Tartufe’s Punishment

Le Châtiment de Tartufe


Raking, raking, his amorous thoughts

underneath his chaste robe of black,

happy, his hand gloved,

one day as he went along, fearsomely sweet,

yellow, dribbling piety from his toothless mouth,


One day as he went along,

‘Let us Pray’, – a Wicked One seized him

roughly by his saintly ear and

snapped frightful words at him,

tearing off the chaste robe of black

wrapped about his moist skin.


Punishment! – His clothes were unbuttoned;

and, the long chaplet of pardoned

sins being told in his heart,

St Tartufe was so pale!..


So he confessed and prayed, with a death rattle!

The man contented himself with carrying off

his clerical bands – Faugh!

Tartufe was naked from his top to his toe!

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Venus Anadyomene

Vénus Anadyomène


As from a green zinc coffin,

a woman’s head with brown hair

heavily pomaded rises out of an old bath,

slowly and stupidly, with its bald patches pretty clumsily hidden;


Then the fat grayish neck, and the broad

and protuberant shoulder-blades;

the short back with its hollows and bulges;

then the curves of the buttocks seem to soar;

the lard beneath the skin appears as flat flakes;


The spine’s rather red;

the whole thing has a smell which is strangely disgusting;

one notices especially oddities which

should be studied with a lens…

The buttocks bear two engraved words:

CLARA VENUS; and this whole body moves

and then sticks out its broad rump –

hideous bejeweled with an anal ulcer.

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Nina’s Replies

Les Réparties de Nina


He: your breast on my breast, eh?

We could go, with our nostrils full of air,

into the cool light

of the blue good morning

that bathes you in the wine of daylight? ..

When the whole shivering wood bleeds,

dumb with love,

from every branch green drops, pale buds,

you can feel in things unclosing the quivering flesh:


you would bury in the Lucerne your white gown,

changing to rose-colour in the fresh air

the blue tint which encircles your great black eyes,


in love with the country, scattering everywhere,

like champagne bubbles, your crazy laughter:


laughing at me, suddenly, drunkenly –

I should catch you like this – lovely hair, ah! –

I should drink in

your taste of raspberry and strawberry, oh flower-flesh!

Laughing at the fresh wind kissing you like a thief,


at the wild rose teasing you pleasantly:

laughing more than anything, oh madcap, at your lover!…


(Seventeen! You’ll be so happy! Oh the big meadows!

The wide loving countryside! – Listen, come closer!)


Your breast on my breast, mingling our voices,

slowly we’d reach the stream; then the great woods!…


Then, like a little ghost, your heart fainting,

you’d tell me to carry you, your eyes half closed


I’d carry your quivering body along the path:

the bird would spin out his andante:

Hard by the hazel tree..

I’d speak into your mouth;

and go on, pressing your body like a little girl’s

I was putting to bed, drunk with the blood

that runs blue under your white skin with its tints of rose:

and speaking to you in that frank tongue..

There!… that you understand


Our great woods would smell of sap,

and the sunlight would dust with fine gold

their great green and bronze dream.


In the evening?  We’d take the white road which meanders,

like a grazing herd, all over the place…


Oh pleasant orchards with blue grass and twisted apple trees!

How you can smell a whole league off their strong perfume!


We’d get back to the village when the sky was half dark;

and there’d be a smell of milking in the evening air;

it would smell of the cowshed full of manure,

filled with the slow rhythm of breathing, and with great backs

gleaming under some light or other;

and right down at the far end there’d be a cow dunging

proudly at every step…

– Grandmother’s spectacles

and her long nose deep in her missal;

the jug of beer circled with pewter

foaming among the big-bowled pipes gallantly smoking:

and the frightful blubber lips which, still puffing,


snatch ham from forks: so much, and more:

the fire lighting up the bunks and the cupboards.


The shining fat buttocks of the fat baby

on his hands and knees who nuzzles into the cups;

his white snout  tickled by a gently growling

muzzle that licks all over the round face of the little darling…


(Black and haughty on her chair’s edge,

a terrifying profile, an old woman in front of the embers, spinning)


What sights we shall see, dearest, in those hovels,

when the bright fire lights up the grey window panes!…


– And then, small and nestling right inside the cool dark lilacs:

the hidden window smiling in there…


You’ll come! You will come! I love you so! It will be lovely.

You will come, won’t you? and even…

She: – And what about my office?

August 15,

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Scene Set to Music

À la Musique


Place de la Gare, Charleville

On the square which is chopped into mean little plots of grass,

the square where all is just so, both the trees and the flowers,

all the wheezy townsfolk whom the heat chokes bring,

each Thursday evening, their envious silliness.


