I recently translated the French-Canadian poet Emile Nelligan's 'Le Vaisseau d'or' ('The Ship of Gold'), and here it is. The original French poem is below the translation.
You can read my translation of Nelligan's 'Soir d'hiver' ('Winter Night') here, and some more details about his life. I find him quite difficult to translate. His poems tend to have a sort of high-strung edge which is hard to convey without going over the top. I did try, but the rhyme scheme also eluded me - or it would have involved contortions I was unwilling to enter into.
The final line of this poem has haunted me for a long time.
THE SHIP OF GOLD (Emile Nelligan, translated from the French by Clarissa Aykroyd)
It was a great Ship, of solid gold,
Its masts reached up from sea to sky.
Love's Venus, wild-haired and bare-skinned,
Sprawled on the prow, in the heady sun.
But then came a night when it struck a reef
In the trickster Sea, where sirens sing.
And fiercely wrecked, its tilted hull
Drowned in the Gulf's unrelenting grave.
It was a Ship of Gold, whose melting sides
Showed treasures that the cruel sailors,
Disgust, Hate and Madness, ripped apart.
What is left after the brief storm?
What of my heart, the deserted ship?
Alas! It foundered in the Dream's abyss!
LE VAISSEAU D'OR
Ce fut un grand Vaisseau taillé dans l’or massif :
Translation © Clarissa Aykroyd, 2016