Waking Up in a Stagecoach

Gérard de Nerval
Translated from the French by Joshua Edwards

This is what I saw:—Trees along the wayIn chaos, like an army in retreat;And beneath me, as if moved by strong winds,The ground churning with rushing dirt and stones.Steeples rising up from verdant fields seemedTo guide hamlets of plaster houses, cladIn tile, which meandered along like flocksOf white sheep, a red mark on each one’s back.And the drunk mountains staggered: the riverA boa constrictor stretching acrossThe whole valley, springing out to squeeze them...—I was in the coach, just barely awake! Le Réveil en VoitureVoici ce que je vis. — Les arbres sur ma routeFuyaient mêlés, ainsi qu’une armée en déroute !Et sous moi, comme ému par les vents soulevés,Le sol roulait des flots de glèbe et de pavés.Des clochers conduisaient parmi les plaines vertesLeurs hameaux aux maisons de plâtre, recouvertesEn tuiles, qui trottaient ainsi que des troupeauxDe moutons blancs, marqués en rouge sur le dos.Et les monts enivrés chancelaient : la rivièreComme un serpent boa, sur la vallée entièreEtendu, s’élançait pour les entortiller...— J’étais en poste, moi, venant de m’éveiller !

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Gérard de Nerval is the pen name of French Romantic poet and author Gérard Labrunie, who was born in Paris. In his experimental poetry and prose, Nerval explores the liminal spaces among imagination and reality and creativity and madness while lucidly recording his experiences as a subject of 19th-century psychiatry. His work can be seen as a connection between the movements of French Romanticism and symbolism.

Joshua Edwards was born on Galveston Island. He’s the author of The Double Lamp of Solitude, Architecture for Travelers, and Imperial Nostalgias, among other books; and he translated María Baranda’s Ficticia and (with Lynn Xu) co-translated Lao Yang’s Pee Poems. He lives with his family in West Texas and New York City.

cover of The Double Lamp of Solitude

Galveston, Texas

Emerging from walks taken by the author from the birthplaces to the deathsites of three poets (Friedrich Hölderlin, Federico García Lorca, and Miguel Hernández), The Double Lamp of Solitude is a collection of poems, prose, translations, and images that meditate on time, relationships, reading, society, and solitude.

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