The Lost Poem of Emily Dickinson

       At the Outranspo meeting of January 18th, 2015, Chris Clarke showed us a video he found on the internet of a Lord of the Rings fanatic, FrenchieLegolas22, critiquing a fanfiction poem purported to be a retrotranslation of a poem by Emily Dickinson, by another user, ToddBombadil304. 

       Upon consulting with Antoine Cazé, the Outranspo liaison who serves as our Dickinson specialist, we confirmed that the “original” poem ToddBombadil304 claims is lost, truly is. Meaning, it corresponds to no known poem by Emily Dickinson. A translation of an original that doesn’t exist is known as a “pseudotranslation” or in Outranspo terminology as a “prototranslation”. Some other famous examples of pseudo or proto- translations include Don Quixote, Candide, or Montesquieu’s Persian Letters. At the time, we found this discovery merely amusing and had a good laugh, but none of us pursued the mystery of the non-existent original poem any farther.

The suffragette’s version

       None, except Santiago Artozqui, who found himself strangely intrigued by the video. As he watched the video over and over again he became more and more convinced that his fascination wasn’t purely spectatorial: it was not only the macabre, lonely existence of FrenchieLegolas22, his grotesquely pathetic fanaticism that intrigued Artozqui. The poem had recalled a long-buried memory. 
       At first he couldn’t quite place the memory, but a strange intuition drew him to consult his mother’s library a few weeks later. He discovered, in an edition of Hugo’s La Légende des Siècles printed in 1934, a dedication on the title page signed “ta chère suffragette”. The dedication read,

À toi qui ne jures que par Hugo, je ne peux m’empêcher de te traduire ce qu’écrivait une femme à la même époque :

       To you who swears only by Hugo, I could hardly help myself to translate something written by a woman of the same era:

Mes rêves fuient insatisfaits
tels des papillons hors d’haleine
par une douce journée de novembre
pèlerins des Cieux, ils vont sans peine.

Les jours sont vils – la terre et moi
sommes tués par les épées d’hiver
l’astre a perdu l’auguste Guerre
et en vain fut portée la foi.

J’aurais voulu voir une étoile
à l’éclat d’argent évanoui
quand la ténèbre ouvre son voile
en novembre, par une douce nuit.
       (see translation below)

C’est tout de meme plus moderne, non?

       It’s a bit more modern, don’t you think?

       Already the first time Artozqui had read this poem, years prior, the poem had intrigued him—who was this suffragette? And the man—he assumed—to whom she wrote, who “swears only by Hugo” (a poet hardly known for his modernism in the 1930’s)—was he a chauvinist or rather a brother-in-arms in the feminist struggle whom the suffragette merely found to be afflicted with an old-fashioned literary taste?
       Artozqui’s interest was doubly piqued however when he read the dedication, considering that upon comparing the suffragette’s translation to the translation Toddbombadil304’s English poem was derived from, he noticed some striking similarities. To start, “Novembre doux la nuit” corresponds to “en novembre, par une douce nuit” in the suffragette’s version, as well as “quand l’obscurité drue dévoile” compared with “quand la ténèbre ouvre son voile.” It was hard to ignore the resonances. At the Outranspo meeting that followed his discovery, he brought the poem to our attention. Reactions ranged from wholehearted endorsement (“it has to be the same poem”) to disbelief (“Arto is having us on”). 
       Yet how was it possible that these two translations, so unique in origin, could have a common source? One possibility was that Toddbombadil304 plagiarized the suffragette’s translation—but how could he have known about it? It is highly unlikely that the suffragette’s version found in Artozqui’s mother’s library was ever published—not only due to the manner in which it was transmitted (as a dedication), but also because according to Artozqui’s reading, it was likely either a quick translation, done in a slapdash manner, or  the suffragette was simply a poor translator). The meter is badly measured, consisting of a rather limp tetrameter. However, is the poor meter a sign that her translation was perhaps quite literal? Could we recover the original by retranslating her translation back into English word for word?
       Or—a solution we found much more likely—the suffragette and Toddbombadil304 both had access to the same source poem in English. It was this poem from which Toddbombadil304 fashioned his poem posted on the site—and when FrenchieLegolas22 began trolling him, he whipped up the French version in order to try to save face in the forum. FrenchieLegolas22 being French quickly smelled the rat (Toddbombadil304 could have perhaps predicted as much)—quite unfortunately for us, since we might have been able to find the source of the poem once and for all by interrogating Toddbombadil304 further—but after FrenchieLegolas22’s attacks, he has all but disappeared from the internet.

