In the storm
from Théophile Gautier
The barque is small and the sea immense,
the wave throws us up to the sky in anger,
the sky, in madness, sends us back to the flood:
let us pray on our knees, next to the broken mast!
Between us and the tomb there is only a single plank:
perhaps this evening, in a bitter bed,
under a cold shroud, made of white foam,
we will go to sleep, our vigil kept by the lightning!
Flower of paradise, Our sainted Lady,
so good to sailors in peril of dying,
becalm the wind, make the waves go quiet,
and push with a finger our skiff towards the port.
We will give you, if you save us,
a beautiful dress made of silver paper,
a painted altar-candle weighing four pounds,
and, for your Jesus, a little Saint John.
Stroked by success
and in the narrowest of gloves,
Édouard Dujardin requests
that around nine o’clock, the third
of March, not even your shadow endorsed
by a coat of diverse spitballs!
you visit, eleven, Chausée
D’Antin, his poetry bookshop:
THE REVIEW which is bruited
INDEPENDENT, Sir, is holding
a housewarming golden as
the gas in its elegant premises.
For a baptism
If, subtle one, the little nose
dazzling, drowned in such
candour of guessed-at laughter
as this lace half-opens upon,
the filial instinct grabbed you,
prideful, but the second one
to resemble in her low-key
wit your blonde grandmother,
keep safe, from baptismal fonts,
that it might volatilise
miraculously into words
native and clear as a breeze,
the grain of salt on your tongue.
from Paul Valéry
When the sky the colour of a cheek
at last allows eyes to cherish it
and when at the gilded point of dying
among roses time takes place,
before one mute with pleasure
enchained by such a painting,
there dances a Shade in a trailing girdle
the evening comes close to catching.
This girdle wandering
in aerial breath
makes the last link tremble
between my silence and this world…
Absent, present… I am truly alone,
and downcast, o sweet-talking shroud.
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!…