Illuminations

-ILLUMINATIONS-


I

After The Flood

FR: Après le déluge

book

As soon as the idea of the Deluge had subsided,

A hare stopped in the clover and swaying flowerbells,

and said a prayer to the rainbow,

through the spider’s web.

 

Oh! the precious stones that began to hide,–

and the flowers that already looked around.

In the dirty main street, stalls were set up

and boats were hauled toward the sea,

high tiered as in old prints.

 

Blood flowed at Blue Beard’s,–

through slaughterhouses, in circuses,

where the windows were blanched by God’s seal.

Blood and milk flowed. Beavers built.

 

“Mazagrans” smoked in the little bars.

In the big glass house, still dripping,

children in mourning looked

at the marvelous pictures.

 

A door banged; and in the village square

the little boy waved his arms,

understood by weather vanes

and cocks on steeples everywhere,

in the bursting shower.

 

Madame So-and-so installed a piano in the Alps.

Mass and first communions were celebrated

at the hundred thousand altars of the cathedral.

Caravans set out. And Hotel Splendid was built

in the chaos of ice and of the polar night.

 

Ever after the moon heard jackals howling

across the deserts of thyme,

and eclogues in wooden shoes growling in the orchard.

Then in the violet and budding forest,

Eucharis told me it was spring.

 

Gush, pond,– Foam, roll on the bridge and over the woods;–

black palls and organs, lightening and thunder, rise and roll;–

waters and sorrows rise and launch the Floods again.

 

For since they have been dissipated–

oh! the precious stones being buried and the opened flowers!–

 

it’s unbearable! and the Queen, the Witch who lights her fire

in the earthen pot will never tell us what she knows,

and what we do not know.

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II

Childhood

FR: Enfance

book

I

That idol, black eyes and yellow mop, without parents or court,

nobler than Mexican and Flemish fables;

his domain, insolent azure and verdure,

runs over beaches called by the shipless waves,

names ferociously Greek, Slav, Celt.

 

At the border of the forest– dream flowers tinkle, flash, and flare,–

the girl with orange lips, knees

crossed in the clear flood that gushes from the fields,

nakedness shaded, traversed, dressed by rainbow, flora, sea.

 

Ladies who stroll on terraces adjacent to the sea;

baby girls and giantesses,

superb blacks in the verdigris moss,

jewels upright on the rich ground

of groves and little thawed gardens,–

 

young mothers and big sisters with eyes full of pilgrimages,

sultanas, princesses tyrannical of costume and carriage,

little foreign misses and young ladies gently unhappy.

What boredom, the hour of the “dear body” and “dear heart.”

II

It is she, the little girl, dead behind the rosebushes. —

The young mamma, deceased, comes down the stoop.–

The cousin’s carriage creaks on the sand.–

The little brother (he is in India!) there,

before the western sky in the meadow of pinks.

 

The old men who have been buried upright

in the rampart overgrown with gillyflowers.

Swarms of golden leaves surround the general’s house.

They are in the south.–

 

You follow the red road to reach the empty inn.

The chateau is for sale; the shutters are coming off.

The priest must have taken away the key of the church.

Around the park the keepers’ cottages are uninhabited.

 

The enclosures are so high that nothing

can be seen but the rustling tree tops.

Besides, there is nothing to be seen within.

The meadows go up to the hamlets without anvils or cocks.

 

The sluice gate is open.

O the Calvaries and the windmills of the desert,

the islands and the haystacks!

Magic flowers droned.

 

The slopes cradled him.

Beasts of a fabulous elegance moved about.

The clouds gathered over the high sea,

formed of an eternity of hot tears.

III

In the woods there is a bird;

his song stops you and makes you blush.

There is a clock that never strikes.

There is a hollow with a nest of white beasts.

 

There is a cathedral that goes down and a lake that goes up.

There is a little carriage abandoned in the copse

or that goes running down the road beribboned.

 

There is a troupe of little actors in costume, glimpsed on the road

through the border of the woods.

And then, when you are hungry and thirsty,

there is someone who drives you away.

IV

I am the saint at prayer on the terrace

like the peaceful beasts

that graze down to the sea of Palestine.

I am the scholar of the dark armchair.

