It was my mother who introduced me to the opera "Nelligan" around 1990. We were flipping channels one night when we chanced upon a TFO (the French language public television station in Ontario) airing of the Andre Gagnon - Michel Tremblay operatic rendering of the life of Emile Nelligan. My mother tracked down the CD shortly thereafter.
While the CD contained a full libretto, my rudimentary French (which has since then only marginally improved) couldn't pull all the meaning out of the text. The opera features an aria which recited Nelligan's most famous poem: "Le Vaisseau D'or". I don't want to violate copyright by posting the mp3, but I'm happy to share it privately with anyone who contacts me directly.
I have finally managed to find a translation. What follows is the original poem and a translation. As for the grander meaning of the poem: Nelligan led a tragic life and this poem is said to be autobiographic in a sense. For more information:
Le Vaisseau d'Or
C'était un grand Vaisseau taillé dans l'or massif:
Ses mâts touchaient l'azur, sur des mers inconnues;
La Cyprine d'amour, cheveux épars, chairs nues,
S'étalait à sa proue, au soleil excessif.
Mais il vint une nuit frapper le grand écueil
Dans l'Océan trompeur où chantait la Sirène,
Et le naufrage horrible inclina sa carène
Aux profondeurs du Gouffre, immuable cercueil.
Ce fut un Vaisseau d'Or, dont les flancs diaphanes
Révélaient des trésors que les marins profanes,
Dégoût, Haine et Névrose, entre eux ont disputés.
Que reste-t-il de lui dans la tempête brève?
Qu'est devenu mon coeur, navire déserté?
Hélas! Il a sombré dans l'abîme du Rêve!
The Golden Ship
There was a fine ship, carved from solid gold
With azure reaching masts, on seas unknown.
Spread-eagled Venus, naked, hair back thrown,
Stood at the prow. The sun blazed uncontrolled.
But on the treacherous ocean in the gloom
She struck the great reef where the Sirens chant.
Appalling shipwreck plunged her keel aslant
To the Gulf's depths, that unrelenting tomb.
She was a Golden Ship: but there showed through
Translucent sides treasures the blasphemous crew,
Hatred, Disgust and Madness, fought to share.
How much survives after the storm's brief race?
Where is my heart, that empty ship, oh where?
Alas, in Dream's abyss sunk without trace.
Selected Titles: Selected Poems of Emile Nelligan; translated by P.F. Widdow, 1960.