Tiger, Tigrernby John LukacsrnThe Perils of TranslationrnIn November 1875, in a gas-lit flat overrna rain-soaked street in Tours, a lawrnstudent sat together with a young Portuguesernwidow. They were riflingrnthrough her letters. She had been a minorrnactress in Bordeaux and had playedrnat the Haymarket Theatre and elsewhere.rnShe had had an English loverrnwho once gave her an anthology ofrnpoems. “Regarde, c’est vraiment bien,”rnshe said, pronouncing it vrai-mon, andrnshe went on to read with her Portuguesernaccent and voice:rnTiger, tiger burning brightrnIn the forest of the nightrnWhat immortal hand or eyernCould frame thy fearfulrnsymmetry?rnThe young Frenchman, who knewrnsome English, was charmed with this,rnand right then and there the result wasrnthe following:rnTigre feroce, aux yeux de charbonrnBrulant et hurlant dans la foretrnnocturnernLIBERAL ARTSrnSOMKIlliNGNKW?rn•’•’I lie IK’W KIIMI (jt tllL- V.KIICMI Ictl.rnriic-l’iiilal.Sl.iks. TIK:! ..S. used tornbe .1 l)iilv,iik .it^jinst amiiiuiiiisiii.rnhill [mh il’i. Ilie f|MMinK-iit,il 1:I1K)-rnrat()i ol till’ r;i(lif,!l kfl. Ilu- l;islrnfoiuili) wlierc ()ii laii ‘ihll lucil rjdiLjlrn’loeinlisl ide.is .niioii!^ ptojik’ inlliicnciii^rntlie sotitty. Tlic tenii ‘politicrn.il coiTfdiK’s”.’ iiicliidc-. a lot ofrn.ie\.s 1)11 clliiiicil iMiiiofities. biisiiit;rnss,iniroiiiiiCTit. iiillnrc. fcininisnirn;iiid u.i)-! tli.il iii.ikfs liic I iiik:tl Sliiti”.rn;iii iJtUl p,irtifip,iiil in the iiitciiMlu)rnii,il socioK.”rn—from (^oiilm.rnil nvjlil-whii^^wcdii’hrn[lolitical iruiaazine.rnlunium IWi.rnQuel grand chasseur, quel petitrnpeintrernEncadreraient ta logique fiere?rn”Grand” chasseur and “petit” peintrernreflected the kind of royalist anti-intellectualismrnthat this law student fanciedrncirca 1875, but “logique fiere” for “fearfulrnsymmetry” was the inevitable intrusionrnof the Cartesian spirit.rnTwo decades passed. Our youngrnFrenchman had inherited of a modestrnfortune, wherewith he bought himself arnseat in the departement of Ile-et-Vilainernand even had a small volume of versernpublished by the title of Essais parnassiens,rnall of which gave him a mildlyrnsophisticated reputation in the provincialrntown where he lived. His subsequentrndestiny interests us no more. What concernsrnus is the fact that on a bright summerrnday in 1894 Essais parnassiens wasrnpicked up on the Quai Voltaire byrnAlistair Constant, an aspiring youngrnhabitue of the Cafe Royal circle, freshrnout from the occasionally strawberricsand-rnchampagne world of Oxford andrnhopeful of appearing in print in the OrangernBook, which was to be launched inrnthe autumn of that year. Alistair had justrnreceived this telegram from Oscar:rn”DEAR BOY. ANY ENGLISH POEMrnWILL DO AS LONG AS IT IS INrnFRENCH.” Whereafter Alistair composed:rnFiery orange, tiger lilyrnCrying high for you to seernDefying the trampling hunterrnHow small your logic seems tornA smallish little thing. There occurredrnnow the Entente Cordiale and, in consequence,rna rise in the interest devoted tornEnglish literature, including the onetime,rnfor Frenchmen, incomprehensiblernfield of English poesy. Aristide Enjalbert,rnwho found the first (and only)rnnumber of the Orange Book in the ReadingrnCircle of Pan, dreamed of the strangernand savage feline beauty of Paris in thernnight: images of La Dame aux Cameliasrnand of the eventual odor of leather andrngasoline fumes swept through his head.rnBy 1910, the Baudelaire spirit had arrivedrneven in the Midi:rnO belle tigresse, feroce et ivrernArpentes trottoirs dans larnmetropole de nuitrnToujours dedaignant tes chasseursrnphilistinsrnTa logique ne cache qu’un noblernIn 1925, Fitzgerald Ashby, aet. 25,rnpossessor of a yeariy income of $25,000,rncomes to Paris:rnWind-drunk swaying poplar treesrnRumble on the roof of FrancernTheir geometric carpentriesrnIgnore the thick-lipped tourists’rndance.rnHe had been careening southward in arnred Ilispano driven by Caresse Crosby.rnThe trip was not a success. In the Pyreneesrnit rained. Fitzgerald Ashby had hisrnusual trouble with “chasseurs” andrn”chaussures”; from “arpentant” hernslipped into “carpentry”; still he felt thatrnhe had understood philistinism perfectly.rnThis came through clear and strongrnto all readers of the Left Bank Review,rnwhere Jean-Luc Boiteux found the poemrnin 1938. Boiteux was a cultural pessimist,rnan adherent of the Front Populaire,rnan admirer of the American NewrnDeal. Hence his, probably unconscious,rntranslation of poplars into peoples:rnLa Fraicheur des aubes des jeunesrnpeuples serieuxrnPenetre les toits qui cachent lesrnjoueurs,rnUs subissent I’assaut des odeursrnnocturnesrnEncombrant leurs grands etrndynamiques fureurs.rnOne world war and nearly threerndecades later a tired American, sitting inrna cafe in Tours, saw a cartoon in anrnAmerican newspaper. A seedy tiger,rnwearing a two-star kepi, unmistakablyrnequipped with the form and gait ofrnGeneral de Gaulle, was trying to pull anrnold army tank on which was writtenrn”Europe.” The “assaut” suddenly rangrnin his ear, as he remembered the themernfrom a jingle contest sponsored by arngasoline company:rnHappy Hank was an earnest YankrnUnlike his good friend. FancyrnFrankrnI le followed Esso’s good advicernHe put his tiger in the tank.rnJohn Lukacs is a professor ofrnhistory at Chestnut Hill College inrnPennsylvania.rn48/CHRONICLESrnrnrn