 

Branches and rain hurl themselves at the windows of my library.

I am the pedestrian of the highroad by way of the dwarf woods;

the roar of the sluices drowns my steps.

I can see for a long time the melancholy wash of the setting sun.

 

I might well be the child abandoned on the jetty

on its way to the high seas, the little farm boy following the lane,

its forehead touching the sky. The paths are rough.

 

The hillocks are covered with broom.

The air is motionless. How far away are the birds and the springs!

It can only be the end of the world ahead.

V

Let them rent me this whitewashed tomb, at last,

with cement lines in relief,– far down under ground.

I lean my elbows on the table,

the lamp shines brightly on these newspapers

I am fool enough to read again, these stupid books.

 

An enormous distance above my subterranean parlor,

houses take root, fogs gather.

The mud is red or black.

Monstrous city, night without end!

 

Less high are the sewers. At the sides,

nothing but the thickness of the globe.

Chasms of azure, wells of fire perhaps.

 

Perhaps it is on these levels that moons and comets meet,

fables and seas. In hours of bitterness,

I imagine balls of sapphire, of metal.

 

I am master of silence.

Why should the semblance of an opening

pale under one corner of the vault?

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III

Tale

FR: Conte

book

A Prince was vexed at having devoted himself

only to the perfection of ordinary generosities.

 

He foresaw astonishing revolutions of love

and suspected his women of being able to do better

than their habitual acquiescence embellished by heaven and luxury.

 

He wanted to see the truth, the hour of essential desire and gratification.

Whether this was an aberration of piety or not,

that is what he wanted. Enough worldly power, at least, he had.

 

All the women who had known him were assassinated;

what havoc in the garden of beauty!

At the point of the sword they blessed him.

 

He did not order new ones.– The women reappeared.

He killed all those who followed him, after the hunt or the libations.–

All followed him. He amused himself cutting the throats of rare animals.

 

He set palaces on fire. He would rush upon people

and hack them to pieces.–

The throngs, the gilded roofs, the beautiful animals still remained.

 

Can one be in ecstasies over destruction and by cruelty rejuvenated!

The people did not complain. No one offered him the benefit of his views.

One evening he was proudly galloping.

 

A Genie appeared, of ineffable beauty, unwavorable even.

In his face and in his bearing shone the promise of

a complex and multiple love! of an indescribable happiness,

unendurable, even.

 

The Prince and the Genie annihilated each other

probably in essential health.

How could they have helped dying of it?

Together then they died.

 

But this Prince died in his palace at an ordinary age,

the Prince was the Genie, the Genie was the Prince.–

There is no sovereign music for our desire.

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IV

Sideshow

FR: Parade

book

Very sturdy rogues. Several have exploited your worlds.

With no needs, and in no hurry to make use of

their brilliant faculties and their knowledge

of your conveniences. What ripe men!

 

Eyes vacant like the summer night, red and black,

tricolored, steel studded with gold stars;

faces distorted, leaden, blanched, ablaze;

burlesque hoarsenesses! The cruel strut of flashy finery!

 

Some are young, – how would they look on Cherubin?

– endowed with terrifying voices and some

dangerous resources. They are sent buggering in the town,

tricked out with nauseating luxury.

 

O the most violent Paradise of the furious grimace!

Not to be compared with your Fakirs and other

theatrical buffooneries. In improvised costumes

like something out of a bad dream, they enact heroic

 

romances of brigands and of demigods,

more inspiriting than history or

religions have ever been.

Chinese, Hottentots, gypsies, simpletons,

 

hyenas, Molochs, old dementias, sinister demons,

they combine popular maternal turns

with bestial poses and caresses.

They would interpret new plays, “romantic”

 

songs. Master jugglers, they transform place

and persons and have recourse

to magnetic comedy. Eyes flame, blood sings,

bones swell, tears and red trickles flow,

 

Their clowning or their terror lasts a minute

or entire months. I alone have the key to

this savage side show.

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V

Antique

FR: Antique

book

Gracious son of Pan! Around your forehead

crowned with flowerets

and with laurel, restlessly roll

those precious balls, your eyes.

 

Spotted with brown lees, your cheeks are hollow.

