Three Poems
translated by DIANE FURTNEY


Through my youth—and longer—
I stayed in dreams: of the Koh-I-Noor,

of Persian and papal sumptuousness,
of Heliogabalus, Sardanapalus!

My desires created
roofs of solid gold and, instated

under them, perfumes,
varying music, harems,

all the body’s paradise! Harems!
—Today, more calm,

I am not less passionate,
but I know life, I know it

demands that you bend;
and so, yes, I have restrained

my beautiful madness—without,
however, removing over-much of it.

Greatness, huge grandeur, eluded me.
Well, so be it! But to hell with “amiability”

and the dregs of averageness! To hell
with niceness! I will

ALWAYS detest a “pretty woman”
and assonant-rhymes that can

never be full,
and the friend who is “sensible”!


Tout enfant, j’allais rêvant Ko-Hinnor,
Somptuosité persane et papale,
Héliogabale et Sardanapale!

Mon désir créait sous des toits en or,
Parmi les parfums, au son des musiques,
Des harems sans fin, paradis physiques!

Aujourd’hui, plus calme et non mon moins ardent,
Mais sachant la vie et qu’il faut qu’on plie,
J’ai dû réfrener ma belle folie,
Sans me résigner par trop cependant.

Soit! le grandiose échappe à ma dent,
Mais fi de l’aimable et fi de la lie!
Et je hais toujours la femme jolie!
La rime assonante et l’ami prudent.


Long, autumn winds,
their sobbing violins:

they make for
heartache, languor,

a monotone
on and on.

draining pale, covering

everything—and when
the time comes again

that I remember the world
from before, I cry. I’ve been hurled

onto an evil wind
carrying me out, in,

forth and back, in grief:
already dead, a dry leaf.


Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l’heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure;

Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
Deҫà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.


We are, oh yes, ingenues,
with simply plaited hair, of course, and eyes of blue.

We’re all but unknown these days. Instead,
we live in novels almost never read,

where you see us, arms interlaced
as we stroll, and the day

itself is not more pure
than our bottom-most thoughts. Our

very dreams partake of azure.
From dawn until the hour

of dusk, we skip through meadows,
laughing, tittering—oh!

and we chase the butterflies.
Shepherdess-bonnets protect and modestly disguise

our fresh, young looks. And our frocks
—so thin and light—are of fabric

cleanly, brightly white.
The bad-boy Duke of Richelieu, the Faublas knights,

the rake Caussades, give us greetings, hail,
give us the eye and cry “Alas!”—to no avail.

Their every gesture comes to failure,
a waste of time, when near

the irony of flippant pleats
tossed up by our subtle petticoats.

Our innocence taunts the minds of all
those standing bores along the wall

—even though we know
occasionally, we do know

(and the hidden thought makes
a pounding of our hearts beneath our cloaks)

that each of us will have been,
in time, the slut-lover of a libertine.


Nous sommes les Ingénues
Aux bandeaux plats, à l’oeil bleu,
Qui vivons, presque inconnues,
Dans les romans qu’on lit peu.

Nous allons entrelacées,
Et le jour n’est pas plus pur
Que le fond de nos pensées,
Et nos rêves sont d’azur;

Et nous courons par les prées
Et rions et babillons
Des aubes jusqu’aux vesprées,
Et chassons aux papillons;

Et des chapeaux de bergères
Défendent notre fraîcheur,
Et nos robes—si légères—
Sont d’une extrême blancheur;

Les Richelieux, les Caussades
Et les chevaliers Faublas
Nous prodiguent les oeillades,
Les saluts et les “hélas!”

Mais en vain, et leurs mimiques
Se viennent casser le nez
Devant les plis ironiques
De nos jupons détournés;

Et notre candeur se raille
Des imaginations
De ces raseurs de muraille,
Bien que parfois nous sentions

Battre nos coeurs sous nos mantes
À des pensers clandestins,
En nous sachant les amantes
Futures des libertins.

Note: Caussade, a fictional character by Victor Hugo, was renowned—as were the fictional Chevalier de Faublas and the non-fictional Duke of Richelieu (1696-1788)—for seductions and sexual exploits.

A Parnassian as well as early Symbolist, PAUL VERLAINE (1844-1896) composed two dozen volumes of lush, extravagant lyrics that scandalized his readers. His life was a tempestuous sequence of prosperity, poverty, Parisian café society, a violent affair with the young Rimbaud, two imprisonments for assault—including one on his mother—as well as failed business ventures and intervals of teaching in England. Shortly before his death—hastened by opium, alcohol, and self-destructive neglect—he was elected “Prince of Poets” by other writers and artists in France. Their rescue effort proved ineffectual: he died at 52.

Other poetry translations by DIANE FURTNEY (from the French, Japanese) are in three issues of Stand Magazine (England), in The Virginia Quarterly ReviewAble Muse ReviewPoetry International, Ezra, Faultline, Rhino, Circumference, International Poetry Review, The Marlboro Review, et al. Her own poems appear in Stand as well as The Chicago Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry Northwest, Notre Dame Review, The Iowa Review, three issues of Critical Quarterly (England), and a dozen other venues. She has authored two award-winning poetry chapbooks (DESTINATION ROOMS and IT WAS A GAME) and two comic mystery novels (MURDER AT THE MLA and MURDER IN THE NEW AGE—pseudonym D.J.H. Jones). 

A collection of her translations from 600 years of the French tradition, BY WAY OF ANOTHER LANGUAGE, is now circulating. Recent poems are in SCIENCE AND (2014) and THE BLUE MAN: POEMS OF THE ORDINARY (2017), both from FutureCycle Press. Her “Sailing to Mytilene” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Her personal history began in Wichita, shifted to a post-World War II upbringing in Tulsa, then to college in New York and a long assortment of jobs and travels. She lives now near Phoenix.
The Adirondack Review