Tuesday, October 09, 2007

POETRY and surfing: I'd never thought of it before, but writing a poem is a lot like surfing. You sit out there and wait. And wait. Sometimes that wave never comes; sometimes it's not worth the ride (nor the write) and you kick out early, paddle back out to try again. That next wave may be just a little too dangerous -- it could kill me (or embarrass me badly).

Just the right one comes along...and it's a ride. What one does with a wave -- or an idea -- is what it's about, turning that raw material, that raw power, into a work of art, a moment of beauty. Hey, I think I need to go surfing!


I was online, looking up something else entirely, when I came upon the French text of 'The Prayer of St Francis.' This is probably the original and fairly modern version of the prayer, as there is no evidence that Francis of Assisi wrote it nor, indeed, that it existed before the 20th Century. Anyway, I thought I'd give it a go as translator; it's a pretty simple bit of French (ideal for a guy who has only bit of French) and the intent was more to go for the poetic truth than strict translation. I have in the past, fooled around with translating from Spanish and French, mostly folk songs for my own use. Figured I could shake off a little rust...hmmm, it might take a good scrubbing with a wire brush and a shot of Derusto...


make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hate, let me bring love.
Where there is hurt, let me bring pardon.
Where there is strife, let me bring accord.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is shadow, let me bring Your light.
Where there is grief, let me bring joy.

Oh Master,
let me not so seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in losing ourselves that we are found.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are reborn to life eternal.


trans. s. brooke ©2007

Not surprisingly, considering the relatively straightforward text, it's not a great deal different from other translations out there. Just a teensy more of my own voice in it.

Anyway, I was actually looking for versions of the Canticle of the Sun when I was sidetracked by the Prayer. St Francis has always held a special place for me; I wasn't surprised to find the parallels between his Christian mysticism and the Sufi tradition (which in turn may owe a debt to yet earlier T'ang Dynasty Taoist-tinged philosophy and poetry).

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