While the red-stained mouths
of machine guns ring
Across the infinite expanse of day;
While red or green,
before their posturing King,
The massed battalions break and melt away;
And while a monstrous frenzy runs a course
That makes of a thousand men a smoking pile
— Poor fools! — dead, in summer, in the grass,
On Nature’s breast, who meant these men to smile;
There is a God, who smiles upon us through
The gleam of gold, the incense-laden air,
Who drowses in a cloud of murmured prayer,
And only wakes when weeping mothers bow
Themselves in anguish, wrapped in old black shawls–
And their last small coin into his coffer falls.
Paroxysms of Caesar
This man, pale, walks the flowering lawns,
Dressed in black, cigar between his teeth.
The pale man thinks about the Tuileries
In flower…and at times his dead eye flames.
His twenty years of orgy have made him drink!
He told himself: ‘I will extinguish
Liberty As I put out a candle– softly, politely…’
Liberty lives again! He feels worn out.
They’ve caught him. Now what name trembles
On his silent lips? What quick regret?
No one will know: the Emperor’s eye is dead.
He sees again, perhaps, the man in the pince-nez…
And watches drifting from his lighted cigar,
Like evenings at St. Cloud, a thin blue haze.
A Dream for Winter
In the winter, we will leave in a small pink railway carriage
With blue cushions. We will be comfortable.
A nest of mad kisses lies In each soft corner.
You will close your eyes, in order not to see, through the glass,
The evening shadows making faces.
Those snarling monstrosities, a populace
Of black demons and black wolves.
Then you will feel your cheek scratched…
A little kiss, like a mad spider, Will run around your neck…
And you will say to me: “Get it!” as you bend your neck –
And we will take a long time to find that creature –
Which travels a great deal…
The Sleeper in the Valley
It is a green hollow where a stream gurgles,
crazily catching silver rags of itself on the grasses;
where the sun shines from the proud mountain:
it is a little valley bubbling over with light.
A young soldier, open-mouthed, bare-headed,
with the nape of his neck bathed in cool blue cresses, sleeps;
he is stretched out on the grass, under the sky,
pale on his green bed where the light falls like rain.
His feet in the yellow flags, he lies sleeping.
Smiling as a sick child might smile, he is having a nap.
Cradle him warmly, Nature; he is cold.
No odour makes his nostrils quiver;
he sleeps in the sun, his hand on his breast, at peace.
There are two red holes in his right side.
At the Green Inn
Five in the evening
For a whole week I had ripped up my boots
on the stones of the roads.
I walked into Charleroi. -Into the Green Inn:
I asked for some slices of bread and butter,
and some half-cooked ham.
Happy, I stuck out my legs under
the green table: I studied the artless patterns of the wallpaper
– and it was charming when the girl with the huge breasts
and lively eyes,
– a kiss wouldn’t scare that one!
– smilingly brought me some bread and butter and lukewarm ham,
on a coloured plate; –
pink and white ham,
scented with a clove of garlic – and filled my huge beer mug,
whose froth was turned into gold
by a ray of late sunshine.
The Sly One
In the brown dining-room,
which was perfumed
with the scent of polish and fruit,
I was shoveling up at my ease
a plateful of some Belgian dish
or other, and sprawling in my enormous chair.
While I ate, I listened, happy and silent, to the clock.
The kitchen door opened with a gust,
and the servant girl came in,
I don’t know what for,
neckerchief loose, hair dressed impishly.
And, passing her little finger tremblingly across her cheek,
a pink and white peach-bloom,
pouting with her childish mouth,
she tidied the plates standing close to me,
to make me feel comfortable; – and then, just like that,
– to get a kiss of course –
said very softly: ‘Feel, then, I’ got a cold in the cheek’
The Famous Victory of Saarbrucken
At centre, the Emperor, blue-yellow, in apotheosis,
Gallops off, ramrod straight, on his fine gee-gee,
Very happy – since everything he sees is rosy,
Fierce as Zeus, and as gentle as a Daddy is:
The brave Infantrymen taking a nap, in vain,
Under the gilded drums and scarlet cannon,
Rise politely. One puts his tunic back on,
And, turns to the Chief, stunned by the big name!
On the right, another, leaning on his rifle butt,
Feeling the hair rise at the back of his neck,
Shouts: ‘Vive L’Empereur!!” – his neighbour’s mute…
A shako rises, like a black sun…– In the midst
The last, a simpleton in red and blue, lying on his gut
Gets up, and, – showing his arse – asks: “On what?”
It’s a board carved wooden cupboard;
the ancient dark-coloured oak
has taken on that pleasant air
that old people have; the cupboard is open,
and gives off from its kindly shadows
inviting aromas like a breath of old wine;
full to overflowing, it’s a jumble of quaint old things:
fragrant yellowed linen,
rags of women’s or children’s clothes, faded laces,
grandmothers’ kerchiefs embroidered with griffins;
– here you could find lockets,
and locks of white or blonde hair,
portraits and dried flowers
whose smell mingles with the smell of fruit. –
O cupboard of old times, you know plenty of stories;
and you’d like to tell them;
and you clear your throat every time
your great dark doors slowly open.