Voltaire Translation Poem by Michael Burch

Voltaire Translation

Once fanaticism has gangrened brains
the incurable malady invariably remains.

—Voltaire, translation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: Voltaire, translation, epigram, epitaph, passion, fanatic, fanaticism, human brain, illness, mental illness

This is my modern English translation of a French poem by Voltaire, one of my all-time favorite writers. The poem is followed by two translations of epigrams by Voltaire.

Les Vous et Les Tu ("You, then and now")
by Voltaire
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Phyllis, whatever became of those days
We spent riding in your carriage,
Lacking both lackeys and trappings,
Accompanied only by your graceful charms
And content with a humble supper
Which you (of course) transformed into ambrosia...
Days when you abandoned yourself in your folly
To the happily deceived lover
Who so earnestly pledged you his life?

Heaven had bequeathed you, then,
In lieu of prestige and riches,
The enchanting enticements of youth:
A tender heart, an adventurous mind,
An alabaster breast and exquisite eyes.
Well, with so many luring allurements,
Ah! what girl would have not been mischievous?
And so you were, graceful creature.
And thus (and may Love forgive me!)
You know I desired you all the more.

Ah, Madame! How your life,
So filled with honors today,
Differs from those lost enchantments!
This hulking guardian with the powdered hair
Who lies incessantly at your door,
Phyllis, is the very avatar of Time:
See how he dismisses the escorts
Of tender Love and Laughter;
Those orphans no longer dare show their faces
Beneath your magnificent paneled ceilings.
Alas! in happier days I saw them
Enter your home through a glassless window
To frolic in your hovel.

No, Madame, all these carpets
Spun at the Savonnerie
And so elegantly loomed by the Persians;
And all your golden jewelry;
And all this expensive porcelain
Germain engraved with his divine hand;
And all these cabinets in which Martin
Surpassed the art of China;
And all your white vases,
Such fragile Japanese wonders! ;
And the twin chandeliers of diamonds
Dangling from your ears;
And your costly chokers and necklaces;
And all this spellbinding pomp;
Are not worth a single kiss
You blessed me with when you were young.

These are my modern English translations of two epigrams by Voltaire.

Once fanaticism has gangrened brains
the incurable malady invariably remains.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love is a canvas created by nature
and completed by imagination.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: Voltaire, France, French, English translation, you, Phyllis, youth, young, crush, love, lost love, kiss, time

Saturday, February 20, 2021
Topic(s) of this poem: epitaph,passion,human brain,illness,mental illness
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