Odour of the Times
translated from the French of Jean Follain
In reverie the murky smell returns
upon a mantelpiece it mingles with
the odour of unbuttoned clothes
the fever to exist
a star offers its sky.
As Napoleon places the crown
on his head
a stone falls from the vaults of Notre Dame
to strike his shoulder
the pope kisses the emperor on the cheek;
in Egypt a frenetic vulture
swoops onto the eggs of a crocodile
equally historic events.
Ciaran Carson has published some two dozen books of poetry, prose and translation, most recently From Elsewhere, translations from the work of the French poet Jean Follain, paired with poems inspired by the translations (Gallery Press 2014). (The translation here was inspired by this blog). His work has won many prizes including the T. S. Eliot Award and the Forward Prize. He is a member of Aosdána, the affiliation of Irish artists, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Jean Follain was a French poet and author who died in 1971. He received the Prix Blumenthal in 1941, awarded to poets who refused to collaborate with the Vichy Government during World War II.