The Marquis de Saint Garazoto’s version

       As it stood, the Outranspians were at this point divided—certain believing in the existence of a common original poem, and others believing it was a mere coincidence or a hoax—still others not really caring at all. Indeed, since when are contemporary experimental translation practices so concerned with the “original”? 

       However, a third appearance of the poem brought us round to a unanimous opinion on the matter. In summer of 2015, Genevieve and Keith Bloomfield welcomed a group of Outranspians to their château in Combrée in the Anjou region of France. On the first day, Camille Bloomfield gave us a tour of the chateau. After taking us through the three floors, which included a salon Louis XV, a room decorated entirely in blue and white, a stuffed alligator, a portrait of a forbearer that follows you with her eyes as you move… we finally arrived at the last room: a tiny nook nestled in the very back of the attic where Bloomfield’s Great Aunt spent most of her time. The small room was stuffed full of books, the shelves overflowing with tomes in various states of decomposition, dust-covered moldy volumes were stacked against each other in all directions, their leaves sticking out, some fallen down onto the floor. 
       Bloomfield wanted to show us a copy of her cousin thrice removed’s doctoral dissertation in which the hypothesis is put forth that Proust’s works were in fact written by his mother. As she pulled the manuscript down from between the musty old volumes surrounding it, a thin lithographed booklet fell out onto the ground. On the cover of the booklet figured the name Le Marquis de Saint-Garazoto, and was entitled “Poésie Américaine du 19ème siècle”. It contained translations purportedly carried out by said Marquis. Included in these translations, what should we find but a poem by Emily Dickinson, containing enough similarities to the other two that even the most skeptical of Outranspians had to agree that it confirmed the existence of a common original.

The Marquis’s translation: 

Mes rêves partent avec lassitude
Pareils à quelques papillons fébriles
Partent une douce journée d’Automne
Prompts pèlerins des Cieux.
Les jours sont mesquins — la Terre et moi,
Massacrés par les dagues de l’hiver
Le soleil a perdu la triste Guerre
Et la foi a vu le jour en vain.
J’aurais aimé voir une seule étoile
Pleine d’un éclat d’argent disparu
Mais la sombre obscurité s’entrouvre
Dans cette doucereuse nuit d’automne.

Domenico Franco’s version

       At this point Bloomfield had just about had enough and was determined to confirm once and for all whether the poem had really existed or not, in original English. Archivist that she is, she was convinced that if the poem had indeed existed, some trace of it must still exist somewhere. She circulated the story among her contacts to see if anyone recognized it or could confirm or deny its existence, hoping to perhaps offer some definitive proof once and for all. 

       In addition to her mass emailing, she wrote a personal email to Piero Falchetta, illustrious member of Oplepo (the Italian branch of Oulipo) and Italian translator of Perec’s La Disparition into Italian, and who also happens to be an esteemed librarian of the prestigious Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. She asked him specifically if he wouldn’t mind asking his “super-reader”, Ermenegildo Ferramosca, if he knew anything about the poem.

