Quelle est cette langueur…

More from Verlaine’s poem (see previous post, Il pleure dans mon cœur…):

Quelle est cette langueur / Qui pénètre mon cœur?

KELL ay SEH-tuh lah-GUHR   kee pay-NEH-truh maw KUHR?

What is this languor which creeps into my heart?

All those UHR vowels…they sound like moaning, don’t they? I think that’s intentional. The poem is one long moan, about the dreariness of life, about ennui, really, which is another really good French word (pronounced on-NWEE). It’s about boredom, lack of direction, the inability to feel anything.

Poor guy! But that was the mood of his era, the late 19th century. Writers did have a tendency to moan during that period.

There’s one interesting change in the repeated sounds of the poem: the two words “qui pénètre…” (which penetrates…). Those two words have a short, sharp sound that makes one think of piercing. So why did I translate “creeps into” instead of choosing one of those perfectly good English words?

Because, when you read the rest of the poem, you get a feeling that this feeling of ennui has infiltrated the poet’s heart bit by bit. It didn’t arrive suddenly, like the sadness of a lost love. It has overtaken him, taken him over.  He is caught in its grip, from the inside out. He is drifting, rudderless.

Don’t let it happen to you! Make sure you have goals, and a focus. Like learning or improving your French?


2 responses to “Quelle est cette langueur…

  1. Ruth, when do we get to hear your comments on the rest of the poem? I’m finding this blog very interesting! :)

    • I’m so glad, Kara! Have you signed up for your email notifications (see the sidebar) so you don’t miss any posts?

      As for the poem, I certainly don’t want to bore people who hate poetry. But sure, I’d be happy to post on other lines of Verlaine’s poem from time to time! Stick with me and you might get the whole poem, eventually.

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