Fred Johnston – Two translations from the French

Fred Johnston1Fred Johnston submitted two translations from the French, which he made some time ago. His most recent collection of poems is ‘Alligator Days,’ (Revival), and most recently new poems have appeared in The London Magazine and three poems in The Spectator.


Where now the Gods,
Dispensers of all beneficence
Who clutched
Such unrestrained power?

Are they dead, the Messiahs
Who carried the Good News;
Or have they just wandered off
To camp it up in their halos?

What about those pious prayers
Freighted with gold; thick with light –
Of some use, perhaps; to fretful ghosts
Whose cities are bone-yards.

Do they bustle in your head,
Scripting fantastical dreams –
Barely literate, but
At least honest liars?

Whimper out like dogs,
In the name of Immense Absences:
From life, your future,
Your truly unremarkable deaths.


(Translation of Nocte Irae; by Julian Payan; from the collection Ode Nocturne; Editions de Panthéon, Paris, 2002)


For you who show me life as real,
Who sorts out the futility of the everyday,
Who are the first thought I have on waking,
And the one I carry into sleep.

You who plays Muse to my scribblings,
Who holds up the roof of the sky –
For whom love could never wear itself out,
Honey-sweet, diamond-hard.

My soul drowns in the fathoms of your eyes,
You raise me up from night-deep glooms:
I’d murder Old Nick and assassinate God
For you, my true faith, my woman.


(Translation of Pour Elle, by Julian Payan, from the collection Ode Nocturne, Editions de Panthéon; Paris, 2002)

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