Maugham in Translations - "The Poet" in French and Spanish

W. Somerset Maugham in Translation
W. Somerset Maugham in Translation

Maugham in Translations

This post deviates a bit from others that I have been writing for the blog, but one way or another, one comes eventually into contact with W. Somerset Maugham in translations if you are interested in him long enough.

A comment that Maugham makes in a short story impressed me so much that although I had forgotten what the rest of the story was about, except that it took place in Italy (due to this wonderful ability of his of capturing the idiosyncrasies of his carefully chosen settings), I always remembered it.

Every time when I attempt to learn a language this passage comes to my mind:
Finding that she could not get on with her history without such a knowledge of Latin as would enable her to read the medieval documents with ease, Betty had set about learning the classical language. She troubled to acquire only the elements of grammar and then started, with a translation by her side, to read the authors that interested her. It is a very good method of learning a language and I have often wondered that it is not used in schools.

No, do not be alarmed, of course I do not remember the whole thing except the idea. I did track down the story in question: “The Human Element.”

So, after this roundabout, I come to the raison d’être of this post.

I am picking up French again after over ten years. What is a better way to learn it than reading the translation of my favourite author’s short stories?

I do read books written originally in French; there is no way one can substitute that with translations. But I do more grammatical analysis with the translated versions.

Indeed I come up with something that I think may be of interest to readers who share the same passion about Maugham’s works.

I separate all the sentences. This I did before already in order to analyze Maugham’s style. It is a very good way to see how he combines long and short sentences, which is one of the reasons why his writing flows so well.

Then, when I look at the translations, I begin to realize that some of his sentences are so complicated grammatically that they pose a real challenge to the translators.

As for the translations themselves, there is so much to learn to see how certain expressions are rendered in a different language. I do think that it is quite impossible to reproduce the author’s style. Some of Maugham’s sentences are combined or broken down, which are essential for setting the pace of the story.

Now, to explain the Spanish version.

I am currently learning French, but in order not to forget my hard-earnt Spanish, I keep it up with the Spanish translation.

In this post, I am going to put side by side the French and Spanish translations of Maugham’s short story “The Poet.” The story is not chosen with special reason. It is just that I have it in both translations.

My Spanish is much better than my French. I have corrected the Spanish version that I have, which leaves much to be desired. Some of the meanings are just wrong and I try to follow closer to Maugham’s style, though limiting myself to how he separates and constructs his sentences.

I am not sure when the Spanish translation was done, but it is very interesting that it leaves out some sensitive comments about the monarchy.

I did take the liberty to add one or two sentences to the French translation, which are put in brackets. Any corrections are welcomed.

The story is very fascinating in itself, examining how we often, being unable to help ourselves even though we try not to, are conditioned by our own expectations and preconceived notions, seeing what we want to see instead of the reality. It is written in a light, self-mocking manner.

“The Poet” by W. Somerset Maugham in French and Spanish

  1. I am not much interested in the celebrated and I have never had patience with the passion that afflicts so many to shake hands with the great ones of the earth.

    Je m’intéresse peu aux gens célébre, et la rage, si commune, de serrer la main des grands de ce monde m’a toujours agacé.

    No siento gran interés por la gente célebre, y no puedo soportar a esas personas que tienen la pasión de codearse con las grandes figuras.

  2. When it is proposed to me to meet some person distinguished above his fellows by his rank or his attainments, I seek for a civil excuse that may enable me to avoid the honour; and when my friend Diego Torre suggested giving me an introduction to Santa Aña I declined.

    Quand on me propose de me faire rencontrer une personne que son rang ou ses talents placent au-dessus des autres, je cherche une excuse pour me dérober poliment à un tel honneur ; d’où mon refus de la lettre d’introduction auprès de Santa Aña que mon ami Diego Torre voulait me remettre.

    Cuando alguien me propone presentarme a una persona que se distingue de sus semejantes, ya sea por su categoría social o por sus proezas, trato por todos los medios de buscar una excusa aceptable que me permita evitar el honor del encuentro. Por lo tanto, cuando mi amigo Diego Torre dio que iba a presentarme al señor de Santa Aña rehusé inmediatamente.

  3. But for once the excuse I made was sincere; Santa Aña was not only a great poet but also a romantic figure and it would have amused me to see in his decrepitude a man whose adventures (in Spain at least) were legendary; but I knew that he was old and ill and I could not believe that it would be anything but a nuisance to him to meet a stranger and a foreigner.

    Mais, pour une fois, mon excuse était sincère : Santa Aña n’était pas seulement un grand poète, mais encore une figure romantique ; et j’aurais eu plaisir à voir ce que l’âge avait fait d’un homme dont (en Espagne au moins) les aventures étaient entrées dans la légende ; mais, le sachant vieux et malade, je ne pouvais m’empêcher de penser que la réception d’un inconnu, étranger de surcroît, lui serait fastidieuse.

    Pero, esta vez, mi excusa era sincera. Santa Aña no era sólo un renombrado poeta, sino también una figura romántica y, a pesar de todo, me hubiese gustado saber cómo sería en la pobreza un hombre cuyas aventuras, por lo menos en España, eran legendarias. Pero supe al mismo tiempo que era ya un anciano y que estaba enfermo, y no pude menos de pensar que hubiese sido para mí una molestia tener que encontrarme con un desconocido y extranjero a la vez.