The military band, in the middle of the gardens,

swing their shakos in the Waltz of the Fifes: round about,

near the front rows, the town dandy struts;

the notary hangs like a charm from his own watch chain.


Private incomes in pince-nez point out all the false notes:

great counting-house desks, bloated, drag their stout spouses –

close by whom, like bustling elephant keepers,

walk females whose flounces remind you of sales.


On the green benches, retired grocers’ clubs,

poking the sand with their knobbed walking canes,

gravely discuss trade agreements and then take

snuff from silver boxes, and resume: ‘In short!…’


Spreading over his bench all the fat of his rump,

a pale-buttoned burgher, a Flemish corporation,

savours his Onnaing, whence shreds of tobacco hang loose

– You realize, it’s smuggled, of course…


Along the grass borders yobs laugh in derision; and,

melting to love at the sound of trombones, very simple, and

sucking at roses, the little foot-soldiers fondle the

babies to get round their nurses…


As for me, I follow, disheveled like a student,

under the green chestnuts, the lively young girls

– which they know very well, and they turn to me,

laughing, eyes which are full of indiscreet things.


I don’t say a word: I just keep on looking at the skin

of their white necks embroidered with stray locks:

I go hunting, beneath bodices and thin attires,

the divine back below the curve of the shoulders.


Soon, I’ve discovered the boot and the stocking…

– I re-create their bodies, burning with fine fevers.

They find me absurd, and talk together in low voices…

– And my savage desires fasten on to their lips…

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The Transfixed

Les Effarés


Black in the snow and fog,

at the great lighted airshaft, their bums rounded,


on their knees, five little ones – what anguish! –

watch the baker making the heavy white bread.


They see the strong white arm that shapes

the grey dough and sets it to bake in a bright hole.


They listen to the good bread cooking.

The Baker with his fat smile hums an old tune.


They are huddled together, not one of them moves,

in the waft of air from the red vent, warm as a breast.


And when, for some midnight breakfast,

plaited like a brioche, the bread is taken out;


When, under the smoky beams, the fragrant crusts hiss,

and the crickets sing;

how this warm hole breathes life!

Their souls are so ravished under their rags,


They feel life so strong in them, poor frozen Jesuses,

that they all stay,

sticking their little pink snouts

against the wire netting, grunting things through the holes,


quite stupid, saying their prayers, and bending down

towards those lights of opened heaven

so hard, they split their trousers, and their shirt

tails flutter in the winter wind.

20 September

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Nobody’s serious when they’re seventeen.

On a nice night, the hell with beer and lemonade

And the caf and the noisy atmosphere!

You walk beneath the linden trees on the promenade.

The lindens smell so lovely on a night in June!

The air is so sweet that your eyelids close.

The breeze is full of sounds– they come from the town–

And the scent of beer, and the vine, and the rose…


You look up and see a little scrap of sky,

Dark blue and far off in the night,

Struck with a lopsideded star that

drifts by With little shivers, very small and white…

A night in June! Seventeen! Getting drunk is fun.

Sap like champagne knocks your head awry…

Your mind drifts; a kiss rises to your lips

And flutters like a little butterfly…


Your heart crusoes madly through novels, anywhere,

When through the pale pool beneath a street light,

A girl goes by with the most charming air,

In the grim shadows of her father’s dark coat.

And since she finds you marvelously nave,

While her little heels keep tapping along

She turns, with a quick bright look…

And on your lips, despairing, dies your song.


You are in love. Rented out till fall.

You are in love. Poetic fires ignite you.

Your friends laugh; they won’t talk to you at all.

Then one night, the goddess deigns to write you!

That night… you go back to the caf,

to the noisy atmosphere;

You sit and order beer, or lemonade…

Nobody’s serious when they’re seventeen,

And there are linden trees on the promenade.

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Dead of ’92

Morts de Quatre-vingt-douze et Quatre-vingt-treize


You Dead of ninety-two and ninety-three,

Who, pale from the great kiss of Liberty,

Crushed, calm, beneath your wooden shoes

That yoke that weighs on human brows and souls:

Men exalted, great in agony,

You whose hearts raged with love, in misery,

O soldiers that Death, noble Lover, has sown

In all the old furrows, so they’ll be reborn:

You whose blood washed every soiled grandeur,

Dead of Valmy, Dead of Fleurus, Dead of Italy,

O millions of Christs with eyes gentle and sombre:

We’ve let you fall asleep with the Republic,

We, cowering under kings as if under blows.

– They’re telling tales of you so we’ll remember!

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