Four haiku and a severed head by Simone Routier

This entry is part 16 of 33 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

Simone RoutierBorn in 1901 in Quebec, Simone Routier studied music, education, literature, philosophy and art, lived for a decade in Paris as a journalist and returned to Quebec in 1940 to spend some years as a Catholic nun before embarking on a successful career as a diplomat. She died in 1987. She published novels, essays and several collections of poetry. She was one of the first to write haiku in French. Little of her work appears to be still in print. These small poems, found online and first published around 1930, seemed not at all dated. Some of her haiku adopt the 5-7-5 syllable format, others not. Two of the three lines have a low-key end rhyme, which I tried to suggest or compensate for rather than rigorously translate.

Far-off violin
Reclining chairs, declining day
The silence we love

Violon lointain
Meubles bas, jour au déclin,
Notre cher silence

~

My heart awaits you
The endless silence of
so many falling leaves

Mon cour qui t’attend
Toujours le silence,
Et l’immense effeuillement

~

Deserted streets
An avalanche of heat
Sunday in July

Pavés désertés,
Chaude, étrange avalanche:
Juillet, un dimanche

~

Tinkling glasses
The cloying perfume of
departing joys

Élégantes verreries
Parfums exhalés:
Bonheurs en allés


Alas, I am Weary

Weary, alas, I am weary of life!
Weary beyond all weariness
More weary than this flesh so weary now of being bruised by love
this weary weight of loathsome flesh
this struggling impotent failing flesh
More weary than this fevered nightmare of the severed head that nestles on my pillow
More weary than the rain on a lukewarm, endless, infinitesimal day
More weary than the ox that pulls the plough until he drops
More weary than the paving stones tormented by a blazing July noon
More weary than the drunken vagrant passed out on the greasy verge
Weary, alas, I am weary of life
Weariness herself is not more weary…

Lassitude

Lassitude, ô ma lassitude de vivre !
Plus lasse que toutes les lassitudes.
Plus lasse que la chair lasse de se meurtrir et d’aimer,
que la chair opprimée d’un poids rebutant,
que la chair qui lutte et impuissante se rend,
Plus lasse que le cauchemar et la tête coupée au creux de l’oreiller fiévreux,
Plus lasse que la pluie d’un jour tiède, éternel et infinitésimal,
Plus lasse que le bœuf qui a labouré double tâche et tombe,
Plus lasse que les pavés mortifiés d’un brûlant midi de juillet,
Plus lasse que l’écroulement du chemineau ivre, dans l’herbe grasse,
Lassitude, ô ma lassitude de vivre,
Plus lasse que la lassitude elle-même…

Series Navigation← Where shall we go? (¿Can nelpa tonyazque?) by NezahualcoyotlGotas de lluvia / raindrops: four more haiku and a tanka →

3 Comments


  1. Wonderful, Jean! I especially like what you did with “Meubles bas, jour au déclin” and “l’immense effeuillement.” The latter is such a melancholy time in Quebec, since we all know what’s coming, and whether Simone wrote those lines in Quebec or France, I’m sure she always felt that when she saw the leaves falling. You’ve made me curious about her life.

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  2. Hi Beth, so Margob1 is you? :-) I think she wrote the haiku in Quebec, as they’re in her first collection, published before she moved to France in 1930. Is Simone Routier much known there now? I found her just by chance and my Internet searches for more information – endearingly but frustratingly – turned up more references to planning issues and window-cleaning in the rue Simone-Routier in Quebec City than to the writer and her work.

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  3. These are terrific, Beth, both in the original and in your elegant translations. What a find!

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