argue over the merits of a translation, and there are places here where I would question some of Reeser’s choices (I don’t like “wolverines” for loups, nor “ploughmen” for laboureurs). But these minor complaints do not undermine the very solid accomplishment of this brief selection of English renderings of a very difficult poet.
I cannot end without mentioning the strange and upsetting poem “Non Omnis Moriar,” which takes its title from Horace’s famous ode about his hoped-for literary immortality. This is the sort of poem that I mentioned above, which requires a few readings to be understood. In it, a female narrator speaks of an absent (and presumably dead) male. Is he a husband? A lover? A father? A friend? It’s not immediately clear, though the intensity of the speaker’s emotion is. The poem (a variation on the rondeau) is in five sections, each composed of three largely iambic pentameter cinquains rhyming AABBA. When a line is not in iambic pentameter, it is usually a five-syllable fragment of indeterminate scansion, repeated within the cinquain.
The poem—at least as I read it—is mysterious about the relation of the female speaker to the man whom she discusses. Is she a widow whose memory of her dead spouse is so strong that he is a spectral presence in the house? Is she caring for a sick man who seems “dead” and “cold” because of some degenerative disability? Or—the scariest possibility of all—is the speaker keeping a man’s corpse at home, unburied, like the woman in A Rose for Emily, Faulkner’s necrophilic tale?
All of these scenarios seem plausible, and the language of the poem is intense enough to allow for multiple readings, but without the kind of coy vagueness that a lesser poet might have brought to the task. And this poem demonstrates that lucidity in verse does not necessarily mean crystal-clear certainty on every point. It means the use of language in a mature and sophisticated mode that allows for the normal nuances of communication, with all the reticence and reserve that go along with human speech. Only robots are exclusively