Hello! I hope you all had a great holiday season.
I have been enjoying The Penguin Book of French Poetry, 1820-1950 since it first came out in 1990. Having extensively studied Nineteenth century french poetry, I found most of my favorite poems in the volume, along with a number I had never read. And that goes for the Twentieth century poets, too.
If you do not have a working knowledge of French, this book is not for you. The translations are in prose at the bottom of each page — no attempt to recreate the voice of poets of a different age, just state the meaning of the words. The reader can interpret the poem as he or she desires — but — if you can’t read the original French, you won’t have any sense of the cadence and elegance of the poetry.
In any case, one of the first poems I ever read in French was Lamartine’s “Le Lac” (The Lake), which turned out to be the first poem in the volume. I have so many favorites, it’s hard to chose, but one of my other all time favorites is “Le Reve du Jaguar” (The Jaguar’s Dream), by Leconte De Lisle. And of the twentieth century poets, Prevert’s “Barbara,” or Breton’s famous “L’Union libre” (Free Union).
Well, too many to name in this short blog! If you do buy the book, get the paper back. The way the poetry appears on the page makes it difficult to read the translations in the ebook version.
The Penguin Book of French Poetry, 1820-1950, Penguin Classics, 1994