  4. Calisto de Santa Aña was the last descendant of the Grand School; in a world unsympathetic to Byronism he had led a Byronic existence and he has narrated his hazardous life in a series of poems that had brought him a fame unknown to his contemporaries.

    Calisto de Santa Aña était l’ultime héritier des Grands Romantiques ; dans un monde hostile au byronisme, il avait vécu dans le style de Byron et conté sa vie périlleuse dans une série de poèmes qui lui avait acquis un renom unique parmi les écrivains de sa génération.

    Calisto de Santa Aña era el último descendiente de los Grandes Románicos; en un mundo que repudiaba a Byron había llevado una vida completamente byroniana, narrando las aventuras de su azarosa existencia en una serie de poemas que le habían dado una fama sin precedente entre sus contemporáneos.

  5. I am no judge of their value, for I read them first when I was three-and-twenty and then was enraptured by them; they had a passion, a heroic arrogance and a multi-coloured vitality that swept me off my feet, and to this day, so intermingled are those ringing lines and haunting cadences with the charming memories of my youth, I cannot read them without a beating heart.

    Je ne suis pas bon juge de leur valeur pour les avoir d’abord lus à vingt-trois ans dans l’enthousiasme : leur ferveur, leur héroïsme altier, la vigueur et la variété de leur palette me ravissaient et, encore aujourd’hui, ces vers sonores, ces rythmes inoubliables se mêlent si bien aux souvenir charmants de ma jeunesse qu’à chaque nouvelle lecture mon coeur bat la chamade.

    No me considero capaz de juzgar el valor que puedan haber tenido, pues los leí por primera vez cuando contaba veintitrés años. Entonces me sedujeron; denotaban pasión, altiva arrogancia y estaban llenos de vida. Me entusiasmaron, y aun hoy no puedo leerlos sin sentirme emocionado, ya que sus estrofas traen a mi memoria los más queridos momentos de mi juventud.

  6. I am inclined to think that Calisto de Santa Aña deserves the reputation he enjoys among the Spanish-speaking peoples.

    J’incline à croire que Calisto de Santa Aña mérite la réputation dont il jouit dans les pays de langue espagnole.

    Me inclino a creer que Calisto de Santa Aña merece en sumo grado la reputación que goza entre la gente de habla hispánica.

  7. In those days his verses were on the lips of all young men and my friends would talk to me endlessly of his wild ways, his vehement speeches (for he was a politician as well as a poet), his incisive wit and his amours.

    A l’époque, tous les jeunes gens citaient ses poèmes et mes amis me parlaient intarissablement de sa vie sans entraves, de la véhémence de ses discours (car il faisait aussi de la politique), de ses mots d’esprit incisifs et de ses intrigues galantes.

    En aquel tiempo, toda la juventud tenía sus versos en los labios, y mis amigos no cesaban de hablarme de sus comportamientos salvajes, de sus apasionados discursos –además de poeta era también político–, de su agudo ingenio y de sus amoríos.

  8. He was a rebel and sometimes an outlaw, daring and adventurous; but above all he was a lover.

    C’était un rebelle, au point de sortir parfois de la légalité ; un homme audacieux et téméraire ; mais c’était surtout un grand amoureux.

    Era un rebelde, y a veces también un bravo bandolero, atrevido y temerario, pero, por encima de todo, era un fogoso amante.

  9. We knew all about his passion for this great actress or that divine singer—had we not read till we knew them by heart the burning sonnets in which he described his love, his anguish and his wrath?—and we were aware that an infanta of Spain, the proudest descendant of the Bourbons, having yielded to his entreaties, had taken the veil when he ceased to love her.

    Nous n'ignorions rien de sa passion pour telle grande comédienne ou pour telle diva — ne connaissions-nous pas par coeur, à force de les relire, les sonnets brûlant qui peignaient son amour, ses affres ou son courroux ? — et nous savions qu’une infante d’Espagne, la plus fière descendante des Bourbons, qui avait cédé à ses instances amoureuses, était entrée au couvent quand il s’était dépris d’elle.

    Todos conocíamos la pasión que demostraba por tal o cual actriz o cantante de renombre, pues habíamos leído hasta saberlo de memoria los encendidos sonetos en que describía su vehemente amor, sus angustias o su ira. Sabíamos también que una una infanta de España, la descendiente más orgullosa de los Borbones, habiendo cedido a sus ruegos, tomó despechada los hábitos cuando él dejó de amarla.

  10. When the Philips, her royal ancestors, tired of a mistress she entered a convent, for it was unfitting that one whom the King had loved should be loved by another, and was not Calisto de Santa Aña greater than any earthly king?

    Lorsque les rois Philippe, ses ancêtres, se lassaient d’une maîtresse, celle-ci prenait le voile, car il n’eût pas été convenable qu’une femme aimée du roi fût aimée par un autre, et Calisto de Santa Aña n’était-il pas plus grand qu’aucun roi de ce monde ?