       Emernegildo Ferramosca, or as Piero Falchetta calls him, the “super-reader”, is a 74-year old man with an extraordinary memory—a veritable well of knowledge, who has spent every day for the past 30 years in the Biblioteca Marciana. He is far and away the greatest reader the library has ever known, he has no equal. Beneficiary of an inexhaustible inheritance, reading is his sole and principal occupation. He does nothing else: reading is his luxury, his pleasure, his joy. He is devoted full-time to this unremunerated, and un- “productive” activity. He knows all the collections of all-time, and he has read everything: philosophy, history, geography, religious and scientific texts, and of course, literature. Day after day, year after year… his roots reach into every crevice of the library. He has ordered books for the library’s collection, even memorized their shelf numbers, but most of all, he has read and read and read. Noting nothing, pausing nowhere. His reputation precedes him and extends far beyond the walls of the Marciana, known throughout Italy, from North to South. 

       The librarians call upon him in cases of emergency: any time the computer system goes down, or a request made through the search engines is impossible or turns up nothing, or if a reader makes a request that is very difficult to fulfill—for a rare or ancient manuscript for example. His answers prove correct every time without fail, often locating a book or even a specific quotation by memory alone. But as he is getting quite old now, Piero Falchetta puts off consulting him when possible in order not to tire him needlessly. 

       So when Piero Falchetto told me he would ask his “super-reader” about the poem, Bloomfield was overjoyed, knowing Ferramosca’s reputation well and believing him to be our best hope to find the lost Dickinson poem. Falchetto showed him the existing versions discovered by the Outranspians that Bloomfield had sent him: Toddbombadil304’s two versions (English and French), the suffragette’s as well as the Marquis’s. 

       After only a matter of minutes, as Ermenegildo Ferramosca examined the poems, he exclaimed, “No need to look any further! I know the author of these poems.”

       He meant that he knew the author personally—Bloomfield thus related her surprise to us upon hearing this. How could he have known Emily Dickinson?! As Falchetto told Bloomfield, Ermengildo Ferramosca went directly to the letter F in the 19th century literature section of the library, his finger running rapidly along the spines, stopping on a dime upon a little book, blood-red in color, magnificently bound, self-published in Venice by a certain D. Franco. A triumphant smile lit up his face, creased with the lines of books. 

       Domenico Franco, as Ermengildo Ferramosca told Falchetto, had been a friend—indeed, the best friend—of his paternal great-grandfather. The two of them—Franco and Ermengildo Ferramosca’s great grandfather—had achieved some renown in their day among a small circle of erudites. He knew that Franco had gathered together the rest of his unpublished poems in this little collection, modestly entitled “Canzoniere”, self-published in a run of 60 copies, 10 in a deluxe edition. One of these had been gifted to the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice as a token of the long friendship tying his family to the librarians of the Marciana. Leafing through the book, he quickly found the poem that he had always thought to be an original written by Domenico Franco himself. 

I miei sogni fuggono scontenti
Tali farfalle senza fiato
Vanno nel dolce giorno di novembre
Pronti pellegrini dei Cieli.
Vili sono i giorni - la Terra e io
Uccisi da spade d’inverno
Il sole ha perso la Guerra solenne
E in vano è nata la fede.
Vorrei vedere una stella solo
Di svanita luce d’argento
Mentre sorge un buio spesso
In questa dolce notte di novembre.

    Several elements however quickly invalidated the hypothesis that Dominico Franco was indeed the author of an original poem written in Italian—in particular, the fact that the structure of the text was utterly chaotic, the meter and the rhyme scheme irregular where indeed they were to be found at all. This was totally dissimilar to the other poems—which Ermengildo Ferramosca assured Falchetto were originals and not translations—written in perfect hendecasyllables. Ermengildo Ferramosca then admitted to Falchetto that he had always believed there to be a constraint hidden in the text that he had never been able to discern. Could it be that the poem was in fact a translation? This seemed all at once the obvious solution. How could he not have seen it until now? 

