A French Narrative Poem: A wren comes to rest on a reed after the storm – Dialogue between the bird and the shrub. Translation of Rene Etiemble’s poem: Narration Française
(The very first poem composed by Etiemble while a student of Class 5A at the Lycée de Laval on Octobre 14,1921, i.e., when he was only 12 years old. The poet provides the two pages on which they were written in his school exercise book. The poem is rhymed abab, cc, dede, afaf, agag, hihi, ff, ajaj, kjk, flfl, each line made up of eleven to thirteen syllables. Amazing maturity! In a footnote, he states that in 1983 during a fit of rage against the university he burned a great many of the exercise books he had preserved until then. T. Wignesan)
The storm has abated. A wren
Arrives wings a-flutter close to a felled oak tree
And shivering with cold, his feathers stuck together
He alights gently near the vanquished giant.
On the reed dried up by the shining sun,
He tarries all surprised and says to him into the ear:
“This terrible north wind has wreaked but havoc
Even the haughty oak tree has been cowed
And you, you are upright. How might this be?
That the life of him whose powerful crown
Spread proudly over the forest has been uprooted?
The reed replied: “And that of the mighty
Is it not cut by the imploring Park
As an ear of wheat by the scythe of a yokel?
The oak which you see, bleeding there, laid low,
Addressed me in this proud language: “Poor little reed
You are unable to bear the weight of a wren
And the softest zephyr bends your back.
Nature has made you the plaything of her desires
Under my protection you would suffer much less
For the north wind to me is only zephyr
My Caucasian summit rises to the highest point
My dense foliage provides shade to the child
And my powerful branches extend up to the firmament.”
“Don’t you believe it, I said, that you can resist
All kinds of hurricanes. Your proud ridgepole
Will fall perhaps sooner than you believe.
When the rain and the winds turn the soil to mud
My frail stalk bends but does not break.”
Just as he was uttering these words a furious wind came a-blowing
At first the oak tree trembled and then finally was laid low.
“Thus dies, he said, this proud giant
The king of the forest at least a couple of centuries old.
Then the sparrow dry and whistling
Went away looking for his brothers and to them related this story.
Signed: R. Etiemble
© T. Wignesan – Paris,2014