Peter O’Neill – Two Sonnets

Profile Peter O Neill LE Mag July 2019

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Two Sonnets by Peter O’Neill

Sonnets from work in progress of book titled ‘Commuting with Baudelaire’.
Translated from English to French by Yan Kouton

Yan Kouton

Yan Kouton is the author of a number of novels; Le Passeur ( 2005), Les Oiseaux de Proie ( 2007 ) and Des Effrondements Souterrains ( 2011 ) all published by Editions Zinedi. He is also a published poet, having had a number of publications, among them Le Mots sur l’emoi (2017) and Volutes (2018). Yan is also a lyricist. He is currently based in Paris. Peter O’Neill is the author of several collections of poetry, perhaps most notably for his first trilogy of books centered around Dublin in which he attempts to apply the French 19th century aesthetic The Dark Pool ( 2015 ), Dublin Gothic ( 2015 ) and  The Enemy – Transversions from Charles Baudelaire ( 2015 ). He is also the author of a short piece of fiction More Micks than Dicks (2017), chronicling his other obsession with Samuel Beckett’s epic novel Comment c’est/How It Is. He co-edited And Agamemnon Dead (2015) with Walter Ruhlmann and compiled and edited The Gladstone Readings (2017).

I first met Laura/ Alessia almost 19 years ago on Baggott Street, where we were both working at the time. We met on what was to be the last week of her short stay in the country. Well, we met soon after she returned to her native Sardinia in Paris in November, two months after we had first met. That was the clincher, she returned to live with me in Ireland the following January, 2001. She has been living with me here ever since. Ten years ago we had a daughter together, Rebecca. I have dedicated numerous books to Laura, over the years. The Dark Pool and Dublin Gothic, being two. These two sonnets, taken from Henry Street Arcade, show very well, I think, our both sides. Here’s to many more years together!

Merci pour les traductions Yan.

My Dark Lady

Nothing’s had, all’s spent,
When our desire is got without content.
Lady Macbeth – Shakespeare

For Laura!

For you I will be that sainted figure of a man,
If you will but accept him with all his equal quirks and perversions,
As I will, in turn, accept the base bitch in you,
The one who, through necessity, spurs the basest need in me.

For, are we both not but the conglomerate parts
Of our most extreme opposites;
Bitch from hell, base bastard from beyond?
And such is only half the tale!

But I would accept the sainted figure of you too,
Long after the pots have been steaming till all is boiled,
And your southern temperament has finally cooled.

O woman, diabolical. You are why I read Baudelaire,
For only Shakespeare, and he, seem to have your proper contours
Measured and set in unholy printed atrocity.

My Dark Lady

On n’a plus rien, tout dépensé,
Quand le désir est assouvi sans satisfaire.
Lady Macbeth – Shakespeare

Pour Laura

Pour vous, je serai cette sainte figure d’homme,
Si vous voulez l’accepter avec toutes ses bizarreries et perversions égales,
En acceptant à mon tour la chienne qui est en vous,
Celle qui, par nécessité, suscite en moi le besoin le plus grave.

Car ne sommes-nous pas tous les deux des parties assemblées ?
De nos opposés les plus extrêmes ;
Salope de l’enfer, enfoiré aux portes de l’au-delà ?
Et ce n’est que la moitié du récit !

Mais je pourrais aussi accepter votre sainte silhouette,
Longtemps après que les pots aient chauffé jusqu’à ce que tout soit bouilli,
Et que votre tempérament méridional ait finalement refroidi.

Ô femme diabolique. Vous êtes la raison pour laquelle j’ai lu Baudelaire,
Car avec Shakespeare, ils ont pris la mesure de vos contours
Fixés en impression atroce et impie.


For Alessia

Exult the chorale to leaven the waking day,
Voices to rest the tired feet threading on human clay,
O we who daily labour duty bound to till the earth
With its incommensurable circumference, delivering
Sudden and unexpected birth, each harbouring
Like the solemn salt- lashed seaward pier,
Enduring the barbed turbulence of change,
Only to fulfil the octagon of possible further assault.

O we who both suffer mental and physical ill,
Then and only then till reason bows us,
So that we are forced to consider, and quite seriously,
Forgoing all further evidence of thrill,
When the auspicious word, vowel leaden, plump with
OE and elongated as limbs, further steels U


Pour Alessia

La chorale exulte au lever chaque matin,
Des voix pour reposer les pieds fatigués de l’argile humaine,
Ô nous qui travaillons tous les jours obligés de cultiver la terre
Avec sa circonférence incommensurable, livrant
Une naissance soudaine et inattendue, chacun abrité
Comme la solennelle jetée maritime,
Endurant la turbulence hérissée du changement,
Tout cela pour protéger l’octogone d’éventuels nouveaux assauts.

Ô nous qui souffrons tous les deux d’une maladie physique et psychique,
Ce n’est qu’à ce moment-là que la raison nous renverse,
Nous sommes alors obligés d’envisager, et très sérieusement,
De renoncer à la preuve de l’évidence.
Lorsque le mot propice, voyelle de plomb, s’arrondit avec
OE et s’allonge comme un membre, plus loin en acier U

© Peter O’Neill