December 1, 2010

Valentine de Saint-Point




Valentine de Saint-Point [France]
1875-1953

Although little is known in the United States of her career, French poet, novelist, dramatist, and aesthetician Valentine de Saint-Point published extensively in the early part of the 20th century in her home country. Among her many literary works are the collections of poetry Poèms de la Mer et du Soleil, La Guerre, and La Soif et les Mirages; the prose trilogy Trilogie de l’Amour et de la Mort; and fictions such as L’Orbe Pâle and Le Secret des Inquiétudes.

Her major contributions, however, lay in her theories, as expressed in her 1912 manifesto “Futurist Manifesto of Lust,” her book on Auguste Rodin, her study of women’s theater—La Théâtre de la Femme–and in her argument for a total synthesis of the arts in La Métachorie, presented in a stage presentation of the same name, dancing as she performed her works. The production premiered at La Comédie des Champs Elysées in Paris and was performed in New York at the Metropolitan Opera House in April 1917, when Djuna Barnes interviewed her.

A year after her New York performance, Saint-Point converted to Islam in Morocco, devoting several years to the study of Madame Blavatsky's thesophical works. Saint-Point moved to Cairo in 1924, and became involved in Egyptian and Syrian nationalist activity. She published a journal in French, Phœnix, revue de la renaissance oriental. She was ordered to be expelled from Egypt by the government, and was allowed to stay in the country only if she abandoned politics.


Le Pantin et la Mort

La caverne était sombre et grande l’assemblée.
Au milieu, un pantin, objet de la veillée.
Chacune à son côté, près: moi-même et la Mort,
Chacune le tirant par un bras. Et mon sort

Etait clos en ce masque inanimé, si flasque!
Et, toute, je m’arquais, comme dans la bourrasque,
A la Mort, comme au vent, opposant ma vigueur
Que décuplait mon sang ardant d’être vainqueur.
Si mon effort cédait, certes j’étais perdue;
Ma volonté de vivre était toute tendue.

Mais, du pantin, la Mort arracha la moitié,
L’autre, en mes mains resta. Le peuple convié
Eclata d’un grand rire. Avec son laid trophée,
La Mort s’enfuit… Comment lire ma Destinée?

La foule, après la Mort, peu à peu disparut
A mes yeux sans pensée. Et quand le bruit décrut,
Je regardai ma part du pantin morne et veule,
Dans la caverne obscure, où je demeurai seule.


The Puppet and Death

The cavern was dark and the gathering was great.
In our midst, a puppet, the object of the wake.
We stood on either side of it, myself and Death,
With each one tugging at an arm. My final breath

Was encased in that flaccid, inanimate mask!
With my whole body I bent, as against a blast
Of icy wind, fighting Death with all my vigor,
Which blazed at the thought of emerging the victor.
If I failed in my effort, I knew I was lost;
My will to live grew tense—my life would be the cost.

But then Death ripped the miserable puppet in half—
I held on to my part, The crowd burst out in laugh-
ter. Then seizing its limp, mutilated trophy,
Death fled… and I now feared for my own destiny.

After Death disappeared, the crowd slowly vanished
Before my empty eyes. As the noise diminished,
I looked at my half of the puppet with a moan,
In the cavern grown dark where I stood all alone.

Translated from the French by Guy Bennett



Les Pantins Dansent

Je mourrai, un jour de fête,
Alors que les pantins dansent.
Je n’entre pas dans leur danse,
Je ne fête pas leurs fête.
Je mourrai, un jour de fête,
Alors que les pantins dansent.

Alors qu’ils crient et qu’ils hurlent
Tous, une gaieté prescrite,
Rien je ne crie ni ne hurle,
Même une vertu proscrite.

Et leur vacarme est si faux
Que je ne puis m’écouter.
Dans un factice, si faux,
Vie ne se peut écouter.

Mon silence, mort au bruit,
Silence pour quoi je vis,
Cela seul par quoi je vis,
Mon silence, mort au bruit.

Ma solitude est si lourde,
Amertume inguérissable!
Solitude riche et lourde,
Solitude inguérissable!

Je mourrai, un jour de fête,
Alors que les pantins dansent.
Je n’entre pas dans leur danse,
Je ne fête pas leurs fêtes.
Je mourrai, un jour de fête,
Alors que les pantins dansent.



The Puppets Do Their Dance

I shall die on a feast day,
While the puppets do their dance.
I do not join in their dance,
I do not mark their feast days.
I shall die on a feast day,
While the puppets do their dance.

While they all scream and cry out
In their prescribed gaiety,
I neither scream nor cry out
In proscribed morality.

And their racket is so false
That my voice cannot be heard.
In an artifice so false,
Life itself cannot be heard.

My silence, the death of noise,
The silence for which I live,
That alone by which I live,
My silence, the death of noise.

Heavy is my solitude,
Its bitterness is fatal;
Rich and heavy solitude,
My solitude is fatal!

I shall die on a feast day,
While the puppets do their dance.
I do not join in their dance,
I do not mark their feast days.
I shall die on a feast day,
While the puppets do their dance.

Translated from the French by Guy Bennett



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English language translations copyright (c) 2010 by Guy Bennett and Green Integer



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