    Cuando los reyes Felipe, sus antepasados reales, estaban cansados de una amante, ésta entraba al convento, ya que hubiera sido impropio que una mujer que ha sido amada por el rey fuera amada por otro, y por cierto ¿no era Calisto de Santa Aña más grande que cualquier rey de este mundo?

  11. We applauded the lady’s romantic gesture; it was creditable to her and flattering to our poet.

    Nous admirions beaucoup ce geste romanesque, tout à l’honneur de la dame qui l’avait accompli et à la gloire de notre poète.

    Aplaudimos el romántico gesto de la dama, ya que realzándola a ella halagábamos a nuestro poeta.

  12. But all this took place many years ago and for a quarter of a century Don Calisto, disdainfully withdrawing from a world that had nothing more to offer, had lived in seclusion in his native town of Ecija.

    Tout cela appartenait à un passé lointain et, depuis un quart de siècle, Don Calisto, dédaigneux d’un monde qui n’avait plus rien à lui offrir, vivait à l’écart dans sa ville natale d’Ecija.

    Pero todo esto sucedió hace muchos años, y durante un cuarto de siglo don Calisto se retiró desdeñosamente del mundo, que ya nada podía brindarle, viviendo solitariamente en Écija, su pueblo natal.

  13. It was when I announced my intention of going there (I Had been spending a week or two in Seville) not because of him, but because it is a charming little Andalusian town with associations that endear it to me, that Diego Torre offered me this introduction.

    C’est à l’occasion d’un séjour d’une à deux semaines à Séville que j’annonçai mon désir de m’y rendre (non pas à cause de lui, mais parce que des souvenirs personnels rehaussent pour moi le charme de cette bourgade andalouse) ; et sur ces entrefaites Diego Torre me proposa une lettre d’introduction.

    Fue cuando anuncié mi intención de ir allí (había estado uno o dos semanas en Sevilla), no por interés de conocerle, sino porque se trata de un pueblecito andaluz muy simpático y al que me unen gratos recuerdos, Diego Torre se ofreció a darme una carta de presentación.

  14. It appeared that Don Calisto allowed the younger men of letters occasionally to visit him and now and then would talk to them with the fire that had electrified his hearers in the great days of his prime.

    Apparemment, Don Calisto consentait à recevoir de temps à autre les jeunes littérateurs, et retrouvait parfois, en leur parlant, l’enthousiasme qui, à la grande époque de sa maturité, électrisait ses auditoires.

    Parecía ser que don Calisto se dignaba algunas veces recibir la visita de los hombres de letras de la joven generación, con quienes conversaba imprimiendo tal fuego a sus palabras que electrizaba a sus oyentes, lo mismo que había hecho en la primavera de su vida.

  15. “What does he look like now?” I asked.

    – Comment est-il à présent ? demandai-je

    –¿Y cómo está –pregunté.

  16. “Magnificent.”

    – Superbe.


  17. “Have you a photograph of him?”

    – Avez-vous sa photographie ?

    –¿Tiene usted algún retrato suyo?

  18. “I wish I had. He has refused to face the camera since he was thirty-five. He says he does not wish posterity to know him other than young.”

    – Hélas non. Au-delà de trente-cinq ans, il n’a jamais voulu poser pour un photographe. Il ne souhaite pas, dit-il, que la postérité le connaisse sous d’autres traits que ceux de sa jeunesse.

    –Me hubiese gustado tenerlo, pero se ha negado a dejarse retratar desde que cumpló los treinta y cinco años, alegando que no quiere que la posteridad lo conozca sino como joven.

  19. I confess that I found this suggestion of vanity not a little touching.

    Cette point de vanité me parut très touchante, je l’avoue.

    Debo confesar que esta extraña forma de vanidad me conmovió.

  20. I knew that in early manhood he was of extraordinary beauty, and that moving sonnet of his written when he grew conscious that youth had for ever left him shows with what a bitter and sardonic pang he must have watched the passing of those looks that had been so fantastically admired.

    Je savais que, dans la fleur de l’âge, il avait été extraordinairement beau, et le sonnet pathétique qu’il composa, quand il comprit que la jeunesse l’avait fui à jamais, montre avec quel déchirement, avec quelle amertume sardonique, il avait dû voir se flétrir cette beauté, ancien objet d’un culte extravagant.

    Se sabía que en su juventud había sido un hombre muy esbelto, y en una estrofa, escrita cuando comprendió que se se había desvanecido su aspecto juvenil, revelaba con qué amarga e irónica angustia contemplaba cómo esa gallardía que había sido la admiración de todos iba desapareciendo.

  21. But I refused my friend’s offer; I was quite satisfied to read once more the poems I had known so well and for the rest I preferred to wander about the silent and sunswept streets of Ecija in freedom.

    Mais je déclinai l’offre de mon ami ; il me suffisait bien de relire une fois de plus les poèmes jadis si familiers et, pour le reste, je préférais flâner selon mon humeur le long des rues d’Ecija, silencieuses et inondées de soleil.

    Sin embargo, rechacé la carta de presentación que me ofrecía mi amigo, contentándome con releer los poemas que me eran tan conocidos. Por otra parte, prefería vagar por las silenciosas y soleadas calles de Écija en completa libertad.

