It begins in , when Camila leaves her tenured post at Vassar College to join the Cuban Revolution, and works its way back to her earliest memories.
Akhmatova, Anna (–) - Selected Poems in translation
The eight poems cross midway. Alvarez brings to life fascinating historical figures. The intersecting stories of mother and child, exile and return, loyalty and infidelity, however, fall short of their promise. Instead, we encounter repeated details as Alvarez tucks already known information into every available space. It is as if Alvarez seized on these details during her research and felt compelled to mention them over and over as a stamp of authenticity. Because we are continually told what we have heard already, there is little forward momentum, little for us to imagine; most of the story unfolds exactly as we expect.
Two sections, however, are noteworthy for their absorbing and elegant recounting. Pancho has been sent to France by the Dominican government for medical training. He has left behind his wife and three sons. Toward the end of the book we enter the consciousness of a child. Camila is traveling by sea to Cabo, Haiti Access options available:. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.
And burn within the fire of your disdain. You are the sun that chases off the night; Only your heart can make me whole again. Now evening airs are stirring every branch; The flowers exhale the perfume that they bear; Sound and perfume mix in the evening air, Languidly turning in a pensive dance. The flowers exhale the perfume that they bear; A viol quivers like a heart entranced, Languidly turning in a pensive dance; The altar of the sky is sad, and fair. A viol quivers like a heart entranced, A tender heart that will not cede despair.
The altar of the sky is sad, and fair; The bleeding sun has set upon the land A tender heart that will not cede despair Accumulates the remnants of the past. The bleeding sun has set upon the land Your memory glows within me like a prayer! Some perfumes are too strong: no glass Can hold the spirit in the flask. Inside an Oriental chest, Or in some dusty cabinet. Replete with odours of the past That opens with a creaking rasp, An iridescent bottle lies, Where perfumed memories reside. And from that dusty chrysalis A sleeping memory untwists; Mother-of-pearl, its wings unfold, Tinted with azure, crimson, gold,.
The hieroglyphics of a scene That breaks upon us from the past. In half-forgotten memories That drift in opalescent glass,. In verdigris, and poisoned clouds Where Lazarus tears off his shroud, My fainting soul has well observed Your shadow in Love's sepulchre. But when the world's forgotten me, The broken bottle of a dream Discarded in a corner, mean, Besmirched and dusty, buried deep,.
Beloved bane! The meanest hovel is by wine Changed to a castle in the air; Alcohol tints with ruby light The smoke-filled atmosphere. To opium our heart responds With timeless sensuality: A drug that fills the soul beyond Human capacity. The water welling from your eyes Reflects my spirit, upside down! I sink into that bitter tide Where empty dreams are run aground,. And last, the poison most adored, Saliva dripping from your mouth, Given by you without remorse, I drink until I drown.
Behind the mist that seems to veil your eyes - What is their color, blue, or gray, or green? Your glance recalls the days of calm and light, When captivated hearts dissolved in tears. I wish that we could live forever there; My twitching nerves keep me awake at night. Flooded by sunlight spilled from cloudy skies, You were the shining landscape of my days; The setting sun in seasons of the rain Has lit the far horizon with its fire,.
Perilous woman of seductive climes! Now is the season of your killing frost; From that approaching winter, I must draw Pleasures more sharp than iron, cold as ice. Inside my head he softly paces, Back and forth inside my house, A charming cat, handsome and brave. One scarcely hears, when he meows,. His query, tender and discreet; But when he softly purrs or growls, An irresistable appeal, Stirring, melodious, profound,. A voice that trickles and that purls Within my spirit, there compounds To thrill me like a graceful verse.
That elixir of poignant sound. Can set aside the cruellest hurts And warm the heart with melodies; It has no need of many words To say more things than libraries. There is no other bow that plays Upon the heart-strings of my soul, And causes them to resonate So movingly throughout the whole,. As does your voice, uncanny cat, Seraphic cat, euphonious, In which, like angels, every strand Is subtle and harmonious!
From his soft particolored skin Arises a perfume so sweet That when I pet him just a bit It permeates the evening. He is the Genius of the place: Is he a fairy, or divine? He judges, rules, and animates All that is found in his empire. My eyes are drawn magnetically Towards the cat that I adore, Returning in tranquility To look inside myself once more,. My soul the mirror of his glance; There, in astonishment, I see Two living opals, yellow lamps Return my gaze unblinkingly.
Sweet siren, I want to relate the delight That I found in your grace, Like a painting of artful design, where the child And the woman combine.
When your skirts billow out in the breeze, you are like A fine ship on the sea, That spreads all its canvas, and rolls to a rhythm That's lazy and slow. Like a maid who is queen for a day, you acknowledge The crowd on your way, With a confident air and a smile; in your progress, Both woman and child. Your breasts push the silk as you sway through the crowd In electric display, And the swell of your chest is a fine cabinet That ascends to a line.
Of nipples inscribed with rosettes! A container Of secrets and gems, Of perfumes and liqueurs and silk, that a corsair Could plunder at will. Like two cunning witches, your thighs churn a mixture Of pitch and desire Underneath the soft linen they chase; the force Of your youthful embrace. Would put any hero to shame, and crush With your arms like twin snakes, As if to impress on your heart my image, Till death do us part. Let's go there, my sister; Imagine the pleasure Of living together! We'll cherish our leisure, And vanish, we two, In a country like you, Where the sunshine is hidden By gossamer mist, Like the moisture that lies In your glistening eyes.
