Parfois, je suis triste. Et, soudain, je pense à elle.
Alors, je suis joyeux. Mais je redeviens triste
de ce que je ne sais pas combien elle m’aime.
Elle est la jeune fille à l’âme toute claire,
et qui, dedans son cœur, garde avec jalousie
l’unique passion que l’on donne à un seul.
Elle est partie avant que s’ouvrent les tilleuls,
et, comme ils ont fleuri depuis qu’elle est partie,
je me suis etonné de voir, ô mes amis,
des branches de tilleuls qui n’avaient pas de fleurs.
At times, I am sad. Then, suddenly, I think of her
and joy fills me. But I become sad again,
not knowing how well she loves me.
She is a girl with a luminous soul,
and she jealously guards her essence,
the passion only one lover might free.
She left before there were flowers on the lime trees.
Now they have bloomed in her absence,
and, friends, I am stunned by absence---
some lime tree boughs that have no flowers.
Well... I had to object to "essence" the first ten times I went through this, and I'm still not really persuaded.... It does pull nicely against "absence," and I will not translate "cœur" with "heart" unless we're talking about anatomy.... We will see....
People used to translate "tilleul" as "lime tree" -- I'm as certain as I can be without taking the energetic step of looking it up that Wallace Fowlie does so in his version of Rimbaud's poem "Romance" --and I clearly remember "lime trees" which are not tropical limes in The Swiss Family Robinson -- so I claim the right to translate it that way here. (A note later in the day -- I guess SFR is actually a German book, so the translation of "tilleul" is no more than almost relevant.... I'm still quite sure there are lime trees in that book in the translation I read as a child, and that botanically, if not linguistically (the Swiss family's trees would be lindens, I concede), they are relevant.) (What a tiresome digression! (This is the sort of thing I think is funny (which is why I'm not invited to parties.)))
This short poem is part of a much longer sequence about the departure and absence of the beloved. Jammes is an interesting figure who isn't, I believe, read much in France today. He was active at the same time as people like Apollonaire and Breton, but Jammes kept his distance from the Paris literary scene and wrote purposely rough-worked, popular-ish poems that are often more subtle than they seem at first....