Selected Lyrics, by Théophile Gautier, translated by Norman R. Shapiro
In his ABC of Reading, Ezra Pound begins his short list of nineteenth-century French poets to be studied with Théophile Gautier.
Gautier was one of the nineteenth century’s most prominent French writers, famous for his virtuosity, his inventive textures, and his motto “Art for art’s sake.” His work is often considered a crucial hinge between High Romanticism—idealistic, sentimental, grandiloquent—and the beginnings of “Parnasse,” with its emotional detachment, plasticity, and irresistible surfaces.
This generous sampling, anchored by the complete Émaux et Camées, perhaps Gautier’s supreme poetic achievement, and including poems from the vigorously exotic España and several early collections, not only succeeds in bringing these poems into English but also rediscovers them, renewing them in the process of translation.
Norman Shapiro’s translations have been widely praised for their formal integrity, sonic acuity, tonal sensitivities, and overall poetic qualities, and he employs all these gifts in this collection.
“Gautier’s distinctively graceful and elegant poetry is overdue for discovery by English-speaking readers. This virtuosic collection does both justice to his verse and a great service to those unable to appreciate it fully in the original French.” - Alain Toumayan, University of Notre Dame