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To a passer-by (A une passante)
The deafening street was screaming around me.
Slender, tall, dressed for mourning, what a majestic grief,
a woman walked by, her fastuous hand
lifting, waving scallop edge and hem;
swift and noble, whith her statue leg.
Me, on edge like a mad man, I drank
from her eye, bleak sky whence the hurricane stems,
the sweetness that mesmerizes and the pleasure that kills.
A flash of lightning… Then darkness! Fleeting beauty
whose stare suddenly revived me,
will I ever see you again except beyond the grave?
Some place so far away! Too late! Never, even!
For I don’t know where you run, you don’t know where I go,
o you whom I would have loved, o you who knew it well!
The Voice (La voix)
The back of my crib was against the library,
That gloomy Babel, where novels, science, fabliaux,
Everything, Latin ashes and Greek dust,
Were mingled. I was no taller than a folio.
Two voices used to speak to me. One, sly and firm,
Would say: “The Earth’s a cake full of sweetness;
I can (and then there’d be no end to your pleasure!)
Give you an appetite of equal size.”
And the other: “Come travel in dreams
Beyond the possible, beyond the known!”
And it would sing like the wind on the strand,
That wailing ghost, one knows not whence it comes,
That caresses the ear and withal frightens it.
I answered you: “Yes! gentle voice!” It’s from that time
That dates what may be called alas! my wound
And my fatality. Behind the scenes
Of life’s vastness, in the abyss’ darkest corner
I see distinctly bizarre worlds,
And ecstatic victim of my own clairvoyance,
I drag along with me, serpents that bite my shoes.
And it’s since that time that, like the prophets,
I love so tenderly the desert and the sea;
That I laugh at funerals and weep at festivals
And find a pleasant taste in the most bitter wine;
That very often I take facts for lies
And that, my eyes raised heavenward, I fall in holes.
But the Voice consoles me and it says: “Keep your dreams;
Wise men do not have such beautiful ones as fools!”
Sadness of the Moon (Tristesse de la lune)
Tonight the moon dreams with more indolence,
Like a lovely woman on a bed of cushions
Who fondles with a light and listless hand
The contour of her breasts before falling asleep;
On the satiny back of the billowing clouds,
Languishing, she lets herself fall into long swoons
And casts her eyes over the white phantoms
That rise in the azure like blossoming flowers.
When, in her lazy listlessness,
She sometimes sheds a furtive tear upon this globe,
A pious poet, enemy of sleep,
In the hollow of his hand catches this pale tear,
With the iridescent reflections of opal,
And hides it in his heart afar from the sun’s eyes.