  22. It was with some consternation therefore that on the evening of my arrival I received a note from the great man himself.

    Je fus donc très contrarié lorsqu’au soir de mon arrivée me parvint un billet de la main du grand homme.

    Por esta razón, me sentí consternado cuando la tarde de mi llegada al pueblo recibí una nota del grand hombre mismo.

  23. Diego Torre had written to him of my visit, he said, and it would give him great pleasure if I would call on him at eleven next morning.

    Diego Torre lui avait écrit, disait-il, pour l’informer de mon passage, et il serait très heureux de me recevoir le lendemain matin à onze heures.

    Don Diego le había escrito informándole de mi visita a Écija. Me hacía saber que le sería muy grato recibirme a la mañana siguiente, a eso de las once, sí tal hora me convenía.

  24. In the circumstances there was nothing for me to do but to present myself at his house at the appointed hour.

    En l’occurrence, je n’avais pas d’autre choix que de me présenter chez lui à l’heure dite.

    En estas circunstancias no me quedaba otro remedio que ir a su casa en el día y a la hora sugeridos.

  25. My hotel was in the Plaza and on that spring morning it was animated, but as soon as I left it I might have walked in a deserted city.

    Mon hôtel donnait sur la Plaza, très animée en ce matin de printemps mais, dès que je l’eus quittée, je crus bien parcourir une ville abandonnée.

    Mi hotel daba a la plaza del pueblo, que en aquella mañana primaveral se hallaba muy animada. Pero tan pronto como me alejé de ella me pareció transitar por una ciudad casi desierta.

  26. The streets, the tortuous white streets, were empty but for a woman in black now and then who returned with measured steps from her devotions.

    Les rues, blanches et sinueuses, étaient désertes : tout au plus y croisait-on, de loin en loin, une femme en noir, rentrant chez elle à pas comptés, après ses devotions.

    No se veía ni un alma por las tortuosas y blancas calles, excepto alguna mujer vestida de negro que apareció de vez en cuando, regresando con pasos medidos de la iglesia.

  27. Ecija is a town of churches and you can seldom go far without seeing a crumbling façade or a tower in which storks have built their nests.

    Ecija est riche en églises et l’on ne peut y faire quelques pas sans apercevoir une façade de chapelle en ruine ou un clocher où nichent des cigognes.

    Écija es, por excelencia, el pueblo de las iglesias, y no hay que alejarse mucho para ver alguna fachada derruida o la torre de algún templo donde anidan las cigüeñas.

  28. Once I paused to watch a string of little donkeys passed by.

    A un moment de ma promenade, je m’arrêtai pour voir passer une file de petits ânes

    En cierta ocasión me detuve para contemplar una fila de burros

  29. Their red caparisons were faded and they carried I know not what in their panniers.

    au harnachement d’un rouge fané et je me demandai ce qu’ils pouvaient bien transporter dans leurs paniers de bât.

    cubiertos con mantas descoloridas y cargados con unas cestas llevando no sé qué.

  30. But Ecija has been a place of consequence in its day and many of these white houses have gateways of stone surmounted by imposing coats of arms, for to this remote spot flowed the riches of the New World and adventurers who had gathered wealth in the Americas spent here their declining years.

    Mais Ecija avait été en son temps une ville importante. Beaucoup de ses maisons blanches possèdent un grand portail à piliers de pierre, surmonté par des armoiries imposantes, car l’or du Nouveau Monde coulait alors à flots vers ce lieu reculé où des aventuriers, enrichis aux Amériques, venaient passer les années de leur vieillesse.

    Pero Écija había sido en un tiempo lugar importante, y muchas de sus blancas casas lucen aún sobre las puertas de entrada imponentes escudos, pues a este lugar afluían las riquezas del Nuevo Mundo, y los aventureros que habían hecho fortuna en las Américas pasaban allí sus últimos años.

  31. It was in one of these houses that Don Calisto lived and as I stood at the reja after pulling the bell, I was pleased to think that he lived in such a fitting style.

    Don Calisto habitait l’une de ces demeures et tandis que, après avoir sonné, j’attendais devant la grille, je notai avec satisfaction la pertinence d’un tel décor.

    En una de esas casas vivía don Calisto. Mientras esperaba ante la enrejada puerta de entrada, después de haber tocado la campanilla, pensé con satisfacción que vivía en una casa en consonancia con su modo de ser.

  32. There was a dilapidated grandeur about the massive gateway that suited my impression of the flamboyant poet.

    L’allure monumentale et délabrée du portail massif s’accordait à l’image que je m’étais faite du poète impétueux.

    Había cierta grandeza dilapidada en aquella entrada, que concordaba con la impresión que me había formado del rimbombante poeta.

  33. Though I heard the bell peal through the house no one answered it and I rang a second and then a third time: at last an old woman with a heavy moustache, came to the gate.

    J’entendis la cloche résonner dans toute la maison, sans que personne répondît, je sonnai, donc, une seconde, puis une troisième fois : enfin, une vielle femme moustachue vint jusqu’à l’entrée.

    Aunque sentí claramente el sonido de la campanilla, nadie acudió, por lo que me vi obligado a llamar una segunda vez, y una tercera vez. Por fin, una vieja con un bigote espeso apareció.

