Oh, my Beautiful! Oh, my Good!
Hideous fanfare where
yet I do not stumble!
Oh, rack of enchantments!
For the first time,
hurrah for the unheard-of work,
For the marvelous body!
For the first time!
It began with the laughter of children,
and there it will end.
This poison will stay in our veins even when,
as the fanfares depart,
We return to our former disharmony.
Oh, now, we who are so worthy of these tortures!
Let us re-create ourselves
after that superhuman promise
Made to our souls and our bodies at their creation:
That promise, that madness!
Elegance, silence, violence!
They promised to bury in shadows the tree of good and evil,
To banish tyrannical honesty,
So that we might flourish in our very pure love.
It began with a certain disgust, and it ended–
Since we could not immediately seize upon eternity–
It ended in a scattering of perfumes.
Laughter of children, discretion of slaves, austerity of virgins,
Horror of faces and objects here below,
Be scared in the memory of the evening past.
It began in utter boorishness,
and now it ends In angels of fire and ice.
Little drunken vigil, blessed!
If only for the mask you have left us!
Method, we believe in you!
We never forgot that yesterday
You glorified all our ages.
We have faith in poison.
We will give our lives completely, everyday.
For this is the assassin’s hour.
When the world is reduced to a single dark wood
for our four eyes’ astonishment,– a beach for two
faithful children,– a musical house
for one pure sympathy,– I shall find you.
Should there be here below
but a single old man, handsome
and calm in the midst
of incredible luxury, I shall be at your feet.
Should I have realized all your memories,–
should I be the one who can bind you
hand and foot,– I shall strangle you.
When we are very strong,– who draws back?
very gay,– who cares for ridicule?
When we are very bad,– what would they do with us?
Deck yourself, dance, laugh.
I could never throw Love out of the window.
My comrade, beggar girl, monster child!
O it’s all one to you these unhappy women,
these wiles and my discomfiture.
Bind yourself to us with your impossible voice, your voice!
sole soother of this vile despair.
An overcast morning in July. A taste of ashes flies through the air;–
an odor of sweating wood on the hearth,–
dew-ret flowers– devastation along the promenades–
the mist of the canals over the fields–
why not incense and toys already?
I have stretched ropes from steeple to steeple;
garlands from window to window;
golden chains from star to star, and I dance.
The upland pond smokes continuously.
What witch will rise against the white west sky?
What violet frondescence fall?
While public funds evaporate in feasts of fraternity,
a bell of rosy fire rings in the clouds.
Reviving a pleasant taste of Indian ink,
a black powder rains on my vigil.
I lower the jets of the chandelier,
I throw myself on my bed,
and turning my face towards the darkness,
I see you, my daughters! my queens!
O that warm February morning!
The untimely south came
to stir up our absurd paupers’ memories,
our young distress.
Henrika had on a brown
and white checked cotton skirt
which must have been worn in the last century,
a bonnet with ribbons and a silk scarf.
It was much sadder than any mourning.
We were taking a stroll in the suburbs.
The weather was overcast
and that wind from the south
excited all the evil odors of the desolate
garden and the dried fields.
It did not seem to weary my wife as it did me.
In a puddle left by the rains of the preceding month,
on a fairly high path,
she called my attention to some very little fishes.
The city with its smoke and its factory noises
followed us far out along the roads.
O other world, habituation
blessed by sky and shade!
The south brought black miserable memories
of my childhood, my summer despairs,
the horrible quantity of strength
and of knowledge that fate has always kept from me.
No! we will not spend the summer
in this avaricious country
where we shall never be anything
but affianced orphans.
I want this hardened arm
to stop dragging a cherished image.
Skies the gray of crystal.
A strange design of bridges,
some straight, some arched,
others descending at oblique angles to the first;
and these figures recurring
in other lighted circuits of the canal,
but all so long and light that the banks,
laden with domes, sink and shrink.
A few of these bridges
are still covered with hovels,
others support polls,
signals, frail parapets.
Minor chords cross
each other and disappear;
ropes rise from the shore.