María Pía Cruz Borja’s version

       Prior to the the discovery of the Marquis de Saint Garazoto’s and Domenico Franco’s versions, Irène Gayraud hadn’t really been paying attention. However, after Bloomfield’s retelling of the events at the Biblioteca Marciana, she was seized with a sudden passion for the mysterious lost text. The different versions of the text in French, in Italian (and even in English, told in the voice of FrenchieLegolas22), flurried in her mind, keeping her awake at night. She was thus utterly exhausted when she left to visit a friend in Spain, Elena Tormes, entomologist and researcher at the University of Salamanca. In her work, Elena Torres paid homage to her recently deceased grandmother, María Pía Cruz Borja, one of the first women entomologists to gain renown in her field. María Pía Cruz Borja had been respected by her colleagues not only for her knowledge, her ingenuity and her scientific precision but also for her great erudition in the humanities, extending beyond the sciences to the arts and letters.
       That afternoon when she arrived, during her conversation with Elena Torres, Gayraud couldn’t shaking from her mind constant, pestering thoughts of Dickinson’s poems. It didn’t even occur to Gayraud to ask her friend if she had ever heard of the poem in a Spanish translation, as Torres’s work in honor of her grandmother’s memory hardly included her passion for poetry.  
       Later that evening, when Gayraud retired to the guest room to sleep, she discovered that it was decorated with tens of displays filled with butterflies. Torres explained that they comprised a part of María Pía Cruz Borja’s Lepidoptera collection that had been gathered together after her death. From the bluest of azures to the darkest of blacks, from giant nocturnal butterflies to the most common of diurnal butterflies, all were pinned to the frame, mounted under tidy panes, their Latin names indicated underneath. Gayraud also noticed that some of the butterflies were separated from the rest, figured apart and laid next to texts. She assumed the texts to contain explanatory remarks, such as those found in museums. 
       Upon closer inspection, she saw that they were poems in Spanish, signed with initials that never coincided with those of the name María Pía Cruz Borja. To accompany her collection, Elena Torres’s grandmother had gathered together poems containing a mention of butterflies. As she possessed a mastery of at least five languages (not including ancient Greek and Latin which she also knew), and she loved poetry at least as much as insects, she had translated the poems herself into Spanish.
       Gayraud looked at the initials. There was V.H., which she quickly identified as Victor Hugo, recognizing rather free translations of poems from Contemplations and Chants du crépuscule. She then identified Gérard de Nerval and, after a long hesitation, Alphonse de Lamartine. Then, two poems attributed to W.W. (which she guessed to be William Wordsworth) entitled “A una mariposa” (“To a butterfly”), next to a great lone butterfly. 
       The following eight texts, placed next to eight different butterflies, were all signed E.D. Gayraud’s heart skipped a beat. Atwitter, she started to read the texts. The seventh, that she transcribed immediately into a notebook, could have been nothing other than a translation of the famous lost original.  It was placed next to a large specimen, black and orange, the Vanessa Atalanta, which Torres informed her later was one of the few butterflies that can be seen in Autumn.

Mis sueños se marchan desdichados
Como mariposas sin aliento
En el suave Noviembre van –
Del cielo afanosos peregrinos.

Los días son malos – la Tierra y yo
Por espadas de invierno degolladas
El sol perdió la guerra solemne
Y la fe en vano nació

Ojalá viese una sola estrella
De desvanecida luz plateada
Mientras la espesa sombra se abre
En la suave noche de Noviembre. 

The original?

       At the end of Bloomfield’s story, Lily Robert-Foley raised the question of whether there was perhaps enough information contained in three translations into French, the translation into Italian and   Toddbombadil304’s retrotranslation back into English, to in fact reconstruct the original poem. If the original poem could not be found, perhaps it could be made?

       Below, you will find the three translations into French, alongside some preliminary retrotranslations in English, as well as Robert-Foley’s analysis following her presentation of the retrotranslations to Outranspo. As an initial phase of the investigation, the poems were translated literally, word for word back into English, in order to provide a common base from which to try to recreate the original. In these first versions, the task of translating respecting meter and rhyme was too constricting—as the goal was investigation rather than recreation. This likewise avoided prematurely imposing a rhyme and meter scheme, one perhaps not that of the original—particularly as Dickinson is known to stray from her formal constraints.
Toddbombadil304’s version

Mes rêves vont la gueule sombre
En nases  papillons
S’en vont au jour du doux novembre  –
Des cieux les champions.