Our bedroom will hold Some furniture, old, Polished up by the years. The perfume of flowers Will bless every hour We consummate there, And the gilded rafters Will echo our laughter And softly repeat Every sigh that we speak. All the vagabond ships Rock to sleep in their slips; They have come from the ends Of the earth to content Your every desire! The sun with its fire Descends, moving down Over paddies and towns, And astonishing temples Aglow in the round. We can't undo the things that we have done, The consequences following in course.
Like maggots feeding on a skeleton, We gnaw upon implacable remorse, But can't undo the things that we have done. We cannot drown the bitter memory In wine or nicotine, or sex, or drugs; We chew upon the rind unceasingly, The tainted fruit of things that we have done; We cannot drown the bitter memory. Let any woman comfort, if she can, The soldier crushed by horrifying wounds, The lepers clawing suppurating sores, The men that horses trample underfoot, Let any woman comfort, if she can. Wolves follow close upon the dying one, Vultures descend upon the killing plains; A man will stumble, but he soldiers on And wonders who will bury his remains.
Wolves follow close upon the dying one. Who can illuminate a darkened sky? The moon and stars are cloaked, indifferent. A prayer ascends to the refulgent night, As if a cloud could sigh, and dare to kiss. A light that flickered as you looked behind Has suffocated in the pouring rain.
Within the Devil's darkness, who can find A shelter for the lost upon their way, A light that flickered as you looked behind? Enchantress, are you fond of the condemned? Have you known things that no one can forgive, And have you felt the arrows of Regret, That pierce us like the Devil's poisoned kiss - Enchantress, are you fond of the condemned?
Remorse beyond repair, with rotten teeth Pursues our soul to the Abyss's edge. It chews on us, however far we flee, A hound that brays with putrifying breath, Remorse beyond repair, with rotten teeth! But once, upon a tattered stage, I saw A Fairy, lit by artificial skies, Personify the miracle of Dawn; The orchestra played out as if inspired, And there upon that tattered stage, I saw.
A Spirit made of gauze, and gold, and light, Fling to the earth an effigy of Hate; Her apparition haunts me in the night. The empty theatre of my heart awaits That Spirit, made of gauze, and gold, and light! Your face transparent as the autumn sky, My sadness rises in me like the sea; On salted lips, from long receeding tides, The residue of countless memories. The sweetness of your hand is all in vain; It searches out, my love, an edifice That claws of crueler women have profaned; Don't look for my heart; the beasts have eaten it.
The perfume floats above your naked breast! My heart a palace that the mob has burned, They kill each other there, and riot, drunk. With eyes of fire, shining in regret, O Beauty, iron flail of souls, you want To char the rags that savage beasts have spurned! Farewell, bright sunshine of summer's round!
Soon winter's shadow will freeze our bones; Already, firewood with hollow sound Is clattering on the stones. The horrors of winter will occupy My body with all the force of hate; My heart will transmute to a block of ice, Impervious to love's embrace. I tremble to hear those bouncing logs; They sound like a gibbet the carpenters tap, Or a far-off tower that shudders and falls To the blows of a battering ram. They sound like a coffin assembled at night, As they tip in the nails with indelicate haste; It's the ominous sound of a lonely goodbye, But for whom?
It's not easy to say. I love the green glow of your distant eyes, But today, even love tastes bitter to me. Not love, nor your bed, nor the welcoming fire Can subjugate restless seas. But show me the loving heart of a mother, Forgive the ungrateful and spiteful one, And embrace me softly, a sister and lover, Like autumn's declining sun. The grave in its hunger lies open for us, But I would rest in your lap for a while, Regretting the loss of our brilliant summer, In autumn's brief glow, before winter arrives!
Madonna and mistress, for you I'll design In underground caverns a hidden shrine, Concealed by a roof of the darkest night From the world's mocking glances and crude appetites: A niche to display a fine statue of you, In costly enamels of gold and blue. Upon your head I will place a great crown, And cut for your garment an old-fashioned gown That is made of velvet and cloth of gold Medieval, and swelling with heavy folds, Drapery that conceals your charms from the world, Embroidered with teardrops, instead of pearls!
I'll worship the swelling font of your breast, Make you slippers of satin from my self-respect, Under which you might trample beneath your feet A Serpent that's swollen with longing and spleen, While in front of your altar, the candles' flame Ascends, O Virgin Queen, in your name; My eyes in devotion stare upward and burn Through clouds of Frankincense, Balsam, and Myrrh.
Then, to consummate fully your Marian role, I will mix in my love something savage and cold; I will make seven blades of the Seven Deadly Sins, With a frisson of conscience while slipping them in. Like a juggler who launches his razor-sharp knives, I will target the breast of your sanctified shrine, Introducing those evils, by fits and by starts, To your wounded and bleeding, Immaculate Heart!
Enchantress with foreign eyes Beneath that devilish brow, No angel! That's no surprise To anyone, I'll avow. I'll follow your perfumed spoor, The track of a cunning beast, O Passion that I adore! Like some idolatrous priest. The pine and the desert rose Perfume your vagabond feet; Your head tilts away, in a pose Of secrets and mysteries.
Your body's enticing scent Envelops me like the charm Of an evening's perfumed breath, O Dryad, enchanting and warm. The charm of your indolence Is stronger than sorcery; The rapture of your caress Could rouse the dead from their sleep. Stretching out, you cock your hips And make love with a steadfast will On silken sheets that slip Together as they thrill. At times, in the darkest night Holy one! You will lavish on me The kisses and solemn bites Of your deliberate frenzy,.
