to a poet

Write, Beneditino, far from
the sterile bustle of the street! In the intimacy
of the cloister, with patience and calm,
work and persist and polish and suffer and sweat!

But let the effort employed be disguised in the form;
and the living device contrived
in such a way that the image appear bare,
rich but sober, like a Greek temple.

Let the construction not reveal the anguish of the master.
And, being natural, let the effect be pleasing,
without recalling the framework of the building:

For Beauty, twin’ of Truth,
pure Art, the enemy of artifice,
is strength and grace in simplicity.

Olavo Bilac

there is weeping in my heart …

It rains gently on the town.
Arthur Rimbaud

There is weeping in my heart
as it rains on the town.
What languor is this
that pierces my heart?

O gentle noise of the rain
on the ground and the roofs!
For a heart that is troubled,
O the song of the rain!

There is no cause for weeping
in this sickened heart.
What! No treason?
This sorrow has no cause.

Indeed, it is the worst grief
not to know why,
without love or hate,
my heart has so much grief.

Paul Verlaine

floridum mare

The harvest overflowing the multi-colored plain rolls,
undulates, and unfurls in the cool wind cradling it;
and the profile of some harrow on the distant sky
seems like a ship pitching and raising a dark bowsprit.

And beneath my feet the sea, right to the purple west,
sky-blue or pink or violet or ultramarine or
the white horses scattered by the ebb,
becomes infinitely green, like a huge meadow.

The gulls, too, following the flood,
flew in whirlwinds with joyful cries
towards the ripe com swollen by a golden tide;

While from the land a honeyed breeze spread
flights of butterflies over the flowery ocean
after the desire of their winged ecstasy.

José-Maria de Heredia

the bulls

The sea plains, motionless and bare,
cut the depth of the clouds with a long streak of gold.
Only a pink mist, dawdling in the sky,
twists languidly like a slender snake
on the jagged crest of the silent mountains.
A slow breath filled with subtle intoxication
floats over the savannah and the mossy slopes
where muscular, hump-backed bulls with glossy coats,
long horns, and hollow, bloodshot eyes are grazing
upon the short salty grass of the coasts.
Two lean Antongil negroes, loins bent, elbows on knees,
palms beneath their chins, squatting on their hams,
smoke their black pipes absorbed
in the stupidity of a long dream.
But the usual head of the savage herd,
feeling the shadow coming and the hour for the corral,
with silver foam at both corners of his mouth,
stretches out his flat muzzle and bellows over the waves.

Charles Marie René Leconte de Lisle

noon

Noon, king of summers, spread over the plain,
falls in silver sheets from the heights of the blue sky.
Everything is quiet. Breathlessly the air flames and burns;
earth drowses in its fiery dress.

The expanse is vast, the fields have no shade,
and the spring where the flocks used to drink is dried up;
the distant forest, whose edge is dark,
motionlessly slumbers over there in a heavy sleep.

Only the great ripe cornfields, like a golden sea,
roll far away disdaining sleep;
as peaceful children of the sacred earth,
fearlessly they drain the sun’s cup.

Sometimes, like a sigh from their burning soul,
from the bosom of the heavy ears, murmuring among themselves,
a majestically slow undulation awakens and
goes to die on the dusty horizon.

Not far away some white oxen lying in the grass
dribble slowly on their heavy dewlaps
and follow with their proud, languid eyes
the inner dream they never finish.

Man, if towards noon you passed into the blazing fields
with your heart full of joy or bitterness,
flee! Nature is empty and the sun devours:
nothing is living here, nothing is sad or joyful.

But if, disillusioned with tears or laughter,
parched for forgetfulness of this busy world,
no longer knowing how to pardon or to curse,
you wish to taste a last desolate pleasure,

Come! The sun speaks to you in sublime words;
be endlessly absorbed in its relentless flame;
and return with slow steps towards the abject cities,
your heart seven times bathed in the divine void.

Charles Marie René Leconte de Lisle

L’art

Yes, the work of art emerges
more beautiful from a form that
               resists working,
verse, marble, onyx, enamel.

No false hindrances!
But to march straight,
               put on,
O Muse, a narrow buskin.

Shame on the easy rhythm,
like a shoe that is too large,
               of the kind
that every foot takes off and puts on!

Sculptor, reject
clay moulded by
               the thumb
when the mind hovers elsewhere!

Struggle with Carrara marble,
with the hard,
               rare Parian,
keepers of the pure outline;

Borrow from Syracuse
its bronze where the proud
               enchanting
stroke is firmly marked;

With a delicate hand
hunt the profile
               of Apollo
in a vein of agate.

Painter, flee the water-colour,
and fix too delicate
               a tint
in the enameller’s oven.

Create blue sirens,
writhing their tails
               in a hundred ways,
create the monsters of heraldry;

Create the Virgin and her Jesus
in their three-lobed halo,
               create the globe
with the cross above it.

Everything passes. – Only strong art
possesses eternity:
               The bust
outlives the city.

And the austere medal
found by a labourer beneath
               the earth
reveals an emperor.

The gods themselves die.
But sovereign lines of verse
               remain
stronger than brass.

Carve, file, and chisel;
Let your hazy dream
               be sealed
in the hard block!

Théophile Gautier

Epilogue

The sun, less fierce, shines bright in a thinner sky.
Rocked by a lulling autumn breeze,
The garden rosebushes bend rhythmically.
The air around is full of a sister’s kisses.

For the time being, Nature has left her throne
Of irony, serenity and splendor:
Toward her perverse, rebellious subject, man,
She descends mild through the fullness of yellow air.

With the hem of her cloak spotted by the abyss,
She deigns to wipe the sweat from our brow,
And her immortal form, her soul’s eternities,
Give our slack hasty hearts calm and strength too.

The ancient branches, their cool swaying,
The widened horizon full of indistinct
Song, even the joyous flights of birds and clouds, everything
Today consoles and sets free.—Let us think.

Paul Verlaine

chanson d’automne

The long sobbing
Of autumn strings,
Grievous,
Wounds my heart
With a languor that
Is monotonous.

Stifled
And pallid
When the hour rings,
I summon
Days long gone
With my weeping;

And then I go
On an ill wind to
Carry me off
Here and there
In just the manner
Of a dead leaf.

Paul Verlaine

marine

The sounding ocean
Throbs beneath the eye
Of the moon veiled darkly
And throbs again,

While a violent sinister
Lightning bolt,
Its long zigzag brilliant,
Slits a sky of bister,

And each wave,
In convulsive bounds,
Goes, comes, shouts, glistens,
The length of reefs,

And in the sky
Where the tempest ranges,
The thunder roars
Terrifyingly.

Paul Verlaine

smoke

Over there, trees are sheltering
A hunchbacked hut… A slum, no more…
Roof askew, walls and wainscoting
Falling away… Moss hides the door.

Only one shutter, hanging…
But Seeping over the windowsill,
Like frosted breath, proof that this hut,
This slum, is living, breathing still.

Corkscrew of smoke… A wisp of blue
Escapes the hovel, whose soul it is…
Rises to God himself, and who
Receives the news and makes it his.

Théophile Gautier