Light of Being

Lest readers misunderstand, it must be said at the outset that these poems, selected from Psaumes de tous mes temps (1974), by Patrice de La Tour du Pin (1911-75), are not translations, even rough ones, from the Psalms of the Bible.  The poet did serve as a translator for the Catholic Church when use of the vernacular was approved after Vatican II (and he composed lyrical chants as well), and he was familiar not only with the Vulgate version but also French precedents, from Clément Marot in the early 16th century to Paul Claudel.  But in these poems he neither translated nor paraphrased the biblical texts, rarely even echoing them (except by addressing God, both in praise and supplication).  Rather, his creations are autonomous, “new songs” as it were, or, in his words, “remade psalms.”  This selection has been beautifully translated by Jennifer Grotz, a professor of poetry and translation at the University of Rochester and a poet in her own right.  She has the skills that Richard Wilbur named as essential for successful translation: an excellent knowledge of the original tongue and dexterity in using her own language poetically.

La Tour du Pin was among the major French Catholic poets in the mid-20th century; others are Pierre Emmanuel (1916-84) and Jean-Claude Renard (1922-2002).  These three followed in the wake of Claudel (1868-1955), Charles Péguy (1873-1914),...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here