And tear me, my love so dark, With your taunting and careless laughter, Pour into my bleeding heart Bitter tears that follow us after. Beneath your satin soles I'd caress every ribbon of silk, And would pledge myself into you, Like a Poet who bears every ill,. Like a Genius who warms himself In the fire of your loving heat! In my dark and frozen Hell I would kiss your delectable feet. You are Diana, fully armed: Born to the chase, you beat aside Each obstacle, and cry alarms To those who'd overthrow your pride! A woman, murderous and crazed, You urge along the frenzied mob; You mount the royal balustrade And slay the scornful with a sob,.
My dear Sisina! But your heart Is tender still, and womanly; The man who takes a lover's part. Will find you weeping tenderly, As if that reservoir of tears Would ransom one true cavalier. In a country of perfume, caressed by the sun, Where palms drip forgetfulness into the eyes, I discovered an arbor of violet lies, And a lady of true Creole blood. Her pale flesh is tinged with a tropical tan, But this Circe is proud; she's the queen of the place; With a confident eye and a smile on her face She beguiles us, this huntress of Man.
Cher Madame, if you'd visit our glorious parks, Lend the grace of your presence to ancient chateaux On the banks of the Seine or the emerald Loire,. Your magnificent eyes in our gardens would grow Such prolifigate poems in poetical hearts That we'd bend more abased than the Negroes you know. Tell me, my love, where did your spirit fly, Above the dirty waters of the town, Across the ocean, underneath a sky Clear and transparent as a virgin's gown?
NoSleep Podcast S4E02
Tell me, my love, where did your spirit fly? They comfort us, the rhythms of the sea. What devil gave the sea its rolling song, That rocks our cradle like a lullaby? The tide recedes in breakers far and long, And comforts us with rhythms of the sea. Take me away, you carriages and ships! The city's dirt is falling from the cries That issue from the parting of your lips; From dissipation's shadow passing by, Take me away, you carriages and ships. How far away the perfumed paradise, Immodest joy that kissed the skies above! A true heart floated on the swelling tide, And everything was worthy of his love.
How far away, that perfumed paradise! A woman I remember, ever green, Our music, poetry, the precious time We spent together, when it truly seemed That nothing more was needed: you, and I, A woman I remember, ever green,. Inhabiting a sinless paradise, Now farther off than India, or China; Landing upon me with its savagery, Your memory wounds me like a dirty knife, Inhabiting a sinless paradise! Like a night-crawling angel With eyes of a snake I'll revisit your room In a silent glissade,.
And I'll kiss you, dark beauty, With chills like the moon, And caress you like serpents Invading your womb. When the bruised morning comes, There's a cold vacant space By your side, and within. They say to me, your burning crystal eyes, "Strange love, what merit can you find in me? Hating every vice But innocence and sensuality,. I won't disclose to you my secret life.
It is a lullaby that has no sense, A story writ in words of leaping fire - I hate all passion and intelligence! Let us be friends. Love in his tower lies, Shadowed and ambushed, bends his fatal bow. I know the weapons of his arsenal:. Crime, horror, madness! Aren't you, like me, a dappled sunlit foal, A deer in autumn, shivering and cold?
The moon dreams on tonight in indolence, A Beauty who, before she goes to sleep, Caresses, with a hand bemused and light, The swelling contour of her milky breasts;. Upon the satin backs of tumbling clouds, She languishes, surrenders to the night, And casts her eyes upon a pallid dream That floats into the sky like fragile shrouds. But when at times, in her futility, She might disclose a single furtive tear, The faithful Poet, enemy of sleep,. Will capture in his hand that drop so dear, And hide that pearl from every jealous eye, Within his heart, a glow-worm in the night.
The lovers amorous, the dry savants, Come to resemble, as they grow more old, Their sweet and prideful, strong and gentle cats, Who wrap themselves in fur against the cold.
Patrons of fevered love and languid art, They prowl in shadows where the dead abide; I'd even hitch them to my funeral cart, If they could bear the insult to their pride. Like sphinxes guarding long-forgotten graves Who dream forever in the Silent Land, They crouch unmoving, with a solemn face;. Their loins are teeming with electric sparks, And in their eyes, a fine and golden sand Is scattered like a watercourse of stars. The silent owls are perched upon The shadowed yews that shelter them; Their bloodshot eyes dart up and down Like spirits on a shelf.
All motionless they will remain Until the melancholy hour Of twilight, and the setting sun, When darkness drives them out. Their stillness shows the prancing ones That in this world the thing to hate Is novelty's delirium:. Distracted by each passing shade, Man always bears the punishment Of wanting to improve his place. I am the Author's sooty pipe; Black as an Aborigine, Humble and homely, carbonized, He puffs upon me constantly.
When he is low, my fumes arise To beckon homeward from the green, Like cottages whose wives prepare A supper for the laborer,. And I will catch his wandering soul Within the tracery of blue That rises from my glowing mouth,. Releasing nebulas of balm To warm his heart, and gently heal The enervation of his toil. When music takes me like the sea, A fading star And clouds that hover on the deep Beckon afar,.
My chest puffs out; a running sail, Canvas unfurled, I rock upon the swelling waves That night obscures,. One evening, when you are dead, Some Christian in charity Will bury your vaunted flesh Behind an old rubbish-heap;. The chaste stars, indifferent, Will lower their eyes in sleep; The spider will cast his web, The adder his progeny;.
The clicking of witches' bones, The rutting of old libertines, And the plotting of cut-throat thieves. A jeering skeleton wears nothing but, Grotesquely perched upon his grinning skull, A gaudy crown that rings out carne-val. He needs no whip to spur his horse above The highways that Apocalypse distains; With foaming nostrils, epileptic beast, He crushes underfoot on darkling plains The aspirations of humanity. The Horseman lifts his all-consuming blade Above his armies trampled in the dust; That cruel Prince, who knows his subjects well, Inspects their graveyards, infinite and chill, Illuminated by a lifeless sun, The human race; past, present, and to come.
