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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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

soleils couchants

Spilled through the meadow by
An enfeebled dawn,
The melancholy
Of setting suns.
Melancholy
Rocks my heart to oblivion
With sweet melody
Amid setting suns.
And strange dreams
Like suns, setting,
Ruddy phantoms
Over shores, passing
Unceasingly, passing like some
Huge suns, like them
Over shores, setting.

Paul Verlaine

the cloud

Yonder, a climbing cloud, arrayed
Against the azure, seems to take
A sculpted form, like naked maid
Rising from a pure-rippling lake.

Standing in her shell opal-hued,
She floats over the clear blue air,
Figure of foam and froth, a nude,
Translucent Aphrodite fair.

One sees her vaguely contoured shape
Contort in softly shifting poses,
As on her satin back and nape
The dawning daybreak strews its roses.

Her snow-and-marble whites — like those
Correggio chiaroscuros, showing
Antiope lying a-doze —
Blend, lovingly together flowing…

She glides on light, higher above
Than any Alp or Appenine,
Primal reflection, sister of
Beauty’s ‘‘eternal feminine.’’

My soul, on passion’s wings, goes flying
To that cloud-body, bent upon
Love’s joy; and, brooking no denying,
Clutches her close, like Ixion.

Reason says: ‘‘Only smoke one sees
In shapes born of such dream-display,
Shadow buffeted by the breeze,
Bubble that bursts, then slips away…’’

Sentiment answers: ‘‘Oh? Dear me!
After all, what is beauty? For
Only a charming specter, she,
Blown on the wind, and then no more!

‘‘Let the ideal infuse your soul;
Love a cloud, love a woman, but,
With heaven-filled heart, love be your goal:
Love what you will!… No matter what!’’

Théophile Gautier