  34. “What do you want” she said.

    — Que désirez-vous ? dit-elle.

    —¿Qué desea, señor? —dijo ella.

  35. She had fine black eyes, but a sullen look, and I supposed that it was she who took care of the old man.

    Elle avait de beaux yeux noirs, mais un air maussade. La gouvernante, sans doute. [Je supposa que c’était elle qui s’occupa le vieillard.]

    Tenía unos hermosos ojos negros, pero su mirada era hosca. Supuse que era ella quien cuidó del viejo.

  36. I gave her my card.

    Je lui tendis ma carte.

    Le entregué mi tarjeta.

  37. “I have an appointment with your master.”

    [— J’ai un rendez-vous avec le maître de maison.]

    — Tengo una cita con el señor de la casa.

  38. She opened the iron gateway and bade me enter. Asking me to wait she left me and went upstairs.

    Ouvrant la grille de fer, elle m’invita à entrer ; puis, me priant d’attendre, me laissa seul pour monter à l’étage.

    Ella abrió la grilla de hierro y me invitó a entrar; me pidió que esperara y se fue arriba dejándome solo.

  39. The patio was pleasantly cool after the street.

    Au sortir de la rue, la fraîcheur du patio était agréable.

    Luego de salir de la calle, en el patio se notaba una agradable frescura.

  40. Its proportions were noble and you surmised that it had been built by some follower of the conquistadores; but the paint was tarnished, the tiles on the floor broken, and here and there great flakes of plaster had fallen away.

    Ses dimensions grandioses donnaient à penser que son bâtisseur avait été quelque compagnon d’armes de conquistadores, mais la peinture était sale, le dallage défoncé et, en plusieurs endroits, le plâtre des murs était tombé par plaques.

    Sus proporciones eran nobles, de lo cual se deducía que seguramente había sido construido por algún discípulo de los conquistadores. No obstante, la pintura estaba manchada, los mosaicos rotos, y en algunos lugares el revoque se había desprendido.

  41. There was about everything an air of poverty but not of squalor.

    L’ensemble donnait une impression de pauvreté plutôt que de négligence.

    Todo denotaba pobreza, pero no sordidez.

  42. I knew that Don Calisto was poor.

    Je savais que Don Calisto était pauvre.

    Yo sabía que Don Calisto era pobre.

  43. Money had come to him easily at times but he had never attached any importance to it and had spent it profusely.

    A certaines périodes, l’argent lui était venu sans efforts, mais il n’y avait jamais attaché d’importance et l’avait dépensé sans compter.

    Había ganado dinero con facilitad en ciertos períodos, pero no habiéndole dado importancia lo había gastado sin miramientos.

  44. It was plain that he lived now in a penury that he disdained to notice.

    De toute évidence, il vivait à présent dans la gêne, mais sans daigner y prêter attention.

    Era evidente que vivía en una penuria que desdeñaba tomar en consideración.

  45. In the middle of the patio was a table with a rocking-chair on each side of it, and on the table newspapers a fortnight old.

    Au milieu du patio, deux fauteuils à bascule flanquaient une table sur laquelle s’étalaient des journaux vieux de quinze jours.

    En el centro del patio había una mesa y dos mecedoras, y sobre aquélla varios periódicos de quince días atrás.

  46. I wondered what dreams occupied his fancy as he sat there on the warm summer nights, smoking cigarettes.

    Je me demandais quelles rêveries occupaient son imagination quand il passait, assis là à fumer, les chaudes soirées d’été.

    Me pregunté qué sueños cruzarían por su mente cuando se sentaba allí a fumar un cigarrillo en las calurosas noches de verano.

  47. On the walls under the colonnade were Spanish pictures, dark and bad, and here and there stood an ancient dusty bargueño and on it a mended lustre plate.

    Sous leur colonnade, les mur étaient garnis de mauvais tableaux espagnols aux couleurs sombres et, de loin en loin, quelques bargueños, anciens et poussiéreux, étaient surmontés, en guise d’ornement, de plaques de lustres mauresques remises en état.

    De las paredes pendían varios cuadros típicamente españoles, algunos de ellos ennegrecidos y francamente feos, y aquí y allá unos bargueños sobre los cuales se veían algunas remendadas lozas doradas.

  48. By the side of a door hung a pair of old pistols, and I had a pleasant fancy that they were the weapons he had used when in the most celebrated of his many duels, for the sake of Pepa Montañez the dancer (now, I suppose, a toothless and raddled hag) he had killed the Duke of Dos Hermanos.

    Près d’une porte était suspendue une paire de pistolets dont je me plus à imaginer qu’ils lui avaient servi lors du plus célèbre de ses nombreux duels : celui où, pour l’amour de la danseuse Pepa Montañez (à présent, je suppose, une vieille femme édentée et fardée à outrance), il avait tué le duc de Dos Hermanos.

    Al lado de una puerta colgaban dos pistolas, y me imaginé que tal vez él las hubiese utilizado en el más celebrado de sus mucho duelos, a causa de la bailarina Pepa Montañez —la cual supongo que es ahora una vieja desdentada y muy maquillada—, en el que había matado al duque de Dos Hermanos.

