For Vincent or for any man, who has enjoyed sunshine,
And experienced fresh breath of air, each morning,
Going down the Marcasse mine, exploring the caves,
Was not a picnic or a pleasant trip around a windy beach.
Each step, deep down the earth, was moving away,
From heaven or earth, into an alarming hole of darkness,
Far, far away, from every single ray of hope and light.
Half way down the mine, the cage stopped, hurtled down
With a loud thud, while streams of water oozed out of the side holes.
At six hundred and fifty metres down, Vincent got off the cage.
He walked with Jacques along a broad tunnel of rock and clay.
Half a mile ahead, the tunnel narrowed into smaller holes.
Vincent stumbled and groped as he climbed down the ladder.
When they reached the bottom, they had to crawl on their knees.
Further down in the mine: ' There was a long row of cells,
Like partitions in a vault, supported by rough timbers.
In each cell, a unit of five miners worked,
Two digging out coal with their picks,
A third dragging it away from their feet,
A fourth loading it into small cars down a narrow track. '
The pickers, both boys and girls, were filthy and black.
The only light in the mine was through small lamps
Whose wicks were turned down to save fuel.
There was absolutely no ventilation.
As Vincent looked at the miners with a heavy heart,
Jacques whispered in Vincent's ears that these miners
Just earned a pittance of two and half francs a day.
Could life be more pathetic and punishing?
Beyond the last cell, there was another hole in the ground.
But without a ladder or any log to hold on to while descending.
Jacques took Vincent's lamp and hung it around his belt.
Jacques while leading the way, warned Vincent not to step,
On his head, or else he would send him crashing down.
They climbed down carefully, foot by foot, in blackness,
While the hands desperately clutched the dirt on the sides.
The next level down, the beehive cells turned out to be
Even worse, with smaller passages than the upper ones.
Vincent and Jacques crawled on their hands and knees
Through the passageway, flattening themselves against the wall.
The girls pushing the coal cars were less than ten years old.
It was strenuous for these children to handle the cars along the tracks.
Jacques then took Vincent to the last level of Marcasse mine.
The deepest level of the Marcasse, was the hardest place.
There were a series of twelve, minute black holes.
'Vincent jammed his way into it and crawled on his stomach
Like a snake, digging his way along with his fingernails and toes.'
At the end of the crawl, his body was wet with perspiration,
His eyes burning with coal dust, panting for breath. This was
The worst hole in all Marcasse - a torture chamber! He felt choked!
A Biographical poem
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.I would like to translate this poem