Disaster (from Paul Valéry)

Disaster

                from Paul Valéry

What hour hurls at the timbers of the hull
this great stroke of shadow where our fate is cracked?
What impalpable power knocks together
in our apparel bones of death?

On the bare prow, the collapse of the waterspouts
washes the odour of life and wine:
the sea raises up and hollows out again tombs,
the same water hollows and fills the furrow.

Hideous man, in whom the heart capsizes,
strange drunkard astray on the sea
whose nausea tied to the ship
wrests from the soul a desire for hell,

total man, I tremble and I calculate,
brain too clear, capable of the moment
when, in a miniscule phenomenon,
time is broken like an instrument…

Cursed be the pig that rigged you,
rotten ark whose ballast is infested!
In your black depths, every created thing
beats your dead timbers drifting towards the East…

The abyss and I form a machine
that juggles with scattered memories:
I see my mother and my china cups,
the fat whore on the animal threshold of the bars;

I see Christ moored on the yardarm!…
he dances to death, sinking with his kind;
his bleeding eye lights for me this epitaph:
A GREAT SHIP HAS PERISHED WITH ALL HANDS!…

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