Saturday, February 12, 2011

Blog Intermission no. 9 (entr’acte) – Old Portraits

Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) is a well known French poet, dramatist, journalist, novelist and literary critic. His poems are romantic and musical. He loved to “tell stories” either in his novels or poems. Gautier was a friend of Victor Hugo. Théophile Gautier was highly regarded by successful writers such as Balzac, Beaudelaire, Flaubert, Proust and Oscar Wilde. The year 2011 is the bicentenary of his birth.

Théophile Gautier, French poet, 1811-1872

An association has been created in his honor, whose president is his great-great-granddaughter, Ms Anik Lesure. This association “Bicentennial 1811-2011 Gautier” will coordinate events in universities, museums and other gatherings to be held throughout the year.

Théophile Gautier’s daughter Judith (1847-1917) photo copyright Nadar

Théophile Gautier’s daughter Judith was one of the most fascinating women of her time. She had literary talent and unparalleled beauty. She was a great eccentric with inexhaustible generosity. With her dark eyes slightly slanted, her pale face and her mass of hair surrounding her Grecian face she was stunning and had many admirers. Théophile would say about his daughter: “C'est le plus parfait de mes poèmes” (She is the most perfect of my poems.)

Judith Gautier, by John Singer Sargent, American 1856-1925

Here is a lovely and musical poem by Théophile Gautier – I translated into English below.

Pastel – Vieux Portraits

J'aime à vous voir en vos cadres ovales,
Portraits jaunis des belles du vieux temps,
Tenant en main des roses un peu pâles,
Comme il convient à des fleurs de cent ans.

Le vent d'hiver, en vous touchant la joue,
A fait mourir vos oeillets et vos lis,
Vous n'avez plus que des mouches de boue
Et sur les quais vous gisez tout salis.

Il est passé, le doux règne des belles;
La Parabère avec la Pompadour
Ne trouveraient que des sujets rebelles,
Et sous leur tombe est enterré l'amour.

Vous, cependant, vieux portraits qu'on oublie,
Vous respirez vos bouquets sans parfums,
Et souriez avec mélancolie
Au souvenir de vos galants défunts.

- Théophile Gautier, French 1811-1872

The Lady in Lavender, Mary Brady Tipcomb, American 1858-1927


Here is the English translation –

Pastel - Portraits of Yesteryear

I love to see you in your oval frames,
Yellowing portraits of olden day belles,
Holding in your hands roses a little pale,
As befits flowers from a hundred years away.

The winter wind, touching your cheek,
Killed your carnations and your lilies
You only wear flies of filth
And on sidewalks all soiled you lay.

It is past the sweet reign of the belles;
The Parabère and the Pompadour
Would only find rebellious subjects,
And under their graves is buried love’s ardour.

You, however, in old portraits we can’t remember,
Breathe your scent-free posies,
And smile wistfully
Reminiscing on your departed lovers.

- Théophile Gautier, French 1811-1872

Dame Elégante, Emile Vernon, French, 1877-1919

Top portrait is Madame de Pompadour by François Boucher, French, 1703-1777.


Note: Blogger Break - Post pre-programmed –


Bill said...

It is fun and interesting looking into the past. People look so different these days! It really makes me wonder what people will wear and dress in 100 years from now.

Pondside said...

I can't bear to pass an old portrait without having a good look - and have a few in the attic, of people I never met!
The poem was so sweet - just what I think about those long-gone beauties.

Diane said...

Love this post, educational as well as interesting. Diane

Kay Dennison said...

I studied some of Gautier's poetry when I took a course in World literature in college and loved it. Combining it with these portaits is brilliant!!!!

Fennie said...

Translating is hard and translating poetry even harder. So very well done.
Does it work in English, this poem, do you think? We are not really into such romanticism. We need different poetry. But I did not know of Gautier, though if I remember rightly that was the surname of the woman played by Anouk Aimee in 'Un Homme et Une Femme' - a romantic allusion by Lelouch perhaps. (Here again a film that was far better received in France than in the English speaking world.

Vicki Lane said...

Beautiful old pictures . . . I'm compelled to imagine stories for them.

Rosaria Williams said...

So interesting and exciting to read your posts. Fascinating view of history and fashion!

marciamayo said...

Vagabonde, you are a gallery unto yourself.

PeterParis said...

... and now we have so many (too many?) photos, but mostly stored on our computers.

Jeanie said...

Oh, my -- she was indeed beautiful, as is the poem. The name sounds familiar, and I've seen the Sargent portrait before but am unfamiliar with his work.

I am starting a French class next week. Perhaps one day I will be able to read the poem as written!

Ginnie said...

I am so illiterate, VB, when it comes to my own country's authors, let alone those elsewhere around the world. So thank you for giving us easy doses like this that educate me/us.

Darlene said...

I thought the first portrait had been painted by Thomas Gainsborough. It is reminiscent of his style.

I love to imagine what life was like for the people who posed for the stilted portraits of yesteryear.

claude said...

J'aime bien venir chez toi car je m'y "instructionne". Jolies photos, belles images, beaux cadres et merveilleux poème et un d'histoire aussi.
Imagine toi que j'aime bien les cadres, spéciallement les petits et de préférence les ovales avec tout plein de photos de famille jaunies. C'est mon côté viellot, mais j'assume.
Merci pour ta carte postale apportant un peu de soleil en cet fin d'hiver.
Je t'embrasse.

Friko said...

I am sure I have read his poems in translation.
A lovely post, full of interesting detail.

Olga said...

I love old portraits so much! It was beautiful post. Thank you.

Putz said...

can never be tooo many pictures, and all FRENCH, that much i congratulate you for

tunisian said...

Bonjour, ça fait longtemps que je n'ai pas visité votre superbe blog
me voilà
un très beau article j'aimmmmmmmmmmeeeeeee !!!!
bonne soirée

Vagabonde said...

Thank you very much for having come and visited my blog while I was away. I appreciate this a lot. I’ll try to visit each of your blog in the coming days as I know I am behind. Thanks again.

Merci d’être venus visiter mon blog pendant mon absence. Je l’apprécie beaucoup. Je vais essayer de rendre visite à tous vos blogs dans les jours qui viennent. Merci encore.

Deborah said...

An eloquent poem, bittersweet and almost brutal in its realism. I'm glad I could read it in French, but you do a fine job of translating. I didn't know this poet, Vagabonde. But then, I always learn something new when I come here, which is what makes your blog rather special.

Deborah said...

An eloquent poem, bittersweet and almost brutal in its realism. I'm glad I could read it in French, but you do a fine job of translating. I didn't know this poet, Vagabonde. But then, I always learn something new when I come here, which is what makes your blog rather special.

(silly little aside: word verification is 'nomat'...close enough to nomad, wouldn't you say?)

Ruth said...

This is very interesting information about Théophile Gautier and his family.

I have been studying about the difficulties with translating poetry, because of the Rilke blog. So I am extremely impressed with what you have done with these stanzas. You maintained lyricism, cadence, and even rhyme.

It's nice that blogs don't decay. :-)

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