Confinement

Christina Goh
French
b. 1977

 

We have become eagles
who glaze over the information peaks
from sunrise to sunset
trumpeted in all languages, in colors,
in plumes of sweetness and vigor
masters of the dreamlike airs…

Today we are lions
who roar their fury of life
or spread out, troubled in the sunlight
of their screens, watching the family
of the world, waiting for the best
and theories in the wind

But who would have believed it?
by the glow of virtual campfires
for a reconstructed holiday,
the shadows of the past took pity
and before disappearing,
they turned us into griffins.

Call

We present this work in honor of the 75th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Leon-Paul Fargue
French
1876 – 1947

 

I love to go down into the town at the hour when the sky lies close against the horizon like a vast whale. It sinks down into the heart of the street like a worker into his ditch. The bell has swung before the windows and the panes are lit up. It is as though all the eyes of the evening were filled with tears. In an opal the lamps and the day wrestle gently with each other. The advertising signs write to each other, spreading themselves in letters of lava across the face of the buildings. The rope dancers stride over the abyss. A great long legged spider spins its web from the hooks of a bush full of flowers. An acrobat climbs up and throws himself down. Shipwrecked sailors signal foreign vessels. The houses advance like the prows of galleys with all their portholes blazing. Man runs between their golden flames like a waif in a harbor.

Dark and streaming the autos arrive from everywhere, like sharks to the quarry of a great shipwreck, blind to the fulgurant signals of men.

Translation by Kenneth Rexroth

Elsa at the Mirror

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 125th birthday.

Louis Aragon
French
1897 – 1982

 

It was in the middle of our tragedy
And all the long day sitting at her glass
She combed her bright gold hair. To me it was
As though her calm hands quieted a blaze.
It was in the middle of our tragic days.

And all day long sitting before her glass
She combed her bright gold hair as one who plays
In the very middle of our tragedy
A golden harp without belief, to pass
The long hours, sitting all day at her glass.

She combed her bright gold hair and seemed to be
Martyrizing at will her memory
All the long day while sitting at her glass,
Reviving still the spent flowers of the blaze,
Not speaking as would another in her place.

She martyrized at will her memory
It was in the middle of our tragic days
Her dark glass was the world’s facsimile
Her comb, parting the fires of that silken mass,
Lit up the corners of my memory.

In the very middle of our tragic days
As Thursday is in the middle of the week
And sitting there before her memory
She saw within the glass (but did not speak)

One by one the actors of our tragedy
Dying, whom most in this dark world we praise

I need not call their names You know what memory
Burns on the hearth of these declining days

And in her golden hair when she sits there
And combs in silence the reflected blaze.

Translation by George Dillon

I Live, I Die, I Burn, I Drown

Louise Labé
French
c. 1524 – 1566

 

I live, I die, I burn, I drown
I endure at once chill and cold
Life is at once too soft and too hard
I have sore troubles mingled with joys

Suddenly I laugh and at the same time cry
And in pleasure many a grief endure
My happiness wanes and yet it lasts unchanged
All at once I dry up and grow green

Thus I suffer love’s inconstancies
And when I think the pain is most intense
Without thinking, it is gone again.

Then when I feel my joys certain
And my hour of greatest delight arrived
I find my pain beginning all over once again.

 

Translation by Delmira Agustini

Secret Ode

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

Paul Valery
French
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

Royal song of the most beautiful that ever was in the world

07-05 d'Amboise
Catherine d’Amboise
French
1475 – 1550

Angels, Thrones and Dominations,
Principalities, Archangels, Cherubim,
Bow to the lower regions
With Virtues, Potestés, Seraphim,
Fly through high crystalline skies
To decorate the triumphant entrance
And the most worthy adored birth,
The holy concept by mysteres tres haults
Of that Virgin, where all grace abounds,
Decree by dits imperiaulx
The most beautiful that ever was in the world.

Give sermons and sermons,
Devout Carmelites, Cordeliers, Augustins;
From the holy concept wear relationships,
Caldeyens, Hebrieux and Latins;
Romanians, sing on the Palatine Hills
That Jouachim Saincte Anne met,
And that by eulx is administered to us
Ceste Virgo without love conjugaulx
That God created of fruitful pleasure,
Without feeling any original defects,
The most beautiful that ever was in the world.

His honest beautiful receptions
Of soul and body in the beautiful places of the intestines
Have transcended all conceptions
Personal, by divine mysteries.
Because to feed Jesus with his painful breasts
God always has him without a maculle monster,
Declaring it by right and ultree law:
All beautiful for the all beautiful of the beautiful,
All clergy, nect, modest and world,
All pure above all bladders,
The most beautiful that ever was in the world.

