Two Poems by Émile Nelligan, translated by Marc di Saverio

Christ on the Cross

I'd always gaze into this plaster Jesus
pitched like a pardon at the old abbey-door
a black-gestured solemn scaffold
with saintly idolatry I'd bow before.

Now as I sat around at the hour of cricket's play,
in funereal fields, blue-viewedly musing
one near-past night with wind-blown hair, reciting
Eloa, in that swelled esthetic ephebic way,

I noticed near the debris of a wall
the heavy old cross heaped up tall
and crumbled plaster among primroses

and I froze, doleful, with pensive eyes,
and heard spasmodic hammers strike, in me,
the black spikes of my own Calvary. 

The Golden Ship

She was a massive ship, hewn in heavy gold,
with masts that fingered heaven on seas unknown.
Under redundant sun, with scattered hair,
was prowed outspread Venus, bare;

but then one night she hit the huge reef
in waters where the Sirens sing,
and this ghastly shipwreck tilted its keel
to the depths of the chasm, that immutable

tomb. She was a ship of gold, but her diaphanous
flanks showed treasures over which the blasphemous
sailors Psychosis, Spite and Nausea clashed.

So, what has survived this flash of storm?
What about my heart, abandoned ship?
... O, still it sinks, deep in Dream's abyss. 


Marc di Saverio hails from Hamilton, Ontario. His poetry and translations have appeared in such outfits as The Dalhousie Review, Modern Haiku, Haiku Scotland, and Maisonneuve Magazine. Simply Haiku named him one of “the top ten world’s finest living English language haiku poets for the year 2011.” In September 2013, his debut collection, Sanatorium Songs, was published with Palimpsest Press, to critical acclaim. His long poem, The Love Song of Crito Di Volta, will be appearing in October of 2014 with Frog Hollow Press. He is currently translating The Collected Poems of Emile Nelligan, another of which recently appeared in Hazlitt.  "Christ on the Cross" and "The Golden Ship" originally appear in Sanatorium Songs

Émile Nelligan (1879-1941) was a francophone poet from Quebec. Highly influenced by the symbolist poetry of Paul Verlaine, Charles Baudelaire and others, he was a precocious talent and published his first poems in Montreal at the age of 16. He suffered a major psychotic breakdown in 1899 and never finished his first book of poetry, which according to his notes, was to be named The Recital of Angels. His Collected Poems were published in 1903, and his reputation has only grown in the years since. He is now considered a Quebecois literary icon.