El Desdichado

Twilight-blacked I am, in my cheerless widowhood.
Am I the prince of Aquitaine, that my towers should thus explode?
My very supernova’s been snuffed out, and my one
shiny-tendoned lute has been silenced by DEPRESSION.

You who soothed me once: in my sightless tomb,
permit me to hear again the Mediterranean’s boom-boom-boom.
Press into my hand the nosegay that once gave delight,
bouquet where the scent of the rose-tree and grape-vine unite.

In me, the lust god meets the sun god; king meets downcast bard.
On my face is the hickey where Her Majesty kissed me;
in the grotto of the mermaids elapsed a chapter of my history;

in crossing death’s river, twice, I reaped a victor’s reward.
Now my lyre alternates between emitting nun-like sighs
and mimicking a ravished pixie’s raw, climactic cries.


Gérard de Nerval

Gérard de Nerval was born in Paris in 1808. His published works include translations of Goethe and Heinrich Heine, numerous plays and operettas (some of which were co-authored with Alexandre Dumas), the travelogue Voyage en Orient (Voyage to the Orient, 1851), the poetry collection Les chimères (Chimeras, 1854), and the prose work Aurélie (1855). He committed suicide in Paris in 1855.

Jenna Le

Jenna Le's first collection of poems, Six Rivers, is forthcoming from New York Quarterly Books in 2011. Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Margie, Post Road, Rhino, Salamander, and other journals. She was the winner of the 2011 Minnetonka Review Editor's Prize and a nominee for the 2011 PEN Emerging Writers Award.

English translation copyright (c) Jenna Le, 2011.