One can make out a red coat,
possibly other costumes
and musical instruments.
Are these popular tunes,
snatches of seigniorial concerts,
remnants of public hymns?
The water is gray and blue,
wide as an arm of the sea.
A white ray falling from high
in the sky destroys this comedy.
I am an ephemeral
and a not too discontented citizen
of a metropolis considered modern
because all known taste
has been evaded in the furnishings
and the exterior of the houses
as well as in the layout of the city.
Here you will fail to detect the least trace
of any monument of superstition.
Morals and language
are reduced to their simplest expression,
at last! The way these millions of people,
who do not even need to know each other,
manage their education, business,
and old age is so identical
that the course of their lives
must be several times less long
than that which a mad statistics
calculates for the people of the continent.
And from my window I see new specters rolling through
the thick eternal smoke–
our woodland shade, our summer night!–
new Eumenides in front of my cottage
which is my country and all my heart
since everything here resembles it,–
Death without tears,
our diligent daughter and servant,
a desperate Love, and a pretty
Crime howling in the mud in the street.
To the right the summer dawn
wakes the leaves and the mists
and the noises in this corner of the park,
and the left-hand banks
hold in their violet shadows
the thousand swift ruts of the wet road.
Wonderland procession! Yes, truly: floats covered
with animals of gilded wood, poles and bright bunting,
to the furious gallop of twenty dappled circus horses,
and children and men on their most fantastic beasts;–
twenty rotund vehicles, decorated with flags
and flowers like the coaches of old or in fairy tales,
full of children all dressed up for a suburban pastoral.
Even coffins under their somber canopies
lifting aloft their jet-black plumes,
bowling along to the trot
of huge mares, blue and black.
These are cities!
And this is the people for whom these
Alleghenys and Lebanons of dream have been raised!
Castles of wood and crystal move on tracks and invisible winches.
Old craters ringed with mammoth statues and
coppery palms roar melodiously in flames.
Festivals of love reverberate
from the canals suspended behind the castles.
Chimes echo through the gorges like a chase.
Corporations of giant singers assemble,
their vestments and oriflames
brilliant as the mountain-peaks.
On platforms in the midst of gulfs,
Rolands brazen their bravuras.
From abysmal catwalks and the rooftops of inns,
a burning sky hoists flags upon the masts.
The collapse of apotheosis
unites the heights to the depths
where seraphic shecentaurs
wind among the avalanches.
Above the plateaus of the highest reaches,
the sea, troubled by the perpetual birth of Venus
and loaded with choral fleets amid
an uproar of pearls and precious conches,
grows dark at times with mortal thunder.
On the slopes,
harvests of flowers
as big as our weapons
and goblets are bellowing.
Processions of Mabs in red-opaline scale the ravines.
On high, their feet in the waterfalls and briars,
stags give suck to Diana.
Bacchantes of the suburbs weep,
and the moon burns and howls.
Venus enters the caves
of the black-smiths and hermits.
Clusters of belfries repeat the ideas of the people.
Issues from castles of bone an unknown music.
In the boroughs legends
are born and enthusiasm germinate.
A paradise of storms collapses.
Savages dance without stopping the festival of night.
And, for one hour, I descended into the swarm
of a boulevard of Baghdad
where groups of peple were singing
the joy of the new work,
circulating under a heavy wind
without being able to escape those fabulous phantoms
of the mountains to which one must return.
What good arms, what wondrous hour
will restore to me that region
whence come my slumbers
and least movements?
Pitiful brother! What frightful nights I owed him!
“I have not put enough ardor
into this enterprise.
I have trifled with his infirmity.
My fault should we go back to exile,
and to slavery.”
He implied I was unlucky
and of a very strange innocence,
and would add disquieting reasons.
For reply, I would jeer at this Satanic doctor
and, in the end, going over to the window,
I would create, beyond the countryside
crossed by bands of rare music,
phantoms of nocturnal extravagance to come.
