Anais Nin’s childhood writings: Birth

lecompangnondeloublieIn 1916, less than two years after arriving in America, 13 year old Anaïs Nin created a monthly “magazine” entitled COMPAGNON DE L’OUBLIE, which roughly translates into Companion of the Forgotten, although it is considered to be Companions of Oblivion in Linotte, the English translation of Nin’s childhood diary. These handwritten magazines contained drawings, poetry, and stories. In Linotte, Nin says:

“I had to wipe away the dust that covered my ‘Companions of Oblivion’ in order to show it to Godmother, who was very much interested. She promised to subscribe for 50 cents a month, and we agreed that after I read the monthly journal to Thorvald and Joaquín [Nin’s younger brothers], I am to send it to her, so that I don’t have to write the paper twice. I would spend the day writing happily and without getting tired, but Maman watches over my health and won’t let me do that, saying, “Don’t hurry so much, fifille, you have time.
“Miss Mary Devlin, a friend of Maman’s, came over yesterday in the evening and I had to read her my latest poem, ‘Birth,’ and it seems to me she says it was very good. She told Maman that I could write for ‘Le Courrier des Etats Unis.’ Ah, if I could! My goodness! What a joy for me if I could make use of my chicken tracks and earn a little money for Maman! But alas, I haven’t much hope”(Linotte 139).

The poem Nin refers to follows, from No. 10, the October 1916 issue, translated from the French. She seems to be depicting the idyllic family awaiting the birth of its newest member: the gentle mother, the worried father, the loving grandmother, the doting grandfather. And yet little Anaïs throws in a twist at the end…perhaps life is fragile even in a perfect world.

Birth

 The sun rose clear and proud
O’er a beautiful day in June
The merry birds sang their most beautiful airs
While the pure sky
Shed its protection on all the nests
Big or small
Nature is waiting for someone

A young mother in her room
Leaned her head o’er her work
A sunbeam illuminated her face
Which expressed joy and happiness
Her fine hands drew the needle
Through little pink and blue shiny ribbons
Folding beneath her activity
Mama is waiting for someone
Bent over a book
A man was concerned
It was a great problem
To be a good father
He had never even had dolls
And now he consults the heavens
To learn what it is to love
Someone smaller than he
Papa is waiting for someone

The yarn passes, and passes by again, the needle
With her wrinkled hands
Grandmother knits a little girl’s shawl
Whether she be beautiful or ugly
Does not matter—She has a grandmother to love her
Her white head wilts,
Falls, but is raised again with strength
Because Grandmother is waiting for someone
In a small corner, hidden
Lies a small purse
But here is the old Grandfather
Who, contrary to habit, empties it
And with a sigh slips his pennies into the hand of a shopkeeper
But his face cheers
At the blue and pink and white of the street
For…Grandfather is waiting for someone
Tenderly leaning o’er a wicker cradle
Grandfather, Grandmother, Mother, and Father
Contemplate the delicate baby
Who wiggles her pink feet and hands
And her small mouth, so pretty, drawn up in a smile
In the light of a day that does not want to die
On her fawn-colored face an angel wrote “Hope” 
Hope, repeats the Mother with love
Hope, repeats the Father with joy
Hope, murmurs the old Grandfather, Hope
And the old Grandmother exclaims, There is nothing but darkness!
Life is waiting for someone!

AN
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

One Response to “Anais Nin’s childhood writings: Birth”
  1. Adelaide says:

    A really good translation would be Forgotten friends/Absent friends.

    I like the lines about the father very well. He seems heavy and burdensome, and this covers that verse.

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