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As a character read DT's Do not go Gentle in French in Jean-Luc Godard's Helas Pour Moi, it occurred to me that the French version is better than the English one. Do you agree with this?

Since Stack Exchange only concerns itself with canonical answers let me at least ask one question regarding the text. One, is there any difference between 'rage' and "s'enrage", two, why does the last line contain 'enrage' and not "s'enrage", three, why does the third line contain the infinitive form of 'rager' and "s'enrager"?

Translated by Alain Suied:

N’entre pas sans violence dans cette bonne nuit,
Le vieil âge devrait brûler et s’emporter à la chute du jour ;
Rager, s’enrager contre la mort de la lumière.

Bien que les hommes sages à leur fin sachent que l’obscur est mérité,
Parce que leurs paroles n’ont fourché nul éclair ils
N’entrent pas sans violence dans cette bonne nuit.

Les hommes bons, passée la dernière vague, criant combien clairs
Leurs actes frêles auraient pu danser en un verre baie
Ragent, s’enragent contre la mort de la lumière.

Les hommes violents qui prient et chantèrent le soleil en plein vol,
Et apprenant, trop tard, qu’ils l’ont affligé dans sa course,
N’entrent pas sans violence dans cette bonne nuit.

Les hommes graves, près de mourir, qui voient de vue aveuglante
Que leurs yeux aveugles pourraient briller comme météores et s’égayer,
Ragent, s’enragent contre la mort de la lumière.

Et toi, mon père, ici sur la triste élévation
Maudis, bénis-moi à présent avec tes larmes violentes, je t’en prie.
N’entre pas sans violence dans cette bonne nuit.
Rage, enrage contre la mort de la lumière.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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2 Answers 2

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  1. Is there any difference between 'rage' and "s'enrage"?

    Yes, the first one is a visible state while the second one often implies an increase and might be unexpressed.

  2. Why does the last line contain 'enrage' and not "s'enrage"?

    Because of the imperative mood. That would have been enrage-toi but that was likely discarded for being too heavy.

  3. Why does the third line contain the infinitive form of 'rager' and "s'enrager"?

    Because it follows other infinitives: Le vieil âge devrait bruler, s'emporter, rager, s'enrager.

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  • cool, thanks for the tip. also if you'd like to express your opinion as to whether or not you prefer the english or the french, i'd love to hear it.
    – bobsmith76
    Jan 17, 2023 at 4:08
  • I'm not fluent enough to judge an English poem. The French translation is mostly prose, it stays close to its source. There is a curious typo: Un verre baie doesn't make sense and should be une baie verte or une verte baie.
    – jlliagre
    Jan 20, 2023 at 11:41
  • Is apprenant (rather than apprennent) another typo? Jan 21, 2023 at 13:09
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    I was basing my comment on the correnspondence with the English tenses. However, looking online, there seem to be two versions: the most common is the OP's: qui prient et chantèrent ... Et apprenant, trop tard, but there's also qui prirent et chantèrent ... Et apprennent, trop tard. Since the English is caught and sang, I'd guess that prirent et chantèrent is the original translation (and these versions also have une verte baie). Jan 21, 2023 at 14:44
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    And here is a version that actually has the translator's name (Alain Suied). Jan 21, 2023 at 14:48
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(TLFi - 1) RAGER A. − Éprouver de la rage et le manifester par un comportement violent ou, le plus souvent, par un silence hargneux.

(TLFi - 2) ENRAGER DE A.− Emploi intrans. […] 2. Au fig. Enrager de a) Vx. […]
b) Éprouver un vif déplaisir, un violent dépit de quelque chose. Enrager de jalousie. Synon. bisquer, écumer, fulminer, fumer, râler (pop.), rager
• En vain il faisait belle jambe, se rengorgeait comme un pigeon pattu, tournait du doigt les boucles de sa perruque, montrait son solitaire et découvrait ses dents jusqu'aux gencives; il ne produisait plus d'effet, et il eût pensé enrager de dépit, si « la dama tapada » n'eût été à son poste, le couvant du regard, répondant aux clins d'yeux qu'il lui adressait par de petits coups d'éventail sur le bord de la loge et autres signes d'intelligence amoureuse. Gautier, Le Capitaine Fracasse,1863, p. 252.
Emploi abs.
• Lorsqu'un de nous enrage, il a du moins la ressource d'envoyer au diable celui qui l'irrite (Hugo, Rhin,1842, p. 198).

(TLFi - 3) ENRAGER 1.Mettre (quelqu'un) en rage, en colère
• Enrager le/ son monde. J'avais gardé mon sang-froid, mais tant de misères m'enragent! (Borel, Champavert,1833, p. 240)
• Edwige Légaré s'était attaqué seul à une souche; une main contre le tronc, de l'autre il avait saisi une racine comme on saisit dans une lutte la jambe d'un adversaire colossal, et il se battait contre l'inertie alliée du bois et de la terre en ennemi plein de haine que la résistance enrage. Hémon, Maria Chapdelaine,1916, p. 67.
S'ENRAGER Emploi pronom. à valeur subjective.
• On se tait, mais on s'enrage devant ce patriotisme menteur prêché par des dilettantes qui, par respect de leur propre intellectualité, ont commencé par se soustraire au devoir militaire (Clemenceau, Iniquité,1899, p. 336).

  1. "Rager" and "enrager" are synonyms according to the TLFi (TLFi 1, 2), especially so as concerns the use made in the poem, that is, in "emploi absolu" (no complement introduced by "de"). There is a difference if the pronominal form is used; this form depends on another meaning of "enrager" (TLFi 3), that meaning being "to drive someone wild" "to work someone into a rage". "S'enrager" is then "to work oneself into a rage".

  2. From the definitions, the last line containing "enrage" and not "s'enrage" is seen to be correct; the translation is faithful in this last line, whereas in the 3rd, 9th, and 15th, it is not quite so. This is clear from the definitions and "1.".

  3. The translator has here again taken some liberty with the original text; he has neglected the semi colon and thought well to lump the infinitives before it with what could be interpreted (in the limit, and without significant addition as far as I can see) with the infinitives after it, whereas, in my opinion, they are not infinitives; it seems better to interpret them as imperatives in a line that comes in with the force of a refrain in view of the last one, the resulting effect being to confirm the poet's personal conviction.

  4. As the title of this query can be interpreted on the level of the translation of "do not go gentle" as "n'entre pas sans violence", I will do that, and say that no, rightly, this rendering overshoots the aim; "rager" in this context does not entail violent behaviour but as the definition in the TLFi suggests, rather a silent anger ("manifester … le plus souvent par un silence hargneux"). So, "do not go gentle" is rather "n'entre pas avec douceur".

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