A pocketful of genes is all it took,
A few lines from the chapters of a book,
A stroke of fortune that we can’t take back,
To make me man and you a mere macaque.
Yet we are so alike in some respects,
Your hands are just like mine, as are your eyes.
Your gaze is steady as your mind reflects
On why you lost, and I received the prize.
The jungle was your home but now the street
Provides you with an easy place to eat.
Are you alright with being what you are?
Do I think that my species went too far?
Which is content, the monkey or the man?
Define ‘content’, if anybody can.
I am indebted to my friends Michel Gauthier and Ben Charlier for the following translation of that poem. Michel did the main translation and Ben the subsequent editing. It's not easy to translate verse and I'd be interested to have your comments on the results.
Il a suffi d’une pincée de gènes,
D’un traité, de quelques lignes à peine,
D’un hasard en somme que rien n’inverse,
Pour que moi je sois un homme et toi, toi.
Qui nous regarde nous voit semblables,
Tes mains, tes yeux sont aux miens pareils.
Ton regard est calme mais ton esprit médite
Ta perte et pourquoi moi j’ai eu le prix.
La jungle était ton gîte, puis ma rue
T’es devenue une demeure hospitalière.
Es-tu heureux de ton sort de macaque ?
Crois-tu les hommes aventurés trop loin ?
Qui de nous est content, le singe ou l’homme ?
Dis-moi si tu peux, que veut-dire content.
Now here's a challenge. Below is another sonnet on a Thai theme. If there are any linguists out there who would like to have a crack at translating it into the language of their choice, I'll post their efforts next month. We'll keep the zoological theme; this one is called 'Elephant' - in Thai, chang.
They named two islands after you, my friend,
A brand of lager and a pier for boats.
Albino babies you must always lend
The king, though young white mice or even goats
Would strain royal budgets less than elephants.
Dear Chang, my friend, great processor of plants,
Your power when shifting tons of teak with ease
Impresses more when I see how you strip
The finest morsel with just trunk and lip.
Though making you play football is to tease
A noble beast who’s way above all that,
You make the circus ring your habitat.
The question, like your presence in the room,
Is whether tricks can save you, Chang, from doom.
There are more where that came from, in fact I'm working up to a slim volume packed to bursting with sonnets about Thailand. Start saving now. More news as it comes in...