Your fangs gleam. Your breast is like a lyre,

tinklings circulate through your pale arms.

 

Your heart beats in that belly where sleeps the double sex.

Walk through the night, gently moving that thigh,

that second thigh, and that left leg.

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VI

Being Beauteous

FR: Being Beauteous

book

Against a fall of snow,

a Being Beautiful,

and very tall.

 

Whistlings of death and circles of faint music

Make this adored body, swelling and trembling

Like a specter, rise…

 

Black and scarlet gashes burst in the gleaming flesh.

The true colors of life grow dark, Shimmering and sperate.

In the scaffolding, around the Vision.

 

Shiverings mutter and rise,

And the furious taste of these effects is charged

With deadly whistlings and the raucous music

 

That the world, far behind us,

hurls at our mother of beauty…

She retreats, she rises up…

 

Oh! Our bones have put on new flesh, for love.

Oh ash-white face. Oh tousled hair.

O crystal arms! On this cannot I mean to destroy myself

In a swirling of trees and soft air!

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VII

Lives

FR: Vies

book

I

O the enormous avenues of the Holy Land,

the temple terraces!

What has become of the Brahman

who explained the proverbs to me?

Of that time, of that place,

I can still see even the old women!

 

I remember silver hours and sunlight by the rivers,

the hand of the country on my shoulder

and our caresses standing on the spicy plains.

– A flight of scarlet pigeons thunders round my thoughts.

 

An exile here, I once had a stage on which

to play all the masterpieces of literature.

I would show you unheard-of riches.

I note the story of the treasures you discovered.

 

I see the outcome.

My wisdom is as scorned as chaos.

What is my nothingness

to the stupor that awaits you?

II

I am the inventor more deserving far

than all those who have preceded me;

a musician, moreover, who has discovered

something like the key of love.

 

At present, a country gentleman

of a bleak land with a sober sky,

I try to rouse myself with the memory

of my beggar childhood,

 

my apprenticeship or my arrival in wooden shoes,

of polemics, of five or six widowings,

and of certain convivialities when my level head

kept me from rising to the diapason of my comrades.

 

I do not regret my old portion of divine gaiety:

the sober air of this bleak countryside

feeds vigorously my dreadful skepticism.

 

But since this skepticism cannot,

henceforth be put to use, and since,

moreover, I am dedicated to a new torment,–

I expect to become a very vicious madman.

III

In a loft, where I was shut in when I was twelve,

I got to know the world,

I illustrated the human comedy.

I learned history in a wine cellar.

 

In a northern city, at some nocturnal revel,

I met all the women of the old masters.

In an old arcade in Paris,

I was taught the classical sciences.

 

In a magnificent dwelling encircled by the entire Orient,

I accomplished my prodigious work

and spent my illustrious retreat.

I churned up my blood.

 

My duty has been remitted.

I must not even think of that anymore.

I am really from beyond

the tomb, and no commissions.

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VIII

Departure

FR: Départ

book

Everything seen…

The vision gleams in every air.

Everything had…

The far sound of cities, in the evening,

In sunlight, and always.

 

Everything known…

O Tumult! O Visions!

These are the stops of life.

Departure in affection,

and shining sounds.

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IX

Royalty

FR: Royauté

book

On a brilliant morning, in a city of lovely people,

A wonderful man and a wonderful woman

Were shouting out loud,

in the middle of town:

 

‘Oh, my friends… I wanted her to be queen!’

‘I want to be a queen!’

She kept on laughing and trembling,

While he talked to his friends

about revelations,

And tribulations at an end.

 

They laughed and they leaned

close to one another. And, of course,

they were royal… All morning long,

when scarlet draperies hung upon all the houses,

 

And even in the afternoon,

When they appeared

at the edge of the gardens of palms.

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X

To A Reason

FR: À une Raison

book

A rap of your finger on the drum

fires all the sounds

and starts a new harmony.

 

A step of yours: the levy of new men

and their marching on.

Your head turns away:

 

O the new love!

Your head turns back:

O the new love!

“Change our lots, confound the plagues,

beginning with time,”

to you these children sing.

 

“Raise no matter where the substance

of our fortune and our desires,”

they beg you.

Arrival of all time,

who will go everywhere.

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