The insane, adamantine, angry, whirling genuis: Mallarme on Theodore de Banville

Poetry, or what has existed for centuries under that name, attaches to earth, with faith, through the dust that everything is; like huge buildings, whose serious shadow augments their substructure, connects and blends with it. This call of the stone coalesces, as it ascends toward the sky, into interrupted columns and arches having an audacious spurt in prayer; but, finally, a certain immobility. I am waiting, as for a dazzling bat and a breeze of gravity, for him to escape, suddenly, with an autochtonous wing sweep, the insane, adamantine, angry, whirling genius, striking the ruin and flying away, the personification of flight, which he alone is.



(trans. Barbara Johnson)



Samuel NaHagid

Sometimes I rewrite translations. I don’t retranslate. I rewrite. It’s completely unethical. Ethics have no place in poetry.

The third of three love songs from Samuel HaNagid:


“Enough! I love the gazelle 

taking roses from your garden.

Scorn me, but– 


If you once gazed at my lover as I do

your lovers would take up arrows and end you.   


He said: I want the honey from your hive.

I answered: return it to me on your tongue. 

He raged: should we sin against the living God?

I replied: let your sin, sweet master, be with me. 


Samuel HaNagid (993-1056)