Peter O’Neill


Photo of the Author by Marek Biegalski






Peter O’Neill: Poet – Translator- Academic & Creative Writing Facilitator



Peter O’ Neill is the author of several books of poetry, the latest being The Dublin Trilogy: Poems and Transversions 1992-2017, A Singular Engagement with a 19th Century French Master published in the UK by Famous Seamus. Baudelaire, who is the French master in question, has been a formative influence, and is the subject of a full volume of translation in The Enemy, Transversions from Charles Baudelaire, which was published by Lapwing in Belfast in 2015, only to be republished as part two of The Dublin Trilogy; a 25 year engagement with the French poet in which O’Neill attempts to transpose Baudelaire’s 19th century French aesthetic onto contemporary Dublin. He continues to translate Baudelaire, his ambition is to publish a complete transversion of Les Fleurs Du Mal, as he thinks the Irish are badly in need of it.

Samuel Beckett is another point of reference, O’Neill has only just returned from the How It Is Symposium organised by Gare Saint Lazare Players Ireland at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris this February. He presented a paper titled “je le dis comme elle vient”: Invocation and the Appearance of the Homeric Muse in Comment c’est/How It Is, which is but the first chapter in a book he is currently working on of a further 9 chapters strictly devoted to Beckett’s final attempt at a full -length novel. The research which goes into his academic interests spills over into his own creative work. He published the first part of his Beckett trilogy More Micks than Dicks last year, and he is currently working on the sequel Henry Street Arcade Project of which the following translation of Baudelaire’s long poem Femmes Damneés is taken.


Here are two short films made by the poet, short story writer and editor Eamon Mag Uidhir at the launch of The Dublin Trilogy in Etiquette cave au vin in Paris, November, last year, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Baudelaire.


Finally, here is the French version of the text by Baudelaire, followed by some translations into English.



 Damned Women – Delphine & Hippolyte

Translation of Femmes Damnée by Baudelaire

For Sam


From the pale clarity of the languishing lamps,

Upon deep cushions impregnated with odours,

Hippolyte dreams of powerful caresses

Which pull the curtains on her youthful candour.


With an eye troubled by storm, she searches

Naively the sky already wayward,

Like a wanderer would turn his head

Towards the horizon, surpassing the morning.


With her eyes absorbing welling tears,

Broken, from the stupor, all mournfully voluptuous,

Her vanquished arms thrown out in supplication,

Appearing to embody the definition of fragile beauty.


While stretched at her feet, calm and full of joy,

Delphine looks over her with an ardent eye,

Like an animal surveying her prey,

After having already tasted first blood.


Strength and beauty then on her knees before frail beauty,

Superb, she savours voluptuously

The first taste of her triumph, and lying down beside Hippolyte

As if making to whisper sweet nothings in her ear.


She searches in the eyes of her pale victim

The mute song which sings of pleasure,

And with sublime and infinite gratitude

There escapes from her lips a deep sigh.


“Hippolyte, dear heart, what say you of things?

Do you understand now that you must not offer up

The sacred holocaust of your vaginal rose

To the violent winds which could wither you?


My kisses are light and are as ephemeral

As the night caressing the great transparent lakes,

And those of your lovers tunnelling ruts

Are but like chariot wheels ploughing up country roads!


They pass over you like some heavy yoke,

Horses and ox harnessed and shoed without pity…

Hippolyte, o my sister, turn your face towards me!

You, my heart and my soul, my all and my adored…


Turn your eyes, with their azure and stars, towards me!

For just one of those charming looks is a divine balm,

For more obscure pleasures I would only have to lift the sails

Pulling you into a sleep in a dream without end!”


But Hippolyte raised her young head replied.

“I am not so ungrateful and do not repent,

But Delphine, I suffer and am troubled,


As if having gorged upon some decadent nocturnal feast.


 I feel overcome by some insupportable weight.

It’s as if scattered dark battalions

Wish to steer me onto some unstable path,

Or onto some bloody horizon which is closed on all sides.


Have we committed some strange act together?

Explain to me if you can my current anguish.

For I tremble with fear every time that you call me “My Angel!”

And yet I can feel my mouth moving towards you…


Don’t look at me so, you my conscience!

You whom I will love for ever, my chosen sister.

However, I know also that you have also become my pitfall,

And the beginning of my unique perdition!”


Delphine shaking her mane tragically,

And stamping her foot upon the floor in a rage,

Casts a fatal look, and responds with a despot’s voice:

“ Who, before LOVE, dares to speak of HELL?


Accursed be the one forever the useless dreamer

Who wishes to be the first, in their stupidity,

To create such an insoluble and sterile problem

By mixing honesty in the ways of love.


Those who would try to unite the pair in some mystical union,

Like the shadow with heat, the day with night,

Will never again warm their sick paralytic bodies

With the red sun which we have called LOVE.


Go, if you want, and find yourself some stupid man.

Go and offer your virgin heart to his cruel embrace;

And filled with remorse and horror, livid…

 Only to crawl back to me with your stigmatised breasts,


Down here, we can never be content with one Master.”

But the child, while repressing an immense pain

Cried out suddenly: “- I feel overcoming my Being

A gaping abyss; this abyss being my heart!


Burning like a pit, as profound as the void,

Nothing can appease this slippery monster,

Nor can apparently quench the thirst of the Eumenides

 Who, with torch in hand, will burn till burnt.


As the curtains come down separating us from the world

And only lassitude brings any amount of repose,

I wish to annihilate myself on the profundities of your gorge

And find, upon your breast, the freshness of tombs!”


Descend, descend, lamentable victims,

Descend spiralling downward towards the pathway to eternal HELL!

Plunge into the very deepest chasm, where all your crimes,

Whipped up by a wind which doesn’t come from the sky,


But bubbles together with the noise of a storm.

Crazed shadows, chase after your desires;

Never will you be able to appease your rage,

And from your punishment are born all of your secret pleasures.


Never will a fresh ray of light illuminate your caves;

Along the cracks of the walls the feverish miasmas,

Filtering in flames as of lanterns,

And penetrating your bodies with their atrocious fumes.


The harsh sterility of your jouissance

Alters your thirst haunting your skin,

And the apoplectic winds of concupiscence

Ruffle your flesh like an old flag.


Far from the living, lost and condemned,

Across vast deserts run like wolves;

Go and make your destiny, poor disordered souls,

And run from the infinite, which you carry within you.


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