I want to dig myself a secret trench, In soil fat and full of crawling worms, Where I can lay my tired bones and rest Forever underneath the quiet earth. I hate memorials and testaments; While living, I disdained adversity. Now you may feed upon my tainted flesh, O worms! Good friends, who neither hear nor see,. I give my blood for your rememberance, A dead man full of joy for you to taste! Tunnel my carrion without regret,. Wise hedonists and children of decay, For this poor body, dead among the dead, Is nothing - refuse, melting in the rain.
Hatred, a vessel with a hollow leg, Like Drunkenness, is never satisfied. Desperate Vengeance mixes in the dregs Red buckets full of blood and dead men's eyes. The Devil tunnels out the firmament To flush away a thousand years of pain, But Hatred still would bring back from the dead Its victims, just to torture them again,.
For Hatred is an evil carousel Whose thirst grows greater with each drink it takes; Cut off one head, another takes its place. The meanest drunk eventually must fall Insensible, but Hatred in despite Drinks on alone, in never-ending night. How poignant, on a January night, To contemplate, before a crackling log, The sound of bells that sing at eventide, And memories that peer out from the fog. Happy the bells with lusty brazen throat, That chant so proud and strong in spite of age! Unflaggingly they sound the ancient notes, And ring the changes old musicians play.
But when my soul would sing until the dawn, A skeleton inside a ragged coat, To consecrate the stone it lies upon,. It shudders like a soldier in the rain, And breaks at last, a rattle in its throat, Exhausted from the effort that it made. February hates this wretched town; Its gloomy chill pours down the chimney flues And covers graveyards like a second shroud -- The cold hates living men, and dead ones too.
My poor thin cat is scratching frozen ground; He'll scrape raw skin before the night is through. A ghost is rattling in the waterspout - E. Poe, I think, or someone of that crew. A church-bell tolls, a dying coal blinks out, A rheumy timepiece beats a cracked tattoo, While in a filthy reeking deck of cards. That some insane old woman left to you, The Queen of Spades and dubious Jack of Hearts Dissect the bygone loves that they once knew. I have more memories than a thousand years. A chest of drawers stuffed full of bric-a-brac, Love-letters, verses, papers in arrears, Dark locks of hair encased in dull shellac, Hide fewer secrets than my heavy head:.
It is a burial vault, a pyramid Inhabited by some forgotten corpse; The silver moon will shun that funeral bed, Where lazy worms extend without remorse To chew upon the memories of the dead. In old boudoirs of withered violets, Among decaying remnants of the past, A peeling print of Boucher's Baroness Absorbs the fragrances of broken flasks. No time so long as every limping day, And all the snowy years when anarchy And boredom ravages your shining force, The heaped-up cairns of immortality.
You think you live, but truly are no more Or less, than some dull block of stone. You want to sleep in lazy desert sands, An ancient sphinx forgot by everyone:. I am the King of Rain, and dark and cold; Rich without power, young and very old, I scorn all tutors and all pedagogues; I'm bored with all my beasts and hunting dogs. The falcon and his pirouetting prey Disturb my rest with their relentless cries, And all the foolery of japing clowns Expires against the granite of my brow.
I lie upon my bed, a cruel crypt; Ladies who live to love a shining prince Adorn themselves in silk, but never win A smile from me, a starving skeleton: Even the alchemists of old can not Create a flower from a dried-up clot! Now in a marble bath the Romans made, I lie, and open up my bleeding veins; Unable to revive the dull cadaver, Let Lethe flow, mingled with blood and water!
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When heavy skies weigh like a lid Upon a land the clouds have hid, And from each quarter of the wind Day black as night comes rushing in,. Until the earth is beaten flat, A cage where Longing, like a bat, Buffets the walls with timid wings And knocks her head on foul ceilings;. When the monsoon with swollen train Imprisons you in cells of rain, And dirty spiders creep and spread Their cobwebs deep inside your head,. And bells of thunder peal on high, Hurling invective to the sky, They clamor like a homeless tribe Of spirits baying in the night. Dark hearses in procession grind Across the landscape of your mind, Hope dissipates like hollow dreams, And Anguish plants its flag in me.
I fear the forest, like a great Basilica where echoes boom Of some dark De Profundis prayed Within my heart's sad anteroom. I hate the Ocean, for the roar That disregards us as it mocks The heart that seeks a better shore, Though dashed to ruin on the rocks. I love the Night when it is starless, Speaks in tongues I cannot hear; For I am empty, dark, and bare,. And every shadow is a canvas, Sparkling on my eyelids where A thousand frightful creatures stare. Discouraged soul, once eager for the fight, The Dream that spurred you onward to the post No longer wants to mount you!
In the road You stumble and collapse, and close your eyes. Sleep like an animal, creature of light! You are dead tired, subjugated soul! The rage of war, the fever of desire, The trumpet's call, the oboe's plaintive sigh, The pleasure of a fleeting farandole - Delightful Spring repudiates its hold! The mouth of Time has eaten me alive, A stiffened body underneath the snow; When every refuge on the turning globe Is lost to me, and every passion flies, Come, Avalanche, and rip me from the heights!
One man infuses you With tears, another with delight. To some, your vastness is a tomb; To others, full of life. Sorrow's a mystagogue I fear, But follow still with faltering steps, Reversing Midas' alchemy To turn my gold to lead. The power of that chemistry Can change a sapphire into dust; Beneath the shrouded sky I pause.
From rolling skies and strange, Tormented as our fate, Into my soul a ray Of lightning penetrates.
