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This poem is taken from PN Review 22, Volume 8 Number 2, November - December 1981.

Les Chimeres (translated by Peter Jay) Gerard de Nerval
a version by Peter Jay

The edition of Gérard de Nerval's sonnet sequence to which I am chiefly indebted is by Norma Rinsler in the Athlone French Poets series: Gérard de Nerval, Les Chimères (1973).

I should like to acknowledge the help of Richard Holmes, Harry Guest and Dr Norma Rinsler in the final stages of this translation, which I dedicate to Caroline Root. 'Un mystère d'amour dans le métal repose . . .'


I am the shadowed-the bereaved-the unconsoled,
The Aquitanian prince of the stricken tower:
My only star is dead-and my starred lute
Bears the Black Sun of Melancholia.

You who consoled me, in the tomb's night, bring
My Posilipo back, the Italian sea,
The flower that so pleased my heart in ruin,
And the arbour where the rose and the vine marry.

Am I Love or Phoebus? . . . Lusignan or Biron?
My forehead is still scarred with the queen's kiss;
I've dreamed in the cavern where the siren swims . . .

And twice victorious have crossed Acheron:

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