The Bestiary: Or Orpheus’s Procession - Poem by Guillaume Apollinaire
(Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée)
Admire the vital power
And nobility of line:
It’s the voice that the light made us understand here
That Hermes Trismegistus writes of in Pimander.
From magic Thrace, O delerium!
My sure fingers sound the strings.
The creatures pass to the sounds
Of my tortoise, and the songs I sing.
My harsh dreams knew the riding of you
My gold-charioted fate will be your lovely car
That for reins will hold tight to frenzy,
My verses, the patterns of all poetry.
The Tibetan Goat
The fleece of this goat and even
That gold one which cost such pain
To Jason’s not worth a sou towards
The tresses with which I’m taken.
You set yourself against beauty.
And how many women have been
victims of your cruelty!
Eve, Eurydice, Cleopatra:
I know three or four more after.
I wish there to be in my house:
A woman possessing reason,
A cat among books passing by,
Friends for every season
Lacking whom I’m barely alive.
O lion, miserable image
Of kings lamentably chosen,
Now you’re only born in a cage
In Hamburg, among the Germans.
Don’t be fearful and lascivious
Like the hare and the amorous.
But always let your brain weave
The full form that conceives.
There’s another cony I remember
That I’d so like to take alive.
Its haunt is there among the thyme
In the valleys of the Land of Tender.
With his four dromedaries
Don Pedro of Alfaroubeira
Travels the world and admires her.
He does what I would rather
If I’d those four dromedaries.
Sweet days, the mice of time,
You gnaw my life, moon by moon.
God! I’ve twenty eight years soon,
and badly spent ones I imagine.
I carry treasure in my mouth,
As an elephant his ivory.
At the price of flowing words,
Purple death!…I buy my glory.
Look at this pestilential tribe
Its thousand feet, its hundred eyes:
Beetles, insects, lice
And microbes more amazing
Than the world’s seventh wonder
And the palace of Rosamunde!
Work leads us to riches.
Poor poets, work on!
The caterpillar’s endless sigh
Becomes the lovely butterfly.
The songs that our flies know
Were taught to them in Norway
By flies who are they say
Divinities of snow.
Fleas, friends, lovers too,
How cruel are those who love us!
All our blood pours out for them.
The well-beloved are wretched then.
Here’s the slender grasshopper
The food that fed Saint John.
May my verse be similar,
A treat for the best of men.
His heart was the bait: the heavens were the pond!
For, fisherman, what fresh or seawater catch
equals him, either in form or savour,
that lovely divine fish, Jesus, My Saviour?
Dolphins, playing in the sea
The wave is bitter gruel.
Does my joy sometimes erupt?
Yet life is still so cruel.
Hurling his ink at skies above,
Sucking the blood of what he loves
And finding it delicious,
Is myself the monster, vicious.
Medusas, miserable heads
With hairs of violet
You enjoy the hurricane
And I enjoy the very same.
Uncertainty, O my delights
You and I we go
As lobsters travel onwards, quite
Backwards, Backwards, O.
In your pools, and in your ponds,
Carp, you indeed live long!
Is it that death forgets to free
You fishes of melancholy?
The female of the Halcyon,
Love, the seductive Sirens,
All know the fatal songs
Dangerous and inhuman.
Don’t listen to those cursed birds
But Paradisial Angels’ words.
Do I know where your ennui’s from, Sirens,
When you grieve so widely under the stars?
Sea, I am like you, filled with broken voices,
And my ships, singing, give a name to the years.
Dove, both love and spirit
Who engendered Jesus Christ,
Like you I love a Mary.
And so with her I marry.
In spreading out his fan, this bird,
Whose plumage drags on earth, I fear,
Appears more lovely than before,
But makes his derrière appear.
My poor heart’s an owl
One woos, un-woos, re-woos.
Of blood, of ardour, he’s the fowl.
I praise those who love me, too.
Yes, I’ll pass fearful shadows
O certain death, let it be so!
Latin mortal dreadful word,
Ibis, Nile’s native bird.
This cherubim sings the praises
Of Paradise where, with Angels,
We’ll live once more, dear friends,
When the good God intends.
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