When I read novels I usually skip over the epigraphs: the snippets of poems or prose that authors use to set the tone of their stories. They’re too long, don’t propel the narrative forward, don’t convey the meaning to me that the authors must intend.
But then, of course, I found the perfect fragment to use in mine, a poem by Rumi: “Love so needs to love that it will endure almost anything, even abuse, just to flicker for a moment.” That led to a search for more epigraphs to use in more sections, until I found the perfect song lyric by the perfect band. And that’s a problem.
As many of us recall from Napster, or Ice Ice Baby, or any of hundreds of sampled songs throughout the decades, the music industry ain’t fooling around when it comes to copyright infringement. Unless you’re quoting “I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee,” you’ll need to find the artist’s publisher and license it, and that’s too much like work. (How to Legally Quote Song Lyrics in Your Stories, Books and Articles by John Iovine).
So I hunted for a substitute that was as carnal and hard-hitting as that other song lyric (it’s by Nine Inch Nails, you may know the one I’m talking about). And then I found it.
Except it was translated from French, and the translation was not attributed in the blog post where I found it. There are other translations with attribution, but none as apropos as the first. And because figuring out how to get licensing for song lyrics is so hard, I decided to translate it myself, though I don’t speak French and Google Translate is not good at translating poetry.
Anyway, here it is, followed by the original:
Sonnet of the Asshole
Dark and frilly as a purple carnation,
Softly it sighs, snuggled down deep in the moss
Dewy once more from love’s gentle withdrawal
That follows the mounds to the crux of the cross
The milky white streams that are bitterly wept
And driven away by a devil’s cruel breath
Are forced through hard curdles of reddish-brown marl
To answer the call of the cavern’s dark depths
My dreams often come to the suction cup’s sucking
My soul, jealous of all the fleshly fucking,
Wails itself to slumber in the wildcat’s den
The olives are swooning, the flute will play
The heavenly praline goes down the red lane:
Honied milk for ladies, and also for men!
Translation by Julie Ortmeier
Sonnet du Trou du Cul
Obscur et froncé comme un oeillet violet,
Il respire, humblement tapi parmi la mousse
Humide encor d’amour qui suit la fuite douce
Des Fesses blanches jusqu’au coeur de son ourlet.
Des filaments pareils à des larmes de lait
Ont pleuré, sous l’autan cruel qui les repousse
A travers de petits caillots de marne rousse,
Pour s’aller perdre où la pente les appelait.
Mon Rêve s’aboucha souvent à sa ventouse;
Mon âme, du coït matériel jalouse,
En fit son larmier fauve et son nid de sanglots.
C’est l’olive pâmée, et la flûte caline
C’est le tube où descend la céleste praline:
Chanaan féminin dans les moiteurs enclos!
by Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine
Other translations found at PracticalAlchemy.
Michael and Julie write separately, but when they write together they are...M.J. Ortmeier!