Secret Ode

In honor of Bastille Day, we present this work by one of France’s brightest poets.

Paul Valery
1871 – 1945


The fall so splendid, the end sweet,
The struggle forgotten, what bliss
To stretch the glistening body out
Against the moss, after the dance!

Never has such a glow
Shone out in victory
As these bright sparks of summer
Across a forehead sown with sweat!

But touched at last by the Dusk’s light,
This body that achieved so much,
That danced, that bested Hercules,
Dissolves among the clumps of roses!

So sleep, beneath sidereal steps,
Conqueror slowly come undone,
For now the Hydra in the hero
Unfurls its endless rows of heads…

Behold what Dog, what Bull, what Bear,
What signs of sweeping victory,
The soul imposes, entering time
Without resort, on formless space!

Supreme end, sparkling light
That by these monsters and these gods
Universally proclaim
The glorious acts that are in the Skies!

Translation by Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody

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