Searching for Sully Prudhomme

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I had assumed, perhaps unwisely,
that because he won the highest prize he
must be somewhere I could find him
(online, perhaps, or in the library).
Yet, though some sites had heard of him
and books in French lurked here and there,
the only place I could repair
for works in English was a book
which promised much and almost looked
the part, but when I peered within,
turned out to hold, far from the great
Nobel-awarded poems recorded
in an English style surpassing,
all the marks of awkward parsing
which befall Google Translate.
And so the book that I’d downloaded
took such beauty and imploded
all of it to demonstrate
that though they equal (or may beat)
our speed at calculations
and number machinations
computers don’t know poetry
and fail at translation.
Also, because this hopeless fraud
of literature was somehow bought,
it seems my task now to express:
if greatness is so soon forgotten,
and language can be made so rotten,
all that we can hope to do
is sell our taste to Google too.

NB: PoemHunter.com has a handful of translations from Prudhomme, the first writer to win the Nobel in 1901, and there’s several wonderful renderings of his beautiful poem “The Broken Vase” for those who want to discover a forgotten great.

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