Patrick Thom

Patrick Thom

I have just retired after 36 years teaching French and German. I love the poetry of those languages and want to keep exploring them now that I have more time. I also like translating poetry.

Location UK

Activity

  • I think it has to be her bed. She is the one who sleeps there, whereas Michelangelo merely wielded hammer and chisel (unless he fell asleep on the job, which would be a whole different story).

  • Thank you, Nicholas. I shall correct the 'desseins' and check the date, correcting if needed.

  • @JC I would have loved to include some Prévert poems in the course, perhaps this one or Fête Foraine, but it appears to be impossible to gain copyright permission: You are right, though, it is a poem that lends itself perfectly to this kind of analysis.

  • Thank you, Esteban. This is a beautifully-expressed response to the dilemma posed by this poem.

  • I have never been able to resist a pun, and it's far too late to start now!

  • I have concentrated on poetry as a written rather than a spoken medium for a couple of reasons. One is simply personal experience: I am far more used to the written tradition in French verse. I am aware of slam and would have loved to include some, but this brings me to my second, practical, reason. It proved remarkably difficult to get copyright permissions...

  • I think the answer to the first question is certainly Yes. Quite a lot of research has been done in this area, although I don't have any of it at my fingertips. Baudelaire in particular has a register of vocabulary that is often repeated, with words such as 'morne' and 'glauque'. I think I shall have to go and do some research on this.

  • Yes, exactly that. Thus Hugo is implying that Napoleon III's regime has reduced his people to a form of slavery.

  • @RobertMcGonigle I wonder if your use of the word 'just' is a modern reading in of an idea that was not necessarily present to Plantin. He was a Protestant in the Low Countries controlled (barely) by Catholic Spain. If one remembers Saint Paul's words "For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain", then perhaps Plantin is showing the correct way of waiting, in...

  • @RobertMcGonigle If we learnt French at school, we will have learnt that 'vous' is used in formal contexts and 'tu' between intimates, such as in families. While this is largely true in modern French, it was not quite so simple in the 19th century. 'Vous' was widely used even between husband and wife at certain levels of society - it is partly a...

  • @RobertMcGonigle I think it would be dangerous to say that only men should read aloud poems written in the male voice and vice versa. As for the style of the reading, I think that Justine has been schooled in quite a formal tradition, sometimes also found in older representations of classical verse tragedies, for example, where the music of the verse is...

  • Absolutely. It gives the poet quite a degree of freedom and flexibility within a rigid structure. Of course, although this meets the rules for syllable count, you don't have to gives these syllables equal stress when reading aloud for meaning.

  • I agree that the albatross is unlikely (except in Coleridge's poem) to be the archer's target. I feel that this represents laughing at whatever puny humans can throw at it, riding above all threats.

  • Hi Robert, a little bit inland from the part of Normandy most visible from Hugo's home in Jersey, there is an area called 'La Suisse Normande', Norman Switzerland. It is hardly mountainous, but the hills do go up to about 300m and some of the hills are quite abrupt. This may well be what Hugo had in mind. As for the plants, I think the evergreen holly is...

  • Thank you for this, Robert. Just at the moment I do not have the time to do a properly facilitated run, but I shall do so a bit later in the year. In the meantime, I shall go back through and see if you have asked any particular questions with which I can help.

  • Thank you, Kathleen. I am happy to accept your criticisms. I had not been aware of the poor sound quality, but I know that my recordings are not that great. My only plea of mitigation is that I had to do them myself, on my phone, as all the recording was done during lockdown. Had I had access recording facilities and a competent technician, I think I would...

  • I always hesitate to limit the meaning of a poem to just one of two choices: the either/or framework is less rich than the both/and. Nonetheless, I think we have to say that Senghor's poetry is rooted in his specifically African experience, so if it is mother earth, it is a mother with distinctively African features. It would be interesting to know if readers...

  • Thank you, Janine. I have almost entirely the same sentiments. You say 'Carpe diem poems are usually seduction poems written with metaphysical wit.' Certainly all the ones I can think of from Donne, Marvell or Herrick, for example, are exactly that - the lack of time to achieve the particular seductive purpose. There is therefore, in some sense, a positive...

  • I am afraid that I have no expertise in this area. Google does, however, and I think you could do well to follow the link below, as I intend to, to find out more. It is certainly true that there is very little in the consciousness of even an English public that reads French. Here's the link:...

  • @JanineKelley I would further say that Baudelaire is coming at this primarily as a poet, not as a philosopher or a theologian. Given that his title is 'Harmonie du soir', I think that the triple rhyme of encensoir, reposoir and ostensoir will have been irresistible to him, contributing by their very sound to the 'harmonie' that he is creating.
    Although in...

