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French Translations of "Poets to Come"

"Poets to Come" was among the first of Whitman's poems translated in 1886 by Jules Laforgue for the new and short-lived avant-garde periodical La Vogue. In their 1886 form, the Laforgue translations were published with the first French poems ever written in vers libre, while the 1918 collection in which they were republished aimed to explode the image of Whitman propagated by internationalist Whitmaniac Léon Bazalgette. The latter, who published the first complete French edition of the 1891–92 Leaves of Grass, played a tremendous role in disseminating Whitman among European intellectuals and men of letters. The two most notable French translators of Whitman's poetry in the second half of the twentieth century were Roger Asselineau and Jacques Darras, who both taught American poetry in French universities. The former, who died in 2002, first published the internationally acclaimed L'Évolution de Walt Whitman in 1954 (reprinted in an expanded edition by University of Iowa Press in 1999) and was for half a century the foremost Whitman scholar in France. Darras, born in 1939, continues to this day to translate major American poets from Pound to Ginsberg and to publish a poetic œuvre of his own.

Laforgue's, Bazalgette's, Asselineau's, and Darras's translations are available below, and an introductory essay by Éric Athenot discusses the different translations. The final translation available below is the first French translation of the original published version of "Poets to Come," which first appeared in 1860 as "Chants Democratic 14."


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