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I'll hit you calmly, without hate, Like slaughterers who fell an ox; The tears that wash your swollen face Are like the flood from Moses' rock! Desire upon that bitter spring Will loose the sheets propelled by faith, Mirages of our suffering To sanctify the desert waste. Within the chambers of my heart Your sobs will make me drunk and sing, Like throbbing drumbeats to the charge, The anthems of our martyrdom. I am not dead, but not alive: With an exquisite irony, Contrary motions of the skies Reanimate and torment me:. Your diatribes within my head, The sweet entrapment of your lace, The burning of your spiteful blood, A love identical to hate.
I smash my fist against my face, The tortured and the torturer, And break my limbs upon the brace, Victim and executioner! I drink the blood of my own heart, A vampire burning in the light But decomposing in the dark, Compelled to grimace, never smile! A foolish Angel, who esteemed Humanity as worth his dreams, And built his house on shifting sand -- A nightmare takes him by the hand.
He struggles in the stink and purl Of oubliettes and whirlpools Where Sirens pirouette like larks And murder sailors in the dark. With groping, outstretched hands he seeks A glimpse of light, keys to release His mind from caverns underground, Where lizards mate without a sound. The endless stairs he follows down, Until, damned spirit, perches on The edge of some uncharted hole Whose odours magnify the soul. The more he loves, the less he knows; Obedient monsters watch him go. Their phosphorescent eyes aglow Will make the darkness darker grow. A ship imprisoned in the Pole, As in a cage of bright crystal, Searching for sunlight to escape The prison of that frozen strait,.
I pause upon the precipice, As cold as ice, and close my fist; The Devil knows how, all too well, To lead an Innocent to Hell! Then face-to-face, sober and clear, I see myself as in a mirror! Truth at the bottom, so they say, Is just a glimpse of one's own face,. Reflected by a subtle Fiend Who in his mirror shows to me The lodestar I have sought so long -- The fatal knowlege of the Wrong! My heart begrudges every knock That issues from the ticking clock, Impartial deity, whose hand Holds every life within its span.
A moth that flutters on the wing, Time will devour every thing, And every second takes a slice From our ephemeral life. Too soon the present turns to past, As if we thought our tears would last. Esto memor! Our lives are measured by a clock Whose minutes run out, drop by drop, Sinner or saint, from all who live. Time is a gambler, always wins,. And soon or late will come for you, In spite of everything you do; Repent or not, the hour will say: "It's time to die: now, it's too late. I touch the sky, and sing chaste pastorals In garret rooms; an old astronomer, I hear the church-bells ringing in my dreams, And hymns that float upon the freshening wind.
A gargoyle, chin cupped in my hands, I see The floating roofs of Paris, and converse With chimneys, steeples, and the tiny birds Whose songs are fragments of eternity. How sweet it is to see, through evening fog, The stars in heaven, evening window lamps, Rivers of smoke, the glowing firmament, The moon displaying all of her enchantments, Every season: Summer, Spring, and Fall, Winter descending with her pure-white robe; My windows shuttered tight against the frost, I build at night my fairy palaces, And dream of vistas tinged with smoky blue, Within whose verdant gardens fountains flow From alabaster basins, children kiss, And robins chant from rosy dawn to dusk.
Beneath my window, Riot walks the street; I barely raise my head up from the desk, For I am plunged in clandestine delight, A wild magician; from my tower's height, I conjure up the Springtime by my art, A rising sun within a burning heart. On ancient streets, whose shuttered windows hide The secret lusts of citizens inside, It's noon: the sunlight beats down like a fist On town and country, roof and pasturage; I amble on, a headful of conceits, And fence with rhymes that slip away from me, And stumble over words like paving stones, Or bump into a verse dreamed long ago.
The sun, our foster-father, feeds a crown Of roses springing up in field and town, Evaporates our cares into the sky, And fills the heart with honey from his hive. He sets the cripple skipping like a child To sing in innocence, so sweet and high, And fructifies the elegiac art That blooms forever in our mortal heart. The blazing sun, a poet and a king, Illuminates each disregarded thing, And visits, though disguised in humble clothes, Each hospital, and every palace close.
Pale tramp, dirty dress, Your divine comeliness Inspires a wretched Poet, who adores Your freckled sores. The arch of your foot Is to me far more graceful Than queens in a novel. Adorable coquette, I'd clothe you in velvet. I'd untie your ribbons, Uncover your breasts, And paw like a madman Your sweet decollettes.
O beat me with pale Ineffectual fists, The Poet who offers you This, and this, and this! You'd collect in your bowers All kisses and honors, Subject to your laws Every noble Valois, Men who find you at twilight By trash bins that lie On the edge of the square. I would take you right there, But I can't even buy you A cheap costume gem; Who am I to condemn All the lords that would fly To your court in the night? Pale Beauty, pass by! I think of you, and weep Beside the river-banks of Babylon.
Old Paris is no more; its ancient streets Decline in memory to oblivion. I walked across a newly-minted square, And felt like one who'd lived his life apart; New neighborhoods erupting everywhere, Changing more quickly than a mortal's heart. In memory I see the old shop fronts, The crooked alleys, heaps of piled-up sacks, Old stones with softened edges in the moss, And cast-off treasuries of bric-a-brac. Nearby, some animals were kept on view.
One winter's dawn, as I was walking there, Through clouds of dust the sidewalk-cleaning crew Had swept into the cold and silent air,. I saw a swan who had escaped the pound. His snowy wings were beating in the dust, His webbed feet stamped upon the hardened ground, A lonely exile, wandering and lost. He opened wide his beak, and cried aloud: "Where is the shining lake where I was born? When will the rain descend, and thunder sound? Well, Paris changes. Nothing can retrieve The past when all its paving-stones are gone.