Muses, come in jubilations
And transmigrate your crystal-clear streams,
Come, Aurora, by lucidations,
Precursing the beautiful morning days;
Come, Orpheus, sound harp and clarins,
Come, Amphion, from the beautiful country,
Come, Music, pleasantly acoustrée,
Come on, Royne Hester, adorned with joyaulx,
Come, Judith, Rachel and Florimonde,
Accompanied by special honors
The most beautiful that ever was in the world.

Tres doulx zephirs, by sibilations
Sow roses and roumarins everywhere,
Nimphes, stop your floods,
Marine stigieulx and carybd places;
Ring horns, viols, stools;
May my mistress, the honored Virgin
Either from everyone in all places decorated
Come, Apolo, play the blowpipes,
Ring, Panna, so hault that everything redundant,
Collapse all in generaulx terms
The most beautiful that ever was in the world.

Devoted spirits, faithful and loyal,
In paradise, beautiful mansions and chasteins,
To the pleasure God, the Virgin for us founds
Or see her in her Royaulx palaces,
The most beautiful that ever was in the world.

The Banner of Your Body

06-10 Dallas
Gilberte H. Dallas
French
1918 – 1960

 

The banner of your body floats in the Brandenburg wind.
An old woman wants to come in, I
can see her through the door, her red felt hand
pressing in vain on the latch, scraps
of her cries come at me like the barbaric
song of a violin mending the night;
I’m going to slip a rose under the door
a black-blooded rose, maybe she’ll go away?
And I could wallow in the bramble hammock
but her voice hiccups: Ophelia
My name is Ophelia, open the door, O-phe-lia…
—What do I care about her grotesque distortions
What lie will she bring me? Why
doesn’t she extend it to me through the sheets
of sand the way she extends her name… Ophelia
Ophelia, her shadow ricochets in the aura
of my dusk. Ophelia, her voice grates
like a leper’s rattle, philia, figlia…

The Flowers

04-18 Mallarme
Stephane Mallarme
French
1842 – 1898

 

From golden showers of the ancient skies,
On the first day, and the eternal snow of stars,
You once unfastened giant calyxes
For the young earth still innocent of scars:

Young gladioli with the necks of swans,
Laurels divine, of exiled souls the dream,
Vermilion as the modesty of dawns
Trod by the footsteps of the seraphim;

The hyacinth, the myrtle gleaming bright,
And, like the flesh of woman, the cruel rose,
Hérodiade blooming in the garden light,
She that from wild and radiant blood arose!

And made the sobbing whiteness of the lily
That skims a sea of sighs, and as it wends
Through the blue incense of horizons, palely
Toward the weeping moon in dreams ascends!

Hosanna on the lute and in the censers,
Lady, and of our purgatorial groves!
Through heavenly evenings let the echoes answer,
Sparkling haloes, glances of rapturous love!

Mother, who in your strong and righteous bosom,
Formed calyxes balancing the future flask,
Capacious flowers with the deadly balsam
For the weary poet withering on the husk.

 

Translation by Henry Weinfield

To Nepotianus, both grammarian and rhetorician

Decimius Magnus Ausonius
French
c. 310 – c. 395

 

Old with a young heart, witty, kind, whose mind,
dipped in much honey with now gall,
imparted nothing bitter in your whole life.
Nepotianus, comfort to my heart,
partaking as much in games as serious work:
when silent, you’d outdo Amyclas in speechlessness:
Ulysses—who left the Sirens singing their enchantments—
could not leave you when you were talking:
honest and modest, moderate, thrifty, abstemious,
eloquent, in style yielding place to no orator:
debater approaching the Stoic Cleanthes:
knowing well by heart Scaurus and Probus,
your memory greater than Cineas’s of Epirus:
friend table-companion and frequent guest—
too seldom, for you stimulated my mind.
No one gave counsel with so pure a heart
or hid confidences with deeper secrecy.
With the honor of an illustrious governorship conferred,
having lived through the changes of ninety years,
leaving two children, you meet your death,
with much grief to your family, as to me.

 

Translation by Deborah Warren

Tomorrow at Dawn

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 220th birthday.

02-26 Hugo
Victor Hugo
French
1802 – 1885

Tomorrow, at dawn, when the countryside brightens,
I will depart. You see, I know that you wait for me.
I will go through the wood, I will go past the mountains.
I cannot remain far from you any longer.

I will walk, eyes set upon my thoughts,
Seeing nothing around me and hearing no sound,
Alone, unknown, back bent, hands crossed,
Sorrowful, and for me, day will be as night.

I will not watch the evening gold fall,
Nor the distant sails going down to Harfleur,
And, when I arrive, I will put on your grave
A bouquet of green holly and heather in bloom.