Les jours sont nuls  – Moi et la Terre
Des fers d’hiver mutilent
Le soleil  paume une autre Guerre
La foi est née futile.

Si j’avais vu mais une étoile
Un biais d’argent qui luit
Quand l’obscurité drue dévoile
Novembre doux la nuit.

My dreams go with somber mugs 
In idiot butterflies
Leave as day rises in sweet Novembre—
Champions of the heavens. 

Hopeless days — the Earth and I
Winter irons mutilate
The sun loses another War
Faith born futile

If I had seen but one star
A shining silver slant
When the thick darkness unveils
The sweet Novembre night

The suffragette’s version

Mes rêves fuient insatisfaits
tels des papillons hors d’haleine
par une douce journée de novembre
pèlerins des Cieux, ils vont sans peine.

Les jours sont vils – la terre et moi
sommes tués par les épées d’hiver
l’astre a perdu l’auguste Guerre
et en vain fut portée la foi.

J’aurais voulu voir une étoile
à l’éclat d’argent évanoui
quand la ténèbre ouvre son voile
en novembre, par une douce nuit.

My dreams flee restlessly
as butterflies out of breath
in a sweet November day
pilgrims of the Heavens, they go easily.

The days are vile—the Earth and I
are killed by winter’s swords
the star lost the noble War
and held forth faith in vain.

I would have like to see a star
a faint silver sliver
when the darkness lets out its sails
In November, by a sweet night

The Marquis de Saint Garazoto’s version

Mes rêves partent avec lassitude
Pareils à quelques papillons fébriles
Partent une douce journée d’Automne
Prompts pèlerins des Cieux.
Les jours sont mesquins — la Terre et moi,
Massacrés par les dagues de l’hiver
Le soleil a perdu la triste Guerre
Et la foi a vu le jour en vain.
J’aurais aimé voir une seule étoile
Pleine d’un éclat d’argent disparu
Mais la sombre obscurité s’entrouvre
Dans cette doucereuse nuit d’automne.

My dreams leave wearily 
Like a few restless butterflies
Fleeing a sweet autumn day
Swift pilgrims of the Heavens.
The days are mean—the Earth and I,
Massacred by the daggers of winter
The sun lost the sad War
And faith was born in vain
I would have liked to see a single star
Full of its faded silver sparkle
But the darkness half opens
In this sickly sweet Autumn night

