Poems and Texts

“The Pretty Redhead” by Guillaume Apollinaire, Translated by Ron Padgett

The Pretty Redhead

Here I am before you all an utterly sensible man
Knowing life and about death as much as a living person can know
Having gone through the sorrows and joys of love
Having occasionally known how to impose his ideas on others
Knowing several languages
Having traveled quite a bit
Having seen the war in the Artillery and the Infantry
Wounded in the head trepanned under chloroform
Having lost his best friends in the horrible fight
I know as much of the old and the new as any one man can know of them both
And without worrying today about this war
Just between us and for us my friends
I am giving my verdict on the long quarrel between tradition and invention
Order and Adventure

You whose mouth is made in the image of the mouth of God
Mouth which is order itself
Be indulgent when you compare us
With those who were the perfection of order
We who seek adventure everywhere

We are not your enemies
We want to give you vast and strange territories
Where flowering mystery offers itself to anyone who wishes to gather it
There are new fires there colors never seen before
A thousand unfathomable phantoms
To which reality must be given
We want to explore goodness that big country where everything is silent
There is also time which one can drive away or make come back
Have pity on us who are always fighting at the frontiers
Of the limitless and the future
Have pity on our errors pity on our sins

Now comes summer the wild season
And my youth is dead just like the spring
O Sun now is the time of burning Reason
And I am waiting
To follow it forever the sweet and noble form
It takes to make me love it only
Attracting me like iron in a strong magnetic field
It has the charming look and air
Of an adorable girl with red hair

You’d say her hair is made of gold
A lovely lightning flash that keeps going on
Or those flames that promenade
In tea roses that fade

But laugh laugh at me
Men everywhere but especially people here
Because there are so many things I don’t dare tell you
So many things you wouldn’t let me tell you
Have pity on me

Ron Padgett

Ron Padgett grew up in Tulsa and has lived mostly in New York City since 1960. Among his many honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters poetry award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Padgett’s How Long was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry, and his Collected Poems won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for the best poetry book of 2013. In addition to being a poet, he is also the translator of Guillaume Apollinaire, Pierre Reverdy, and Blaise Cendrars. His own work has been translated into eighteen languages. His new book is Big Cabin (July 2019), written over three seasons in a Vermont cabin, these poems act as a reflecting pool, casting back mortality, consciousness, and time in new, crystal-clear light.

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