  49. The scene, with its associations which I vaguely divined, so aptly fitted the romantic poet that I was overcome by the spirit of the place.

    Ce décor, enrichi par les souvenirs que j’y entrevoyais, convenait si bien au poète romantique que le génie du lieu me subjugua.

    Este escenario, con las vagas reminiscencias que traía a la memoria, cuadraba tan perfectamente con el ambiente y la manera de ser del poeta romántico que quedé completamente subyugado por el lugar.

  50. Its noble indigence surrounded him with a glory as great as the magnificence of his youth; in him too there was the spirit of the old conquistadores, and it was becoming that he should finish his famous life in that ruined and magnificent house.

    Cette noble indigence l’auréolait autant que la gloire de ses jeunes années. L’esprit des conquistadores l’habitait lui aussi, et il était séant que cette ruine magnifique accueillît les dernières années de sa glorieuse carrière.

    Su noble indigencia le rodeaba de una aureola de gloria tan grande como la misma grandeza de su juventud. Él también tenía el espíritu de los viejos conquistadores, y era apropiado que terminara su vida famosa en aquella arruinada y magnífica casa.

  51. Thus surely should a poet live and die.

    C’est bien ainsi qu’un poète devait vivre et mourir.

    Pensé que ésta era la forma en que debía vivir y morir un poeta.

  52. I had arrived cool enough and even somewhat bored at the prospect of my meeting, but now I began to grow a trifle nervous.

    A mon flegme initial, voire au soupçon d’ennui qu’éveillait on moi l’idée de cette rencontre, succédait maintenant un tantinet de trac.

    Llegué con bastante serenidad aunque a la vez un poco aburrido ante la perspectiva de enfrentarme con él, pero ahora comencé a ponerme nervioso,

  53. I lit a cigarette.

    J’allumai une cigarette.

    Encendí un cigarrillo.

  54. I had come at the time appointed and wondered what detained the old man.

    Comme j’étais venu à l’heure dite, je me demandai ce que pouvait bien retarder le vieillard.

    Había llegado puntualmente, y me preguntaba cuál podía ser el motivo del retraso del viejo.

  55. The silence was strangely disturbing.

    Le silence engendrait un curieux malaise.

    El silencio que reinaba era ciertamente molesto.

  56. Ghosts of the past thronged the silent patio and an age dead and gone gained a sort of shadowy life for me.

    Des fantômes de passé se pressaient dans le patio silencieux et une ère révolue renaissait devant moi à une manière de vie spectrale.

    Fantasmas del pasado parecían cruzar el patio, mientras una época lejana surgía ante mis ojos.

  57. The men of that day had a passion and a wildness of spirit that are gone out of the world for ever.

    Les hommes de ce temps-là avaient un coeur ardent et indiscipliné, avec eux disparu du monde où nous vivons.

    Los hombres de entonces poseían un espíritu aventurero y audaz que ha desaparecido para siempre.

  58. We are no longer capable of their reckless deeds or their theatrical heroics.

    Ni leurs exploits, ni leur grandiloquence ne nous sont accessibles.

    No somos capaces de emular sus hazañas temerarias ni sus teatrales proezas.

  59. I heard a sound and my heart beat quickly.

    Un bruit soudain me fit battre le coeur.

    Sentí un leve ruido, y mi corazón comenzó a latir con fuerza.

  60. I was excited now and when at last I saw him coming slowly down the stairs I caught my breath.

    J’éprouvai maintenant un vif émoi et, quand enfin je vis mon hôte descendre lentement les marches, je retins mon haleine.

    Me sentí emocionado ahora y cuando al fin lo vi bajar lentamente la escalera, contuve la respiración.

  61. He had my card in his hand.

    Il tenait à la main ma carte de visite.

    Llevaba en la mano mi tarjeta.

  62. He was a tall old man and exceedingly thin, with a skin the colour of old ivory; his hair was abundant and white, but his bushy eyebrows were dark still; they made his great eyes flash with a more sombre fire.

    C’était un vieillard de haute stature, d’une maigreur extrême, au teint de vieil ivoire ; sa chevelure abondante était blanche, mais ses épais sourcils, restés bruns, avivaient l’éclair sombre de ses grands yeux ardents.

    Era un hombre viejo, alto y excesivamente delgado; su apergaminado rostro tenía el color del marfil antiguo; su cabello era blanco y abundante, pero sus frondosas cejas conservaban aún su color negro, lo que contribuía a que fuese más lúgubre el resplandor de sus grandes ojos.

  63. It was wonderful that at his age those black eyes should still preserve their brilliance.

    A son âge, l’éclat préservé de ses yeux noirs tenait du miracle.

    Era extraño ver que a su edad sus enormes ojos negros conservaban aún su brillo.

  64. His nose was aquiline, his mouth close-set.

    Il avait le nez aquilin, une mâchoire volontaire,

    Su nariz era aguileña y su boca apretada.

  65. His unsmiling eyes rested on me as he approached and there was in them a look of cool appraisal.

    Et son regard sérieux, tourné vers moi tandis qu’il approchait, semblait prendre froidement ma mesure.