       The start of the first poem can clearly be identified as, “My dreams”, but from there, it quickly becomes more difficult to pin down. For the verb in the first line we have “vont” (go), “fuient” (flee) and “partent” (go). In the first translation, the verb is modified by a personification, “la gueule sombre” (“dark face”), however this translation—the one purportedly found in Toddbombadil304’s family letters—bears a markedly different style from the others, including several shifts in register. The register of “la gueule sombre” we agreed was definitely more casual than much of the rest of the poem, and is not in keeping with a traditional translation of a Dickinson poem. To respect this irregularity, and preserve a trace of it, I have translated this as “somber mug.” The other two poems translate the modifier as an adverb, “insatisfaits”, and a prepositional phrase “avec lassitude”—which we agreed are likely much closer to the original meaning.
       In the next line, we see that all the variants contain the “papillons”, which we took to confirm the figure of the butterfly in the original. However, what grammatical and rhetorical relationship should these butterflies be understood to have to the “restless” or “weary” dreams? Metaphor or simile? Likewise, the manner in which the butterflies are qualified: “nases” (which translates as “broken”, “stupid” or “idiot” and constitutes another register anomaly in Toddbombadil304’s poem), “hors d’haleine” (“out of breath”) or “fébrile” (“restless”)—is less than definitive. 
       In the third line, we see that the verb of the first line is repeated in both Toddbombadil304’s version as well as the Marquis’s—but not in the suffragette’s. Should this be taken as the suffragette’s noted lack of attention, and assume a repeated verb (“go” or “leave”) in the original? However, we see that in another sense in this line, it is the Marquis’s version that is the anomaly rather than the suffragette’s “Automne” instead of “Novembre” in Toddbombadil304’s and the suffragette’s. Does this indicate that the Marquis’s translation here is in fact hyperonymic?
       The next line confirms the presence of “Heavens” with the unanimous translation of “des Cieux”, although syntax as well as capitalization remain to be determined. We have once again a two against three scenario, where the “pèlerins” (pilgrims”) in the suffragette’s and the Marquis’s versions may be contrasted with the “champions” of Toddbombadil304’s. It is therefore important to take into account in this instance the rhyme scheme adopted by Toddbombadil304 (or in other instances, by the suffragette—the Marquis has chosen not to rhyme his poem). The translator of the Toddbombadil304 version has stuck to the strict rhyme and meter of the common meter that is often deployed by Dickinson, alternating between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter with an ABAB rhyme scheme. However, this is rather unconvincing, as Dickinson often diverged from these strict constraints when it suited her, using half-rhymes or varying meter. In this sense, the suffragette’s is likely the closest. In other words, although Artozqui had initially presented her inconsistent meter and rhyme as a sign of her ineptitude as a translator, it may indeed be more indicative of her ethics of translation. Likewise, as Gayraud brought to our attention, the Spanish version rhymes only two lines in the first stanza, but rhymes all the lines in the third stanza, suggesting that Dickinson’s original rhyme scheme may have indeed been irregular. In fact, the rigid adherence by the translator (if truly there was one) of Toddbombadil304’s poem to the common meter most likely does the translation a disservice, forcing the translator to employ “champion” instead of a half-rhyme “pélerin”—which would have been closer to Dickinson’s poetics, and most likely closer to the original meaning. I proposed pilgrim as the most likely original word  of the two, and the Outranspians agreed. 
       Next, we see the rhetorical field of the modifier of “days” (present as “Les jours” in all three) splinter into three again with “nuls” (“hopeless”—Toddbombadil304’s poem’s lexical inconsistency making another appearance here), “mesquins” (“mean”) and “vils”. The reoccurrence of the phenomenon of agreement between noun-objects and disagreement between modifiers across the three translations perhaps tells us something about the poetics of Dickinson herself (if indeed, an original did exist), and its tendency towards locating its ambiguity in the descriptors, while keeping to a concrete nominal appellation of world. This speaks perhaps to the feeling one may get reading the poetry of Dickinson, at once anchored firmly to a simple world of things while at the same time suspended in a strange ambiguity that is both in things themselves and not—in the way they qualify themselves to the reader. 
       And yet, the following line, runs counter to this last impression, giving us an imprecise weapon, something in between “fers” (“irons”—a hyperonym?), “dagues” (“daggers”—perhaps a literal translation from the English?) or “épées”, which we translated as “swords”. All translators agreed that whatever type of arms, there were many (they are plural). Likewise, the action the weapons were capable of taking follow suite in equivocity: “Des fers mutilient” (“mutilate”), the dagues massacr[ent] (“massacre”), and épées tue[ent] “kill”. In Toddbombadil304’s version a certain ambiguity is added by the agreement. In the two other versions, the verb is treated in its adjectival form “massacrés” (la terre et moi) or “tuées”, whereas Toddbombadil304’s “les fers mutilient/Le soleil” leaves some ambiguity as to whether this is a syntactical inversion wherein it is “Moi et la