The Tarentine Bride


A tear, sweet halcyons, to Thetis dear.
Weep, holy birds, you halcyons, a tear!
Myrto, the young Tarentine, is no more!
A ship bore her to Casmarina’s shore:
there, songs and flutes, leading the wedding band,
were meant to bring her to her lover’s hand.
A watchful key was, for the journey, made,
to lock the chest in which her gown was laid,
with golden bracelets for her arms to bear
and essences distilled to scent her hair.
But at the prow, alone, calling the stars,
a sudden gust that shook the sails and spars,
envelops her; caught far from company,
she screams, she falls, she struggles in the sea.
She struggles in the sea, the youthful bride!
Her lovely body rolls beneath the tide.
Thetis, in tears, within a cave takes care
to hide it from the monsters lurking there.
Soon lovely Nereids at her behest,
raising it from its humid place of rest,
bring it ashore and in this tomb depose
the body gently where the West Wind blows;
then calling with great cries the sisterhood
and nymphs from springs and mountains and the wood,
all, beating breasts and trailing a long crowd,
repeat their cries, alas, around her shroud.
“Alas! None lead you to your lover’s side,
you have not dressed again to be a bride.
Gold has not wound your arms for you to wear.
Sweet perfumes have not flowed upon your hair.”


André Chenier

André Chenier was born in Constantinople in 1762 to a French father and a Greek mother. Although he moved to France at the age of two, Chenier always considered himself partly Greek and immersed himself in the Greek classics, which he revered. When he died in 1794, a victim of the Terror, his poetry was unknown and left in fragments, rescued by his younger brother, Marie-Joseph, a playwright, but not edited and published until 1819. Because of their fragmentary and scattered condition, his poems remain an editorial enigma that will never be wholly resolved.

While he originally embraced the Revolution and was a fierce critic of the Ancien Régime, Chenier soon felt that the Revolution had gotten out of hand. He became a spokesman of the Feuillants, a club whose members advocated a constitutional monarchy, and he began writing eloquent political pamphlets and some very powerful iambs. On the scaffold, one of the last victims of Robespierre, he is reported to have pointed to his head and said, “There is, however, something there.” He subsequently became, for both poetic and political reasons, a hero of the Romantics, and he is the subject of the opera Andrea Chenier by Umberto Giordano.

John Anson

John Anson studied English and classics at the University of California, Berkeley, and taught English there from 1965 to 1991. He subsequently became a psychologist, practicing first as a therapist and currently as an expert witness for two mental hospitals in habeas corpus hearings for involuntary patients. In the seventies and eighties, he was publishing regularly in literary journals including Poetry (Chicago), The Threepenny Review, and Arizona Quarterly, and Robert Barth published a chapbook of his sonnets. Dos Madres Press published his translation of Les Trophées by José-Maria de Heredia in 2013, and is about to release Time Pieces, a book of Anson's own poems along with a translation of La Cité des Eaux by Henri de Régnier.

English translation copyright (c) John Anson, 2014.