HERE, before me, the lamp, the paper;
And behind me this troubled day
Passed in myself
Following the hundred turns and twistings of my thoughts.
Trying to justify our steps,
And then my steps,
Trying to find my starting-place
Upon my route's confusing plan....
And now, before this paper,
And now, in this my house,
I am still in myself,
And stifling there.
O the great resonant rôles
That all this day I have repeated,
And which, because I can no more improve them,
Now I am going to set down
In my most learnèd eloquence!
Ah my first rôles, costumed in pride,
Moulded in love and bravery,
How they are wearied and humiliated
In this my 'theatre in my arm-chair;'
How they would like to go out just a little into the street!
O all of you whom I resemble,
Have you no pity on us?
What pure poets we are:
In the warm museum of our chamber,
Our navel marks the centre,
And we examine our own ashes
Behind our bolts.
What pure poets we are,
O we collectors of our fevers,
Who 'bring out' our copies of them,
And run, on winter evenings,
To listen to what people say of us!
What pure poets, what pure poets ...
There are mad oceans far away,
And mad skies, and mad sails,
There are mad vessels far away:
We talk of these in the fine weather,
Leaning at our window.
O you, what men are we?
We are attired in black,
We go to our work,
And when the weather is not very certain,
We take our umbrella.
I am tired of interior movements!
I am tired of interior departures!
And of heroism with the strokes of a pen,
And of a beauty all in formulas.
I am ashamed of lying to my work,
And that my work should lie unto my life,
And of being able to accommodate myself,
While burning aromatics,
And of the musty odour reigning here....
* * * * * *
Water stagnating, in a pool's dark belly pent,
Water which greens at the soiled heart of old fountains,
Hides in its breast a life intense,
Quivers with being populous with beasts,
And with the long and languid dream of grasses;
It feels the fermentation of the living mud
Whose rotting in slow bubbles it exhales;
But it is blind and does not know the sky,
For death has sheeted it with withered leaves:
It cannot see save what it harbours;
But mute this water is, and cannot sing,
Nor laugh nor murmur like the sea and rivers:
And to itself can only strain a long-drawn echo;
But it is dead, and cannot roam,
And cannot run and leap and glitter,
Caressing quays and boats,
And cannot go to the embrace of mills;
And cannot contemplate save life in its own self.
It is inhabited by life and lives not,
Even as is inhabited by life and lives not,
The inert life of corpses....
And I should like to make come out of me,
To make a poem with, my steps,
Taking or no my pen to witness,
Taking or no my fellow-men to witness,
And I should like ...
The stagnant water, too, would like....
translated by Jethro Bithell