Rebuild the town, it's all the same to me, It's just my foolish memories that weigh me down. And so, on that new square before the Louvre, I see Andromache, by calloused hands Of conquering Greeks contemptuously enslaved, Weeping for Hector in a widow's trance;. I see a negress with her bloodshot eye, Thin and consumptive, dragging through the mud, Who tries to get a glimpse of Africa Beyond the bank of opaque morning fog;. I think of those who lost what can't be found, Imbibing sadness with their mother's milk, Shedding their fruitless tears without a sound, Poor orphans drying out like flowers of silk,.
Within the forest of a doubtful life That only memory can lead us through; I think of sailors shipwrecked on the tide, Of exiles, souls enchained, and all of you. O city boiling with a thousand dreams, Whose ghosts accost us in the light of day! Through dirty yellow fog I made my way Along your narrow wagon-cluttered streets,. Constricted in a crooked alleyway That wrung me dry, and spat me out again. Tall buildings hemmed me in on every side, Like towering ships that moor against the quay. The mirror of my soul was sad, and grey, A morning mist that rolled upon the tide; But I was young, and gathering my pride, I pressed on through the damp and driving rain,.
When suddenly a -thing- obstructed me, A poor old beggar, colored like the mire. My arms moved almost automatically, One to secure, the other to relieve,. But this one wasn't easy. From his eyes A malice deep as winter oozed within; Even the beard projecting from his chin Thrust out against the weather like a knife. His back and legs formed a right-angled hinge, A shape not bent, but broken; with his stick He made a perfect quadrilateral Upon the nasty frozen sidewalk slick. A three-legged dog that tottered angrily, He stomped upon the dirty snow and soot As if to trample corpses underfoot, And envied their insensibility -.
But wait! There's more to come! Six more passed by, Each like him, in succession; crooked backs, And walking sticks, and evil eyes, and all Proceeding from an unknown hell to hell,. Those seven duplicates, cruel apparitions, Look-alikes erupting from the mist, Horrific and grotesque, a mad parade! A man could look on them, and go insane. Foulness incarnate, each his sire and brother, Repeat the wretched story over and over, Crazed and ironic, yet they still survive, A pack of cripples, wallowing in spite. Then like a drunkard cursed with double sight, I stumbled into sleep, but woke disturbed By chills and fever in the dead of night, Felled by that vision, crazy and absurd.
In vain my reason tried to keep its hold; A raging storm had stripped the mast away, And left my soul to dance upon the waves, Across the Boundless, infinite and cold. Upon the Paris streets that wind around Its peeling monuments in their distress, The little ladies shuffle up and down; I'm dumbstruck at the sight, and recollect. These crooked crones were women long ago, And even Beauties once!
See how they go, With widows' humps and fraying petticoats; But we should love them, for they still have souls. They totter on, absurd comediennes, And shy at every stone upon the path; Malicious winds have torn away from them Embroidered purses, relics of the past. Like wounded birds that drag a broken wing, They stubbornly endure, like marionettes Who dance against their will, pulled by the strings That heartless Time employs without regret! They may be old, but still their gimlet eyes Reflect the stars that glittered in the spring, When young girls' faces echoed the Divine, And laughed, amazed, at every shining thing.
I contemplated that surreal tribe, Proceeding in the helplessness of age Across the turmoil of the capital, Shifting unquiet to their final rest;. I wondered, thinking of their patient lives, The histories even the old forget, How many times the workmen must revise The shape of boxes that contain the dead. Their eyes are wells that hold a million years, The crucibles where golden metal bled; Their breasts are dry, but once were full of tears By which Unfortunates were kindly fed! I see the shades of Hazard's votaries, The chorus girls who tried to get along, The mercenaries and celebrities That all the world embraced when they were young -.
And more than these, the ones who sought in vain The threadbare services of sacrifice, Who blended honey from the bitter pain That still reflected Heaven in their eyes;. One for her country losing everything, One for her husband cowering in fear, Another for her children suffering - They made a swollen river with their tears! I followed one of them along a trench Made bloody by the sky's vermilion hounds; She sat alone upon a peeling bench And tilted up her head to hear the sounds.
That flooded from a concert, rich in brass, That soldiers played upon our public parks; New life emerging with the greening grass, New valor beating in the townsman's heart. She sat up straight, with keen and piercing eye, An eagle scanning patches of the ground Who stood so still in searching for her prey That laurel grew upon her marble brow! I trudge along the streets without complaint, Along the streets with their chaotic life, Mothers with bleeding hearts, hetairai, saints, That every rascal knew, in days gone by.
You dazzled us with all your glorious charms, But now you pass unknown; a drunken fool Insults you with a prurient remark; A dirty, nasty child nips at your heel. You bend your backs along the crooked street; Passing the men who worshipped you in vain, You shuffle slow into eternity, Poor timid shadows, bashful and ashamed!
But from the wings I watch you tenderly And fix my eyes on your uncertain steps As if you were my daughters, and I see The love that all the vanished time forgets,. The heart that passion brought at last to bloom, The glorious days, now past, but filled with light, The soul that shined in me with your virtue, The spirit that you filled with every vice! You ancient Eves, women I hold in awe, I bid you farewell in the evening; You shudder underneath God's fearsome claw; Among the wrack, O death, where is your sting?
Those frightening and strange somnambulists March in the street like blank-faced mannequins, And dart unseeing glances everywhere. My soul encounters them, and shrinks in fear. There is a living spark beneath their lids, That strain towards heaven as if to catch a glimpse Of something too far off; forever blind, Their solemn heads uplift to scan the sky. They navigate across the evening, Tapping their withy rods across the street, Seeing nothing, but hearing everything;. You swirl about them, laugh, and play, and sing, O pleasure-loving City, cruel and kind; I stumble on, unseeing as the blind!