Terre” (this grammatical oddity imposed, again, by the zealous rhyme scheming) that are mutilated or the Sun. If it is the latter, however, the line continues with another verb, “Le Soleil paume” (“The sun loses”), which would be more indicative of a more modern free verse style post-dating Dickinson. Although Toddbombadil304’s version is inarguably more awkward, it does leave open the possibility for the speaker to be a woman, whereas the gender agreement imposed on French adjectives gives us a masculine agreement “és” (and not “ées”). Since “terre” in French is feminine, both translators must be following the rule of the masculine “neutral” where a group of subjects or objects with mixed genders will take the masculine form. Irène Gayraud remarked, following Robert-Foley’s presentation, that “degollas” has a feminine marker in the Spanish translation, meaning that María Pía Cruz Borjas had clearly interpreted the speaker to be a woman. 
       The two-against-three phenomenon appears again in the third line of the second stanza with two “soleil”s against one “astre”. As “astre” appears in the suffragette’s version preceding “auguste”, we all agreed that this likely implied a similar assonance or alliteration in the original. We then all quickly agreed on “lost” as the translation of the verb (Toddbombadil304’s translation “paume” clearly another sign of his register anomalies). This left us with only a sole uncertainty in this line, once again pertaining to the modifier, which in the original must hover somewhere amidst “triste” and “auguste” (Toddbombadil304’s “autre Guerre” stuck again in its adherence to form over meaning). 
       The vanity or futility of the faith suggested in the last line of this stanza seems to have been the subject of some confusion, translated twice as “born” (“est née”, “a vu le jour”) as in the past tense of bear as in to bear a child, and once, in the suffragette’s translation as “borne”, past tense of “bear” as in to bear a burden. This could indeed support Artozqui’s claim that the suffragette’s translation was either done hastily or betrays a lack of education. 
       The first line of the last stanza contains some ambiguity regarding the verb tense, but all Outranspians present agreed the original was written in the past conditional, whether this conditional took on a first or a second part of the enunciation of a conditional clause, “Si j’avais vu…” (“If I had seen”) in Toddbombadil’s version, or “j’aurais voulu voir” or “j’aurais aimé voir” in the suffragette’s and the Marquis’s. We hesitated between, “Would that I have seen” or a “I would have liked to see”. Artozqui suggested “I wish”, but was overruled except by Gayraud, who came to his defense remarking that “I wish” could be an interesting retranslation of “Ojalá” in the Spanish version, which means “I hope”, and comes from the Arabic “Ich’Allah”. Some room for metrical play was left open here with the divergences between “mais une étoile” (“but one star”), “une seule étoile” (“a single star”) or simply “une étoile” in the suffragette’s—who translated all lines in a loose tetrameter. 
       There was much final discussion concerning the “éclat d’argent” (“biais d’argent”) in the third to last line, as “éclat” can be translated in a number of ways, as “sliver”, “shard”, or splinter”, or indeed as “flash”, “shine”, “sparkle”, “radiance”, or glare”. I briefly pontificated on the tertextuality (see my doctoral dissertation on the Tiers Texte) of éclat, which in translation is performative: it actually “splinters” into several meanings in its translation, performing its own meaning in the in-between play between translations. Regardless, this hardly helps to determine whether the original contains a “sliver” of silver, or a “flash”, a “sparkle” or something else. Outranspians were divided. Some tended towards “sliver” based on Toddbombadil304’s “biais”—however, Jonathan Baillehache pointed out that Toddbombadil304’s poem also contains “luit” (“shine”), which has no lexical resonance in either the suffragette’s nor the Marquis’s poem, unless “éclat” is translated by “shine” or “sparkle”. Artozqui suggested simply “light” but most found this too banal. 
       The second to last line posed two difficulties, the first of which was rather easy to resolve. Despite the suffragette’s very poetic “ténèbre”, we all agreed that darkness was most likely the original from which Toddbombadil304’s “obscurité” and the Marquis’s “sombre obscurité” (a pointless redundancy) was taken. “Voile” presented a bit more difficulty as we were not certain whether the original contained the actual image of the veil or not. We finally settled on “unveil”. 
       The last line contains a number of ambiguities as well, most of them pertaining to the Marquis’s anomalous version, who was likely translating “November” by the hyperonym “Automne”. This lead us to eliminate the possibility of his “doucereuse” (sickly sweet), compared to the “douce” and “doux” (“sweet”) in the other two, admitting to recognizing a certain tendency towards over-translating in the Marquis’s translation in general. At this point in the discussion, I raised the issue of positionality in the politics of translation—arguing that the Marquis was likely the only male translator of the three and that his position of privilege (a member of the nobility) likewise had engendered a certain blindness, causing him to over-translate or rewrite, where he should have been more attentive in his reading. No one really cared, in any case agreeing that “sweet” seemed to fit well with Dickinsonian rhetoric. On this last point too, we decided that the lines should be divided into three stanzas, and the Capital letters maintained where they appear in the suffragette’s and the Marquis’s versions. 

