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March 24, 1954

Poet Marianne Moore read from and spoke about her current work, a translation of the fables of LaFontaine, accompanied by illustrations by Marc Chagall. Miss Moore spoke of Jean de LaFontaine, noted Jeanne Unger ’54 in The Miscellany News, as the lone representative of “independent poetry of his time in departing from the strict rules of French poetic tradition. She discussed structure and content in relation to her translation of the poetry…. Criticizing translators who take liberties of omission and make changes, Miss Moore insisted on the retention of the pattern of rhythm…. Miss Moore claimed she worked on the fables, ‘fascinated by their rhymes and harmonies.’” Some of Marc Chagall’s engravings and aquatints for the fables had been shown in an exhibit in the Vassar College Art Gallery in January 1954, prompting Sara Breckinridge ’54 to observe, in The Vassar Chronicle, that Chagall’s work “is successfully coupled with translations…by Marianne Moore. She and La Fontaine deal in the same brand of whimsical humor that Chagall so zestfully paints.” The Fables of La Fontaine appeared from Viking Press in 1954.

A frequent visitor to the college, Miss Moore wrote on February 16 to her cousin, Mary Watson Craig, her sadness at the death, on February 1, of her friend since childhood, the Vassar librarian Fanny Borden ’98, whom she often referred to as “Aunt Ann”: “I am sad not to see Miss Borden again. She was for many years good to [Moore’s brother] Warner & me—parting with college text-books to us when we were in college and couldn’t buy many books…. I did write to her during December saying I was coming to Vassar & would be sure to visit her a little while after my talk.”

Bonnie Costello, ed. Selected Letters of Marianne Moore

The Years