Excusez-moi? Je ne parle pas français...

According to nobelprize.org, Sully Prudhomme won the Nobel prize in 1901 "in special recognition of his poetic composition, which gives evidence of lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect." Now that does sound wonderful. What's even more so, I've learned from Wikipedia, he devoted most of the prize money to the creation of another poetry prize!

As a French poet, Mr. Prudhomme understandably wrote poems in French. Now, I knew there were going to be some challenges to this immense reading project, but I didn't imagine they'd arise so soon. Having grown up in a small town with limited educational opportunities, the only foreign language that I had access to in high school was Spanish. Furthermore, in my post secondary educational pursuits, I never felt overwhelmingly encouraged to expand my linguistic horizons. In short, I have never learned to speak or read French or any other language for that matter.

What's the big deal? Why not find an English translation? Even with the understanding that works are much better in their original languages, it was my initial intention to read a full volume of Mr. Prudhomme's poetry in English. I've come to find that such a volume doesn't exist, or if it does, it's beyond the reaches of an amateur search. A quick inquiry on WorldCat.org (a wonderful network of library content that can tell you which libraries in your area have a certain title) proves that even a French volume would be difficult to acquire, as the closest libraries with Prudhomme titles are few and far between, if not across the ocean.

Nevertheless, I'm not going to let this little language barrier get in my way. With a simple search of the web, I've found a handful of Mr. Prudhomme's poems that have been translated to English: Le Long Du Quai (Along the Quay), Soupir (Sigh), Au bord de l'eau (At the Water's Edge), Le Vase Brisé (Broken Vase), and Les yeux (The Eyes). So, though these few verses are no where near a fair representation of Mr. Prudhommes work, and though I'm sure something's bound to have been "lost in translation" with each...this is where I'll begin!

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