    No apartaba sus ojos de mí mientras se acercaba, y se notaba en su mirada que se formaba un juicio sobre mi persona.

  66. He was dressed in black and in one hand held a broad-brimmed hat.

    Il était vêtu de noir et tenait dans sa main libre un chapeau à larges bords.

    Vestía un traje negro, y en la mano llevaba su sombrero de ala ancha.

  67. There was in his bearing assurance and dignity.

    Son maintien était digne et plein d’assurance.

    Su porte denotaba dignidad y confianza.

  68. He was as I should have wished him to be and as I watched him I understood how he had swayed men’s minds and touched their hearts.

    Il comblait mon attente et, à le contempler, je comprenais l’ampleur de son ascendent intellectuel et de son don de persuasion.

    Era tal como me lo había imaginado, y mientras lo observaba comprendí perfectamente por qué había influido en el ánimo de sus semejantes y se hacía adueñado de sus corazones.

  69. He was every inch a poet.

    Tout en lui était d’un poète.

    Era un poeta, en todo el sentido de la palabra.

  70. He reached the patio and came slowly towards me.

    Arrivé dans le patio, il vint lentement vers moi.

    Llegó al patio y se dirigió lentamente hacia mí.

  71. He had really the eyes of an eagle.

    Il avait vraiment des yeux d’aigle.

    Tenía, en verdad, unos ojos de águila.

  72. It seemed to me a tremendous moment, for there he stood, the heir of the great old Spanish poets, the magnificent Herrera, the nostalgic and moving Fray Luis, Juan de la Cruz, the mystic and the crabbed and obscure Gongora.

    Je vivais un moment exceptionnel en voyant devant moi l’héritier des grands poètes espagnols, du superbe Herrera, de Luis de Leon, nostalgique et attendrissant, du mystique saint Jean de la Croix, de l’obscur et précieux Gongora.

    Sentí una emoción incontenible, viendo ante mí al heredero de los grandes poetas de España: el magnífico Herrera, el nostálgico y patético Fray Luis, el místico san Juan de la Cruz y el oscuro e indescrifrable Góngora.

  73. He was the last of that long line and he trod in their steps not unworthily.

    Il était le dernier de cette longue lignée et n’était pas indigne de l’heritage.

    Era el último de ese linaje de grandes hombres y un digno representante de ellos.

  74. Strangely in my heart sang the lovely and tender song which is the most famous of Don Calisto’s lyrics.

    Je ne savais pas pourquoi résonnait dans mon coeur l’admirable chant d’amour qui forme le plus célèbre des poèmes lyriques de Don Calisto.

    De forma extraña, en mi corazón resonaban las bellas y tiernas canciones que habían hecho tan famoso el lirismo de don Calisto.

  75. I was abashed.

    Je perdis contenance.

    Me turbé.

  76. It was fortunate for me that I had prepared beforehand the phrase with which I meant to greet him.

    Heureusement que j’avais préparé la formule de salutation que je lui destinais.

    Afortunadamente, había preparado la frase con la cual pensaba saludarle.

  77. “It is a wonderful honour, Maestro, for a foreigner such as I to make the acquaintance of so great a poet.”

    — Cher Maître, c’est un honneur insigne, pour l’étranger que je suis, de faire la connaissance d’un aussi grand poète.

    —Conceptuó como un alto honor, maestro, que un extranjero como yo haya podido trabar conocimiento con un poeta de su fama.

  78. A flicker of amusement passed through those piercing eyes and a smile for an instant curved the lines of that stern mouth.

    Un éclair de malice passa dans son regard perçant et un demi-sourire atténua la sévérité de sa bouche.

    Pude ver en sus penetrantes ojos cuánto le divertía la ocurrencia. Una leve sonrisa se dibujó un instante en sus austeros labios.

  79. “I am not a poet, Señor, but a bristle merchant. You have made a mistake, Don Calisto lives next door.”

    — Señor, je ne suis pas poète, je vends de la soie de porc. Vous avez fait erreur, Don Calisto habite juste à côté.

    —Señor. No soy poeta; soy un comerciante de cerda. Se ha confundido usted. Don Calisto vive al lado.

  80. I had come to the wrong house.

    Je m’étais trompé de maison.

    Me había equivocado de casa.

Six Stories Written in the First Person Singular at AbeBooks
Cosmopolitans at AbeBooks
Maugham en français at Abebooks
Maugham en castellano at AbeBooks


  1. Thank you so much for this post. I too remembered that idea of Maugham's to learn languages by reading. I have always had difficulty learning other languages in school. After reading that passage in "The Human Element" just a few months ago, I thought about trying that out. Also, there are some contemporary French authors, whose works have not been translated to English, whom I'd like to read. I'll refer back to this post as a study guide. Again, thanks.

    1. Hi Mike,
      I am glad that this is of use.

      It is much easier and friendlier to read books in a foreign language now with an ebook reader. I am finishing "Une vie" by Maupassant. It would have been so frustrating some years ago to have to search for all the words in a dictionary!

  2. Substantial contribution to Maughamology there! Languages not being one of my strong sides, I don't understand much of the translations, but it was still fun to have a look at them.