After this vaguely hygienic diversion,
I would lie down on my pallet
and no sooner asleep than,
almost every night,
the poor brother would rise,
his mouth foul, eyes starting from his head,
— just as he had dreamed he looked!
and would drag me into the room,
howling his dream of imbecilic sorrow.
I had, in truth, pledged myself to restore him
to his primitive state of child of the Sun,–
and, nourished by the wine of caverns
and the biscuit of the road, we wandered,
I impatient to find the place and the formula.
The official Acropolis is of all the conceptions
of modern barbarism the most colossal:
indescribable is the unpolished daylight
the sky produces, the immovable grey,
the imperial radiance of buildings under
the sun’s eternal snow. With a singular flair
for the enormous, all the classical marvels of
architecture have been reproduced,
and I visit expositions of painting in galleries
twenty times as huge as Hampton Court.
And what painting! a Norwegian Nebuchadnezzar
had built ministerial staircases;
the mere clerks were prouder than Brennuses and I
trembled before the guards and superintendents.
The very arrangement of buildings in squares,
courtyards and terraces made the cab-drivers drunk.
The parks indicate primitive nature
worked over with consummate art,
the upper quarter having inexplicable spots:
an arm of the sea, without ships, rolling its
sheet of sleet between quays covered
with giant candelabra.
A short bridge leads to a postern directly
under the dome of the Sainte-chapelle.
This dome has an armature of wrought steel
about 15,000 feet in diameter.
At certain points, from copper footbridges,
from platforms, from stairways winding about
the halls and piers, I thought I might be able to
judge the depth of the city. But it is prodigious
beyond calculation: what are the levels of those
other quarters lying above or below the Acropolis?
For a stranger of our times,
reconnaissance is impossible.
The commercial quarter is a circus in one style,
with arcaded galleries.
no shops are to be seen, but the snow on
the causeway is beaten down;
a few nabobs, as rare as pedestrians
on a Sunday morning in London,
amble toward a diligence of diamonds.
Divans in red velvet; iced beverages are sold
at prices ranging from 800 to 1,000 rupees.
At the very thought of looking for
theatres in this circus,
I remind myself that the shops should
contain dramas sufficiently gloomy.
I suppose there is a police force;
but the law must be so strange that
I abandon any idea of imagining what
sort of adventures are local.
The residential quarter, as elegant as
the smartest street in Paris, is favored with
an aura of light; the democratic element
numbers a few thousand souls.
There again, the houses are not in
country, or rather ‘county’, which fills the
west endlessly with forests and vast plantations
where unsociable gentlemen search
for their family-trees by rays of artificial light.
It is a repose in the light,
neither fever nor languor,
on a bed or on a meadow.
It is the friend neither violent nor weak.
It is the beloved neither
tormenting nor tormented.
Air and the world not sought.
Life. –Was it really this?
–And the dream grew cold.
The lighting comes round
to the crown post again.
From the two extremities of the room
— decorations negligible
— harmonic elevations join.
The wall opposite the watcher
is a psychological succession
of atmospheric sections of friezes,
bands, and geological accidents.
Intense quick dream
of sentimental groups
with people of all possible characters
amidst all possible appearances.
The lamps and the rugs
of the vigil make the noise
of waves in the night,
along the hull and around the steerage.
The sea of the vigil, like Emily’s breasts.
The hangings, halfway up,
undergrowth of emerald tinted lace,
where dart the vigil doves. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The plaque of the black hearth,
real suns of seashores! ah! magic wells;
only sight of dawn, this time.
On the slope of the knoll angels
whirl their woolen robes
in pastures of emerald and steel.
Meadows of flame leap up to the summit of the little hill.
At the left, the mold of the ridge is trampled by all the homicides
and all the battles, and all the disastrous noises
describe their curve. Behind the right-hand
ridge, the line of orients and of progress.
And while the band above the picture is composed of the revolving
and rushing hum of seashells and of human nights,
The flowering sweetness of the stars and of the night
and all the rest descends, opposite the knol
l, like a basket,– against our face, and
makes the abyss perfumed and blue below.