of his poems that I bothered committing to memory. I don’t know what it says about me that I’m so drawn to this – it’s dark, vaguely sinister, and definitely melodramatic. The hint of blasphemy at the end is just so ... *swoon.*


Will Not Come Back (after Bequar)

Dark swallows will doubtless come back killing
the injudicious nightflies with a clack of the beak;
but these that stopped full flight to see your beauty
and my good fortune… as if they knew our names -
they’ll not come back. The thick lemony honeysuckle,
climbing from earthroot to your window,
will open more beautiful blossoms to the evening;
but these… like dewdrops, trembling, shining, falling,
the tears of day – they’ll not come back…
Some other love will sound his fireword for you
and wake your heart, perhaps, from its cool sleep;
but silent, absorbed, and on his knees,
as men adore God at the altar, as I love you -
don’t blind yourself, you’ll not be loved like that.

In Lowell’s case, the selected works are insufficient – if you’re going to buy one of his books, go for the collected poems.

Robert Lowell on Wikipedia

Robert Lowell on Poets.org

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