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The Times Stephen Spender Prize 2010

18-and-under, joint second prize

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Amelia Hassard

‘Get Drunk’
by Baudelaire

Always be drunk.
That is all
there is to it.
Do not feel
Time’s horrible burden
chip at your shoulders
and crush you into the earth,
by getting drunk and staying so.
On what?
On wine, on poetry, on virtue, on whatever.
But get drunk.
And if you find yourself
at the steps of a palace,
on the green grasses of a gutter
or in the bleak dejection of your room,
waking to find your drunkenness
already fading, disappearing,
ask the wind,
or clock,
ask anything that flees,
anything that whimpers,
ask anything that rolls,
or speaks, ask what time it is;
and the wind,
bird or clock
will all answer you,
‘Time to get drunk!
Avoid becoming Time’s martyred slaves,
by getting drunk;
by getting drunk endlessly!
On wine, on poetry, on virtue, on whatever.’

Translated from the French by Amelia Hassard


Il faut être toujours ivre,
Tout est là;
C’est l’unique question.
Pour ne pas sentir
l’horrible fardeau du Temps
qui brise vos épaules
et vous penche vers la terre,
il faut vous enivrer sans trêve.
Mais de quoi?
De vin, de poésie, ou de vertu à votre guise,
mais enivrez-vous!
Et si quelquefois,
sur les marches d’un palais,
sur l’herbe verte d’un fossé,
vous vous réveillez,
l’ivresse déjà diminuée ou disparue,
demandez au vent,
à la vague,
à l’étoile,
à l’oiseau,
à l’horloge;
à tout ce qui fuit,
à tout ce qui gémit,
à tout ce qui roule,
à tout ce qui chante,
à tout ce qui parle,
demandez quelle heure il est;
et le vent,
la vague,
l’oiseau, l’horloge,
vous répondront,
il est l’heure de s’enivrer!
Pour ne pas être les esclaves martyrisés du Temps,
enivrez-vous ;
enivrez-vous sans cesse!
de vin, de poésie, de vertu, à votre guise.

Charles Baudelaire

Translation commentary

I chose to translate ‘Enivrez-Vous’ by French poet, author and leading figure of the Decadent movement, Baudelaire. This poem is a favourite of mine for its meaning and feel, but I ultimately chose the poem for its unconventional structure and idiomatic sentences, which I felt would be a challenge to translate into a foreign language as many phrases are unique constructions.

In translating from French into English I found that problems arose when translating conjugated verbs which were conveying a habitual action, as the English equivalent is often clumsy.

enivrez-vous sans cesse!

conveys a very particular idea of repeated, cyclical action of getting drunk, rather than a one-off drunkenness that is everlasting.

I tried to keep the same metre in the poem as it is fundamental to its strength. Baudelaire’s poem is prose, without formal metre or rhyme, but its charming cadence is still maintained through repetition of words and phrases, which speeds up the poem into a gallop.

Amelia Hassard