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

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