Persisting through the clamor of the lane, Slender and tall, but seeming very sad, A woman dressed in black with careless hand Lifted the swinging scallop of her hem,. Uncovered to my sight an ivory leg. Infatuated by her passing glance, I looked into her eyes: a hurricane, Pleasure that kills, sweetness that fascinates,. A lightning bolt that flashes and is gone, Within whose depths I start as one reborn! I'll meet you somewhere in eternity, Beautiful girl! Not knowing what you flee. The moment passed, and you continued on, A woman that I might have loved, but lost.
In anatomical displays Of books like wrinkled mummies splayed On albums spread along the quays, Drifting upon the sooty breeze,. Exemplars of the dignity And learning of baroque artistes -- Those figures on a Roman hill Communicate their beauty still. To us, whose eyelids contemplate Cadavers risen from the grave, Now put to work again upon The earth, the digging skeletons.
They dig the soil, cadaverous, Muscles exhibited and flayed, Exalt the holes they excavate, And love the dirt that they heap up. Dead farmers of a field of stones, What overlord enchains their will? Whose barn is it that they must fill, What is the crop they have to grow? The lessons that the dead endure Display the hardness of our fate; We find that that even in the grave, Our promised rest is not secure. Eternity betrays our trust, Forever we must bend our backs, And still we have to work, alas!
All things, Death even, lie to us:. In afterlife, eternally We have to skin the stony clay And push a heavy iron spade With ragged, bare, and bleeding feet. On padded feet, friend of the criminal, Evening descends, and stepping like a wolf The sky envelops us, a grand alcove That shelters savages and beasts of prey.
Beloved evening, rest of those who work! The scholar lays his tired head at last, The laborer is snoring in his croft; As twilight deepens, shadowing the lost,. Consumptives hack among the gambling dens, And beauties of the evening descend, Disclose their imperfections to the lane Until their lovers make them whole again. Twilight absolves me in its ring of fire: Down narrow lanes, the leavings of desire Attend the kitchens and the orchestras Where prostitutes and thieves rub up to us.
Burglars and sharps, the shadows of the night, Are lurking in the darkened alleyways Where gamblers click their rotten ivory bones; I stumble on the narrow cobblestones. The ancient courtesans in faded chairs, Who simper underneath their pencilled brows, Attend with smiling and distracted airs The jangling coins they try to disavow. Among the gaming tables, toothless lips Bite down upon the rictus of a glance; Their fingers, questing underneath their slips, Search empty pockets for another chance,.
And underneath the dirty ceiling, light From flickering lamps illuminates the face Of one poor cursed poet, who's resigned To live until his blood has boiled away;. I see that picture in a dream again, Until I close my drunken eyes in sleep: The gambler lurking in his favorite den, Leans on his elbows, silent, envying. The stubborn passion of enchanted souls, The votaries of blissful randomness, Who gamble everything upon a roll! They sell themselves for nothing; I confess, I envy all of them that thrilling blur, For I am one of them, a fated wretch Who stares at the Abyss, and who prefers Suffering to death, and Hell to nothingness!
Around the dusty streets, a skeleton Is dancing proud and free, as if alive, With handkerchief and gloves, a bold display Of flowers, and the mincing style Of some bizarre coquette on holiday. The bees swarm up her naked shoulder-bones Like wanton brooks that rub against the rocks, Concealing from the whistles of the mob The funeral charms she wants to cover up: O do not hate her, you who still can love. Her deep eye-sockets, vacuous and dark, A crown of flowers on her head arrayed, The skull that trembles on her fragile neck, Her former beauty, cunningly displayed!
Some men will label you a travesty,. Ignorant simpletons, who cannot know The figurations of mortality: Tall skeleton, you satisfy my soul! You come to taunt the living with your smile, And show your shameless carcass like a dream. Of pleasures long-forgotten, and desire That binds us to the world that we see. The song of violins, the candle's flame, Put off until tomorrow our unquiet rest; Within our heart, a fire set ablaze.
That neither death nor hell can ever quench, Infinite well of folly and of sin! Between her ribs, a snake is wandering. To tell the truth, I think her coquetry Will never find its merited reward;. What man of us can bear her gallantry? Only the strongest can endure that storm. The chaos of her eyes is full of fear; No mortal man can look without a tear Upon the smiling rictus of her mouth,.
For who has never loved a skeleton, If only in his dreams? Her rich perfume, And pretty dress, is just a thing undone That covers the corruption of the tomb. Proud skeletons, my friends, the Dance of Death. Will take you places you don't want to go! From frozen Seine to Ganges' burning bones, Humanity is dancing, never sees The Angel's trumpet playing on its keys, And Death itself is laughing at our jokes.
You taunt me with an enigmatic glance, A lazy hoyden underneath the sky; Although you're bored, and feeling insolent, And wandering through the madness of your life,. Reflected in the light upon your crown, Your beauty draws me in, with morbid charms; Within your eyes, as in a portrait drawn, The fires of evening kindle into dawn. How beautiful you are, and strangely fresh! Upon your body, swelling like a peach, A skillful lover carves into your flesh The symbols of his false concupiscence.
Fruit of my autumn, well I can discern The fragrance of your ripe and blushing skin; You are a pillow, and a funeral urn That lies on beds of flowers and regrets. I know your eyes, so deep, profound, and sad, That hold no precious secrets in their orb; They are two empty sockets, that once held An image of the girl you might have been;. No, it is not enough that you relent, Once in a while, to grace us with your "truth. I still remember, past the city's edge, The peaceful cottage where we used to live, A worn Pomona, and the plaster Love Concealed by shadows in our twilight grove.
