Nyx

Catherine Pozzi
French
1882 – 1934

 

O you, my nights, O long-awaited blackness,
O proud country, O obstinate secrets,
O long looks, O thundering clouds
O flight beyond skies which are closed

O great desire, O scattered surprise
O beautiful journey of th’ enchanted sprite
O worst evil, O grace that flies
O open door where we enter night

I don’t know why I die today
Before th’ eternal rest above.
I don’t know for whom I’m prey
I don’t know for whom I’m love.

Hair

We present this work in honor of the 105th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Remy de Gourmont
French
1858 – 1915

 

There is great mystery, Simone,
In the forest of your hair.

It smells of hay, and of the stone
Cattle have been lying on;
Of timber, and of new-baked bread
Brought to be one’s breakfast fare;
And of the flowers that have grown
Along a wall abandonèd;
Of leather and of winnowed grain;
Of briers and ivy washed by rain;
You smell of rushes and of ferns
Reaped when day to evening turns;
You smell of withering grasses red
Whose seed is under hedges shed;
You smell of nettles and of broom;
Of milk, and fields in clover-bloom;
You smell of nuts, and fruits that one
Gathers in the ripe season;
And of the willow and the lime
Covered in their flowering time;
You smell of honey, of desire,
You smell of air the noon makes shiver:
You smell of earth and of the river;
You smell of love, you smell of fire.

There is great mystery, Simone,
In the forest of your hair.

Lament for Clairac

Theophile de Viau
French
1590 – 1626

 

Sweet place where I adored Phyllis of yore,
Sun-hallowed walls that held my soul in charms,
Today beneath our sundered roofs no more
Than bloody spoil for prideful men at arms,

Cloth of the altar gone in smoke and scorned,
Temple in ruins, mysteries undone,
Horrific relicts of a city burned:
Men, horses, palaces, buried as one.

Deep moats packed with debris from shattered walls,
Tableaux of horror, shrieks and burials,
River where blood has not stopped running high,

Slaughterfields where the wolves and crows gorge free,
Clairac! For the one birth you gave to me
How many, many deaths you make me die.

The Shadow of the Orange-Leaves

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 175th birthday.

Judith Gautier
French
1845 – 1917

 

The young girl who works
all day in her solitary chamber
is moved to tenderness if she
hears of a sudden the sound of
a jade flute.
And she imagines that she
hears the voice of a young boy.

Through the paper of the
windows the shadow of the
orange-leaves enters and sits
on her knees;

And she imagines that some-
body has torn her silken dress.

The Frog

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Hilaire Belloc
French
1870 – 1953

 

Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As ‘Slimy skin,’ or ‘Polly-wog,’
Or likewise ‘Ugly James,’
Or ‘Gap-a-grin,’ or ‘Toad-gone-wrong,’
Or ‘Bill Bandy-knees’:
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).

Lassitude

In honor of Bastille Day, we present this work by one of France’s most revolutionary 19th century poets.

Louise Colet
French
1810 – 1876

 

It is from these long days of indescribable sickness
Where we would like to sleep the heavy sleep of the dead;
From these hours of anguish where existence weighs
On the soul and on the body.

So we search in vain for a gentle thought,
A joyful image, a rich memory;
The soul fights for an instant, and finally falls again, drooping
Under its deep troubles.

So all that enchants and all that we enjoy
Has for our open eyes only deceptive brightness;
And the dreamed happiness, if it comes, cannot exactly
Overpower our fatigue.

Since I am Forgotten

Guillaume de Machaut
French
1300 – 1377

 

Since I am forgotten by you, sweet friend,
To a love life, and to happiness, I bid goodbye.
Unlucky was the day I put my love in you,
Since I am forgotten by you, sweet friend.
Yet I will keep what I have promised you,
Which is that never will I have another lover.
Since I am forgotten by you, sweet friend,
To a love life, and to happiness, I bid goodbye.

Asleep in the Valley

Arthur Rimbaud
French
1854 – 1891

 

A small green valley where a slow stream flows
And leaves long strands of silver on the bright
Grass; from the mountaintop stream the Sun’s
Rays; they fill the hollow full of light.

A soldier, very young, lies open-mouthed,
A pillow made of fern beneath his head,
Asleep; stretched in the heavy undergrowth,
Pale in his warm, green, sun-soaked bed.

His feet among the flowers, he sleeps. His smile
Is like an infant’s – gentle, without guile.
Ah, Nature, keep him warm; he may catch cold.

The humming insects don’t disturb his rest;
He sleeps in sunlight, one hand on his breast;
At peace. In his side there are two red holes.

Alice Sick

We present this work in honor of the 325th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Jean De La Fontaine
French
1621 – 1695

 

Sick, Alice grown, and fearing dire event,
Some friend advised a servant should be sent
Her confessor to bring and ease her mind;—
Yes, she replied, to see him I’m inclined;
Let father Andrew instantly be sought:—
By him salvation usually I’m taught.

A messenger was told, without delay,
To take, with rapid steps, the convent way;
He rang the bell—a monk enquired his name,
And asked for what, or whom, the fellow came.
I father Andrew want, the wight replied,
Who’s oft to Alice confessor and guide:
With Andrew, cried the other, would you speak?
If that’s the case, he’s far enough to seek;
Poor man! he’s left us for the regions blessed,
And has in Paradise ten years confessed.

Under Mirabeau Bridge

Guillaume Apollinaire
French
1880 – 1918

 

Under Mirabeau Bridge the river slips away
And lovers
Must I be reminded
Joy came always after pain

The night is a clock chiming
The days go by not I

We’re face to face and hand in hand
While under the bridges
Of embrace expire
Eternal tired tidal eyes

The night is a clock chiming
The days go by not I

Love elapses like the river
Love goes by
Poor life is indolent
And expectation always violent

The night is a clock chiming
The days go by not I

The days and equally the weeks elapse
The past remains the past
Love remains lost
Under Mirabeau Bridge the river slips away

The night is a clock chiming
The days go by not I