Lives

Lives

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 carresses 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 preceeded 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 convivalities

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.