    I have tried to read some Maugham in German, and though I know very little of it, it was enough to understand that the authorial voice, if not the meaning, is completely lost. One of the wisest things Willie ever said is that German is a fine language for poetry but not so fine for prose (free paraphrase of the original). I wish I could source that, and quote it more accurately, but just right now I can't.

    I first experienced most of Maugham's works in my native language, a very different affair than English, and though I later came to appreciate the high quality of the translations, reading him in original was a complete revelation. And it continues to be, for that matter.

    I envy you your reading Maupassant in French. That must be something!

    1. Hi Alexander,

      In one of my foolish spurs, I tried to learn German by myself and soon gave it up as a bad job.

      It took me a big effort, but I finished "Une vie." It was absolutely worth it, a most enjoyable experience. I kept thinking of "Mrs. Craddock" when I was reading it (very chaste comparatively, though some still were indignant when it came out). I was sorry to reach the last paragraph. The sensitivity towards nature is so moving and it's like a song in French. My heart simply goes out for Jeanne. This is quite long, but I read one or two short stories before and if you have some knowledge of the structure of the language it is manageable with the help of the computer or ebook reader which gives you the meaning of the words with a click.

  3. Dear Heart, I just discovered this blog about my grandfather - I know he would be gratified that the memory of a story-teller is always current even in the twenty-first century.

    1. Thank you for leaving a comment Marjorie. What is Maugham like in private? I would be very interested to know about your childhood memories. I regret that I haven't seen your name mentioned in the biographies. I am sure that we who are interested in Maugham would like very much to know more.

  4. Dear Heart, My grandfather was a gentle caring person who had too many regrets about my mother because of their shared health issues concerning tuberculosis. I remember a gentleman who was always smoking and flicking cigarette ash off his clothing. To understand this person would be impossible because of the many faceted elements such as being Muslim and the direct descendant of Merlin and related also to the ancient Irish Celtic kings of a time lost to memory. I always intend to respect and honour my grandfather and the reason I am not mentioned is because my mother wished me to keep a low profile. My mother and my grandfather made a pact that all traces of the past should be destroyed – so many documents were burnt concerning the private life of this story-teller. Most people do not know that William Somerset Maugham was married four times. I decided to reclaim this part of my heritage because I wish to be a writer and I have studied extremely hard to acquire the skills.

    1. I am intrigued. I have so many questions that I don't know from where to start. I wonder if you mind telling us where your mother and Maugham met?

  5. Dear Heart, There appear to be crossed wires - my fault because of my assumed knowledge - My mother is one of the daughters of William Somerset Maugham - there were two daughters and one son - all three are from different marriages. To answer your question - my grandfather found out that the daughter that was supposedly deceased was very much alive and that is all I have to say on the matter. On my mother's twenty-first birthday - he gave her a gold heart-shaped locket with twenty-one rubies embedded within the gold. This was a gesture of how much he loved my mother as only a father can. Later on he wrote a Muslim poem of protection to ensure my mother would not be harmed by the family - - In future you are just going to have to refer to my blog as I am revising a collection of family-related short stories and a personal essay which I hope to self-publish in hardcopy -

  6. Dear Heart, I am sorry if I appear to be short with you - but I have to sort out things for next year - as I hope to study teaching - trying to revise my stories is also problematic as there is only so much one can include because there is so much in each story that I am likely to be bogged down in the details. My health is always going to be an issue although I try to detox and watch what I eat as I have inherited various genetic disorders that I could do without.

    1. Hi Marjorie,
      I stand corrected and no offence taken. I meant your grandmother.... It's just that it boggles my mind to hear that Maugham was Muslim and descendent of Merlin and Celtic Kings...
      Best of luck in your endeavours!

  7. Dear Heart,

    I must thank you for the good wishes - I am very much like my late mother who had fire in the blood because of the Spanish, Moorish and Persian elements of self except I am in control most of the time.
    Wishing you the very best also in whatever endeavour you wish to undertake as well.

  8. Hi, Just to let you and all your dear readers know. I'm selling part of my 1st edition collection on eBay. For sale (at low reasonable prices) are "The Bishop's Apron" true 1st, 1906; "Liza of Lambeth" 1st editon,1st printing, 1897! And "Mrs. Craddock" true 1st, 1902. I live in the U.S.A. so if you can't find the listings for some reason, try eBay U.S.A. Thanks, Mike.

    1. Hi Mike,
      Sorry that you have to let them go.
      Best regards and good luck!

    2. I'm sure this is a reasonable price for a first edition of "The Bishop's Apron", but it's way out of my range. Otherwise I'd be the first to purchase it. I hope you find buyers soon, Mike.

  9. Hi Alexander. What would be in your range? Readers of this blog get a special deal.

    1. I appreciate the offer, Mike, but I'm too ashamed to mention my range. As I like joking, I'm only spiritually rich.

  10. Hi. I've listed 3 more Maugham firsts. "The Mixture As Before" in original unclipped dust-jacket for $60, "Theatre" in very good original, unclipped dust-jacket for $50, and "The Making of a Saint" with the rarer binding variant with gold title on spine for $240 or Best Offer and free domestic (U.S.A.) shipping.


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