In Memory of Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)
Liberte¢, egalite¢, fraternite¢ -
you put your courage where your pen was
and poetry bloomed in Flanders Field
alongside the poppies.
With Owen and Sassoon, you rescued
the soldier-poet from antiquity
and wrought from mud and blood
the words that gave the lie to
The War to End All Wars.
You fell just as the race was nearly run
and France wept copiously to lose a favourite son.
Translation - a flawed art,
but perhaps no more flawed
than any art or, indeed,
Was it Frost that said:
“What is lost in translation is the poetry”?
Any smith learns the limitations of his materials
yet still he pushes them to breaking point.
Translator of the heart,
you took us to the Zone
where the sacred was profane
and the heavenly mundane.
Only the poet dares to look down
as Christ “ascends beyond the aviators”
because the poet knows that
life is a found object
and in any language the greatest gift
is the silence between the words.
NOTE: The phrase quoted from Zone by Guillaume Apollinaire comes from a new translation by John A. Scott which appeared in Meanjin, Volume 48, Number 4, 1989 Summer.
The poet wishes to acknowledge Valley Micropress in whose pages an alternate version of this poem first appeared.