The result

These results, alongside the accounts of how the translations were found, were presented at the International Colloquium Lire pour faire/Doing Reading at the University of Paris 3 on June 30th, 2016. Participants of the colloquium were asked to collaborate with the Outranspians in attendance (Santiago Artozqui, Camille Bloomfield, Lily Robert-Foley, Eliana Vicari) in an effort to recreate the final poem. Here are the results of that collaborative session:

My dreams leave with a discontent
Like breathless butterflies
In mild November day they go –
Swift pilgrims of the Skies.

The days are mean – the Earth and I
By winter swords are slain
The sun has lost the solemn War
And faith was born’ in vain

I wish I saw a single star
Of vanished silver light
As sturdy darkness stands ajar
In mild November night.

Santiago Artozqui

Santiago Artozqui writes short stories, essays, poetry, and translates from Spanish and English into French. Former literary critic in La Quinzaine littéraire, he now writes in En attendant Nadeau, a web literary review. He teaches creative writing at the university Paris 7 Diderot, and is president of ATLAS, an organization for the promotion of literary translation. He’s also old and not funny, too bad for him.

Jonathan Baillehache

Jonathan Baillehache teaches French (electronic) literature, video games and translation studies at the University of Georgia, in Athens (home of R.E.M. and Bobby Prince). He, too, is a Tiphainito (a former doctoral student of Tiphaine Samoyault). He defended his dissertation on the translation of Russian “zaum” poetry in 2012. He translates occasionally from French to English, from Russian to French and English, and from English to French, but his hobbyhorse is to think about translation in the framework of philosophy and digital humanities.

Camille Bloomfield

Camille Bloomfield tries to do as many things as one possibly can, such as translating poetry (from Italian: Patrizia Valduga, Mariangela Gualtieri, & from English: Lily Robert-Foley, Yuyutsu Sharma, H. D. Thoreau); writing interface poems on Instagram & making short video-poems on Youtube; teaching literature and communication at Université Paris 13 & University of Geneva; conducting research on Oulipo, manifestoes, digitized heritage, and platforms for collaborative translation. On her free time, she makes lists, plays music and co-founds groups like Outranspo.

Irène Gayraud

Irène Gayraud writes poetry, poetical-extremely-short-fictions, and currently a novel. She has published two books : à distance de souffle, l’air (Éditions du Petit Pois, 2014), and Voltes (Al Manar, 2016).  She translates from Italian, Spanish and German into French : she collaborated with Christophe Mileschi to translate the Dino Campana’s poetical work (Dino Campana, Chants Orphiques et autres poèmes, Paris, Points, coll. “Poésie”, 2016). In addition, she holds a doctorate from Paris IV-Sorbonne. 

Lily Robert-Foley

Lily Robert-Foley is Maîtresse de Conférences at the Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, specializing in translation. She is currently self-translating her doctoral dissertation on the Third Texte, a creative reading device for deforming the space between translations. She is the author of m, a book of poetry-critique-collage (Corrupt Press, 2013), graphemachine, a chapbook of visual poetry (Xerolage, 2013), Jiji, a book of prose poems and conceptual writing (forthcoming Omnia Vanitas Press) and Money, Math and Measure (forthcoming, Essay Press chapbook series). She is currently writer in residence at the Gula Summer Institute in Maine where she is working on the figural alliances between translation and digestion, with a particular focus on lobster.