  • Hi Janine,

    You raise some really interesting questions here, especially whether or not Baudelaire is displaying a religious (specifically Catholic) sensibility. In some respects the overall feel of the poem seems to chime with Christian mystics such as Gerard Manley Hopkins or R S Thomas, for whom the whole of nature - or, in their terms, the created order...

  • @JohnM Thanks, John, for that concise and, to my mind, accurate reply. 'On' is notoriously hard to translate. In modern English, 'one' sounds unnecessarily formal and it would be absurd in the relative informality of Hugo's poem. Grammatically, 'on' can be used to replace 'nous', and it often does so in informal speech or writing, so 'On a passé une...

  • @LydieParmas Thank you, Lydie. I will check, and then I will probably replace my link with yours. I have to use an online version because getting copyright permissions from French publishers, particularly during a pandemic, is well nigh impossible.

  • @HughRobertson Thank you for this, Hugh. Your scholarly references, here and elsewhere, very much enrich the conversation.

  • @MaryR Thank you, that is really helpful - and it fits in so well with the ideas expressed at the end of Senghor's 'Femme noire'. You are right of course that ultimately everyone will have an individual response to a poem, or indeed to any creative work, but I suppose what I wanted to do in this course was to focus on 'things we can all say' rather than...

  • @StephenEvans I tend to agree with you. I think there is a way of seeing which days are going to be facilitated from the outset: if there isn't, there should be. I shall research further.

  • Guilty, I confess! You might even think that it was my Protestant heritage that made me prefer a paraclete to a monstrance, but again the requirements of rhyme were paramount.

  • Mary, I must take issue with you! Given your decided statement in response to Hugo's poem that you disagree that there is no activity in death, I wonder that you do not see in Plantin someone who is awaiting death as a state of consummation. "If for this life only we have hope, we are of all men most to be pitied", as St Paul says. It leaves us with a...

  • @HughRobertson This is indeed the same Christophe Plantin. Professionally a publisher of the works of others, he is, I believe, only known to have written this one work himself.

  • Thank you very much for these comments, FM. I think you are the only reader so far to note 'les yeux qui braillent', a sound verb used of eyes. As you elegantly put it, the tears are getting a voice. I remain persuaded that this young poet knows exactly what she is doing at every moment and retains perfect control within a highly informal structure.

  • Thank you, Hugh, for this detailed and accurate analysis.

  • Thank you, FM. Having read it through again, I see that there are a few others. This is because, oddly, the video transcripts are provided by a transcription service rather than directly from my scripts. I will endeavour to upload a corrected version.

  • Thank you, Kathleen. I especially like your point 4. I have not really included such poems in this course, but presentation on the page can become very important.

  • @MarıeWoods Thank you so much, Marie. I was about to join in with a comment in response to some of those above, but really you have said it all with great lucidity. More than many poets, Senghor allows us so much space, so that it is never 'either/or' in matters of interpretation, but always 'both/and'.

  • Hi Alison, thank you for your many comments. With the plants placed on the tomb, as with almost all such imagery, I don't think there is a single strand of meaning and therefore a right or wrong answer. I would certainly see the holly chosen as being evergreen and thus enduring when other things appear to die, but also you are right to point out that most...

  • Thank you, Hugh. I think you have hit on a very important point here, when you say “I wondered about the Greek chorus, usually associated with Greek tragedies.”. While the poet conjures up the illusion of raw spontaneity, this is actually a highly-controlled creation from an educated young woman. The use of “choeur grec” opens up a whole world, not just of...

  • I have re-uploaded the video and it now appears to work, verified by one of the Futurelearn technical team. I have also added another copy of the translation that was included in week one.

  • Hugo's daughter Léopoldine died in a boating accident at Villequier on the river Seine. The village lies some 15 miles inland, but Harfleur is the nearest fishing port, so as Hugo walked to the site of her grave, he would have seen the distant sails of the fishing boats coming back in to harbour.

  • In response to a participant request, I have added as a pdf a translation of the Victor Hugo extract discussed in this article. Do please let me know if you find any more poems or extracts for which I have not provided a translation.

  • Yes: well spotted!

  • Thanks for these comments, John, with which I largely agree. It would have been possible merely to provide a literal rendition to convey the sense, and perhaps that would have been the wiser choice. It was, I confess, rather more fun, to attempt rhyming and metrical versions. As soon as one does that, however, one inevitably makes choices which move away to a...

  • @StephenEvans Hi Stephen, sorry about this. It was an oversight, not deliberate. I have provided translations for all the full poems, but I neglected to do so for this portion of a poem. I have done a translation and shall upload it no later than Wednesday - I don't have access to it today. Patrick Thom