elegy

Let us gather, let us gather the rose in the morning of life;
at least breathe the flowers of fleeting Springs;
let us abandon our hearts to chaste pleasures;
let us love without limit, O my only friend!

When the boatman beaten by angry waves
sees his frail bark threatened by shipwreck,
he turns his glance to the shores he has left
and regrets too late the land’s leisure.
Ah! how he then wishes he had never forsaken his country or his gods,
passing obscure days without danger or fame
beneath the roof of his fathers near the beloved objects
that are present in his memory!

So man, bent beneath the weight of years,
weeps for his sweet Spring that cannot return.
,,Ah! give me back, he says, those hours I profaned!
O gods! I forgot to enjoy them in their season.’’

He speaks; death replies; and those gods to whom he prays,
pushing him into the grave without relenting,
do not let him stoop again to pick up those flowers
which he has not known how to gather.
O my beloved, let us love one another!
And let us laugh at the cares that cradle mortal men.
For the foolish lure of empty smoke
half their days, alas!
Are used up on neglect of the real wealth.
Let us not envy their sterile pride;
let us leave far-off hopes to the masters of men!
For us, uncertain of our hour,
let us hasten to empty life’s cup
while it is in our hands.

Whether the bays crown us and our names
are inscribed on marble or brass in the bloody annals of proud Bellona;
or whether love adorns our humble brows
with the simple flowers harvested by beauty,
we shall all be cast away on the same shore:
at the moment of shipwreck what does it matter
whether we have cleft the air on a famous ship
or timidly skirted the sea-shore,
the sole traveler on a light bark ?

Alphonse de Lamartine

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sorrow

Take me back, I said, to the happy shore
where Naples reflects its palaces, its hillsides,
and its cloudless stars in a blue sea,
where the orange-tree blooms beneath a sky that is always clear.
Why do you delay? Let us depart! I want to see once again
flaming Vesuvius rising from the bosom of the waves;
from its heights I want to see the dawn rise;
I want to come down those laughing slopes once again in a dream,
guiding the steps of her whom I adore.
Follow me among the windings of this calm bay:
let us return to those shores so well known to our footsteps,
to Cynthia’s gardens, to Virgil’s tomb,
near the scattered ruins of the temple of Venus:
there, beneath the orange-trees, beneath the flowering vine
whose lithe stem is united to the myrtle and weaves a vault of flowers above your head,
there, to the gentle noise of the waves or of the murmuring wind,
alone with our love, alone with nature,
life and light will have more sweetness.

The torch of my paling days burns itself out,
it goes out gradually at the breath of misfortune, or,
if sometimes it throws a faint light,
it is when your memory rekindles it in my breast.
I do not know if at last the gods will allow me to conclude
my wearisome day down here on earth:
my horizon is confined, and my uncertain eye
hardly dares to stretch it beyond a year.
But if I must die in the morning, if,
in a land appointed for happiness,
I must let fall from my hand
this cup which fate seemed to have
crowned with roses for me,
I only ask the gods to guide my steps
to shores made more beautiful by your beloved memory,
to hail from afar those happy climes,
and to die in the places where I tasted life.

Alphonse de Lamartine

le lac

So, always impelled towards new shores,
carried forever into eternal night,
can we never cast anchor
in time’s ocean for a single day?

O lake! The year has hardly finished its course and behold!
I come alone to sit upon this stone where you saw her sit,
near the beloved waves that
she was to have seen once more!

Thus you murmured beneath these steep rocks;
thus you broke upon their torn sides;
thus the wind threw the foam from your waves
on her adorable feet.

One evening, do you remember? We were sailing noiselessly;
we only heard far off, on the water and beneath the skies,
the sound of rowers rhythmically striking
the melodious waves.

All at once strains unknown to earth
struck the echoes of the spell-bound shore;
the waves were attentive, and the voice dear to me
let fall these words:

,,O time, suspend your flight! And you, propitious hours,
suspend your course!
Let us taste the swift delights
of the fairest of our days!

,,Enough unhappy beings pray to you down here on earth:
flow on, flow on for them;
together with their days take away the cares that consume them;
forget those that are happy.

,,But in vain I ask for a few more moments;
time escapes me and flees away;
I say to this night: ,,Go more slowly’’; and dawn
will scatter the night.

,,Let us love then, let us love!
Let us hasten to enjoy the fleeting hours!
Man has no harbor, time has no shore:
it flows on, and we pass by! ‘’

Jealous time, can it be that these moments of intoxication,
when love pours us happiness in long draughts,
fly far away from us with the same speed
as days of misfortune?

What! Can we not preserve their trace at least?
What! Gone for ever? What! All quite lost?
The time that gave them, the time that blots them out
will give them back to us no more?

Eternity, nothingness, past – dark abysses –
what do you do with the days you swallow up?
Speak: will you give us back those sublime
raptures that you snatch from us?

O lake! Silent rocks! Caves! Dark forest!
You whom time spares or can make young again,
keep at least the memory of that night;
keep it, fair landscape!

Let it be in your calms or in your storms,
sweet lake, and in the sight of your laughing hillsides,
and in these black pines, and in these wild rocks
overhanging your waters!

Let it be in the breeze trembling and passing by,
in the sounds of your shores and their echoes,
in the silver-browed star that whitens your surface
with its soft lights!

Let the moaning wind, the sighing reed,
the light perfumes of your scented air,
Let everything that is heard, seen, or breathed,
Let everything say: ,,They loved!’’

Alphonse de Lamartine