The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Philosophy: A Shameful Sonnet

November 13th, 2008 · 1 Comment

The sonnet is a neglected form these days.  Verse of all stripes is unpopular — at least under that name, although it still defines popular music.  It’s all in the branding, I suppose.

And current taste often brands the sonnet as precious, artificial, or old-fashioned.  Fair enough; although you could tar most American entertainment genres with the same handy brush.  Hollywood movies goosestep to the most rigid formulas human perversity could devise, but our fellow citizens still sit spellbound.

Sonnets are short enough to be punchy, but long enough to develop a thought.  They’re usually fourteen lines, but don’t have to be.  They lend themselves to many meters and rhyme patterns.  And to much variety, too: smooth artifice (Petrarch), lyrical intensity (Shakespeare), smut (Aretino), heresy (Campanella) — name your poison.

And, of course, to that constant fave, scatological blasphemy.  The following specimen, by Edmond Haraucourt, first perfumed the air in 1883.  Haraucourt was one of the original Hydropathes; he was a busy character.

For my translation, I chose the unfashionable option of keeping meter and rhyme.  This takes some paraphrase, but is, in some ways, truer to the original.

Incidentally, one of the virtues of the following is that it offers an alternative account of man’s origins.  I hope the atheists among you will excuse this dip into deism.

Philosophie: Sonnet honteux

L’anus profond de Dieu s’ouvre sur le Néant,
Et, noir, s’épanouit sous la garde d’un ange.
Assis au bord des cieux qui chantent sa louange,
Dieu fait l’homme, excrément de son ventre géant.

Pleins d’espoir, nous roulons vers le sphincter béant
Notre bol primitif de lumière et de fange;
Et, las de triturer l’indigeste mélange,
Le Créateur pensif nous pousse en maugréant.

Un être naît: salut!  Et l’homme fend l’espace
Dans la rapidité d’une chute qui passe:
Corps déjà disparu sitôt qu’il apparaît.

C’est la Vie: on s’y jette, éperdu, puis on tombe:
Et l’Orgue intestinal souffle un adieu distrait
Sur ce vase de nuit qu’on appelle la tombe.

Philosophy: A Shameful Sonnet

God’s anus opens to the void of space:
Though dark, it shines beneath an angel’s gaze.
God squats beside the skies that hymn his praise,
And from his gut excretes the human race.

A hopeful bolus, slime and spirit both,
We roll toward the sphincter, keen to pass.
Grown weary of our undigested mass,
Our pensive Maker drops us with an oath.

A being’s born: hello! we cleave the air,
And disappear as soon as we were there,
As swiftly as a cataract we fell.

That’s life: we’re here, then plummet to our doom;
And then the rectal Organ breathes farewell
Upon the chamber pot we call the tomb.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: Belief Systems · Education · Literature · Symbols · The Ineffable

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa // Nov 14, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Wonderful translation. Wonderful poem.

    And a plausible variation on the First Cause I think.

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