The setting sun reposed its lambent beams Upon us at the turn of evening - The jealous sun, that eyed us, envious, And spread itself upon our table cloth, A linen tinged with opaline and rose Where, in the twilight, curtains warmly glowed! We still should lay Some flowers on her grave.
Winds of October weep, The trees fall down; Beneath their monuments And winding-sheets, the dead live on And suffer the indifference Of those who sleep Warm in their beds. Dissolving in the lea, Decayed among The delving worms, The ice of winter drips upon Her slighted tomb. And if, some evening, I saw her, once again, sitting In her accustomed chair, Watching her babe, full-grown, With love, and weeping there, What could I give to her? A life, too hard to bear. From cloistered autumn, winter, muddy spring, Seasons of sleep, membranes enveloping My body in the closure of a tomb, Nothing but this old verse is left for you.
Above a frozen plain, whose winds exalt The screeching of a rusty weather-cock, I spread my wings upon the stormy sky; See me, old friends, and look how far I fly! Nothing is crueler to a fainting heart, On which the frost of memory is laid, Than you, O Seasons, rulers of the dead,. Who cast illuminations in the dark Upon the Poet, mordant and afraid, And rack his sleep upon your restless bed.
In the morning, a far-off scene Recalled from the previous night: A landscape of perfect dream, None other had seen its like. From that miraculous sleep, Obeying a novel whim, I had banned the disorder of trees, Of flowers and shrubs that live,. And instead, true visionary, I conjured within my chamber The monumentality Of marble, metal, and water.
In palatial passageways Where staircases twist and fold, Cunning waterfalls cascade Into basins of purest gold. Like curtains of flawless crystal Those great waterfalls were hung, Descending from walls of metal To precipitous bastions. Tall columns of marble trees Encircled the silent lakes Where sculptures of Naiades Admired their mirrored shapes,. And vagrant blue rivers flowed With an irresistible urge Past embankments of green and rose To the edge of the universe,.
Where clashing cliffs from the height Their sportive waves deflect, And glaciers glimmer and shine From a sea that their facets reflect! Insouciant and calm, Dear Ganges, from the heavens, Poured out the treasure from Her urn on jewelled canyons. For my own pleasure, I made That ocean to flood, in the dark, A hidden limestone cave With brilliant shining sparks. All colors, even the black, Were shimmering and bright, Like a train that is stopped on the tracks, Or a sunbeam crystallized.
No starlight illuminates The wonders that I require, That mountains irradiate By their own internal fire! And around that shifting light There hovers, too awful to see, The negation of sound, and the sight Of the shores of eternity. But when I awoke with a start On the floor of my unswept room, That dream excavated my heart Like the bite of advancing doom;. The clockwork with deadly tones Was brutally striking noon, And upon my aching bones The sky opened up like a tomb.
It is the hour when nightmare's cloven feet Are trampling adolescents in their beds; When night-lamps, with their cyclopean eye, Blood-shot and swinging, stain the dawning day, When lethargy oppresses every soul, And sleeping innocents wake up in Hell. The wind dries out the tears upon your face; Your heart has run away; you're tired of loving; And as for me, I'm sick to death of writing.
Now here and there, chimneys begin to smoke. The ladies of the night lie in repose, Their jaws wide open and their eyelids closed. Poor women, with their dangling breasts exposed, Blow on their fingers and their scavenged coals. It is the hour when poverty and cold Make birthing women scream, and men grow old. Like bloody coughs that swallow up a sob, A distant cock-crow tears the morning fog. The walls of hospitals are bathed in mist, Where invalids hawk out their copper spit And perish with an interrupted moan.
On broken streets, the rake-hells drift towards home. Dawn shivers in her gown of rose and green, Advancing steadily upon the Seine, And Paris, rubbing sleepy eyes, awakes, And hitches up its pants to meet the day. A song of brotherhood within the flask, The spirit of the wine decanted me: "Open my prison, tear away the wax, And let me flow, insouciant and free! You will not regret The prospects that you give up for your art; I'm not ungrateful, nor malevolent. Roll up your sleeves, and drink, and be content To drink until the table hits your chest. In a district of alleyways, Humanity churns in a mass; In a lantern, imprisoned flames Are beating against the glass.
Inclining his head to the mob, A rag-picker trips on the lane, And pours out his heart in a sob, Like a poet with nothing to say.
With curses he faces the crowd; A drunkard beneath the sky, He comforts the innocent, sings aloud, And dictates a law for mankind:. Get out of the street! In the glow, The carousers have come out to play: All the drunkards are roistering home, Singing loud at the end of the day. A miasma of wine surrounds These workers upon their march; They imagine a pathway of flowers, Of flags, a triumphal arch,. Cheering women, a deafening noise Of bugles and beating drums, A vision of friendship and joy In the semblance of drunken love!
Pouring wine through its thirsty throat Like a river, Humanity Does its best just to stay afloat, And worships the power it feeds,. To comfort the poets who weep In the knowledge that all men must die. God from his remorse fashioned sleep; Man molded the sun-kissed vine! My woman's dead; I'm free at last! Now I can drink my fill; A spendthrift drunkard, love gone bad, Her crying cut my soul. It takes so much to cram and swill The thirst that tortures me, That all God's vinyards cannot fill Her grave, eternally!
Invoking tender sentiments We knew in former times, The heart that beat within her breast, A wish to reconcile,. We made a tryst that evening, A venue she could guess - And she showed up, the foolish thing!