18 APRIL 1952, Page 28

Les Fleurs du Mal. By Baudelaire. Ren-, dered into English

by Alan Conder. (Cassell. 12s. 6d.) THE translator of poetry always attempts the impossible ; he is, in the large majority of cases, pitting his talent against genius, and, besides, the language of poetry knows no equivalents. The translator of Baudelaire must also remember that a remarkable number of versions have already appeared : they suggest that the poet has come into his own, but also that the perfect translation has not so far been recognised. The latest version of Les Fleurs du Mal shows accuracy and an obvious feeling for poetic diction : the verse form, the alliterative phrase are readily reproduced, and in his translation of " La servante au grand coeur . . . " Mr. Conder shows that he can recapture some of Baudelaire 's affection and sorrow, and feel as well as express his emotion. As poems in their own right some of his translations are satisfying. But too often one can see the mechanism : the extra preposition to provide a syllable, the italicised word to give more force, the unexpectedly accented word to obey the exigencies of rhyme. Besides, as in most translation, the carefully chosen poetic word betrays self-conscious- ness and lacks the ring of spontaneity, Mr. Conder's translation is as good as most, and it is often enjoyable. But

"How far you are, 0 fragrant paradise, Where all things are adorable, and where All's love and pleasure under bright blue skies. . . ."

It is far indeed from the" paradis parfume " to which Baudelaire aspired.

J. R.