As I floated down impassive Rivers,
I felt myself no longer pulled by ropes:
The Redskins took my hauliers for targets,
And nailed them naked to their painted posts.
Carrying Flemish wheat or English cotton,
I was indifferent to all my crews.
The Rivers let me float down as I wished,
When the victims and the sounds were through.
Into the furious breakers of the sea,
Deafer than the ears of a child, last winter,
I ran! And the Peninsulas sliding by me
Never heard a more triumphant clamour.
The tempest blessed my sea-borne arousals.
Lighter than a cork I danced those waves
They call the eternal churners of victims,
Ten nights, without regret for the lighted bays!
Sweeter than sour apples to the children
The green ooze spurting through my hull’s pine,
Washed me of vomit and the blue of wine,
Carried away my rudder and my anchor.
Then I bathed in the Poem of the Sea,
Infused with stars, the milk-white spume blends,
Grazing green azures: where ravished, bleached
Flotsam, a drowned man in dream descends.
Where, staining the blue, sudden deliriums
And slow tremors under the gleams of fire,
Stronger than alcohol, vaster than our rhythms,
Ferment the bitter reds of our desire!
I knew the skies split apart by lightning,
Waterspouts, breakers, tides: I knew the night,
The Dawn exalted like a crowd of doves,
I saw what men think they’ve seen in the light!
I saw the low sun, stained with mystic terrors,
Illuminate long violet coagulations,
Like actors in a play, a play that’s ancient,
Waves rolling back their trembling of shutters!
I dreamt the green night of blinded snows,
A kiss lifted slow to the eyes of seas,
The circulation of unheard-of flows,
Sung phosphorus’s blue-yellow awakenings!
For months on end, I’ve followed the swell
That batters at the reefs like terrified cattle,
Not dreaming the Three Marys’ shining feet
Could muzzle with their force the Ocean’s hell!
I’ve struck Floridas, you know, beyond belief,
Where eyes of panthers in human skins,
Merge with the flowers! Rainbow bridles, beneath
the seas’ horizon, stretched out to shadowy fins!
I’ve seen the great swamps boil, and the hiss
Where a whole whale rots among the reeds!
Downfalls of water among tranquilities,
Distances showering into the abyss.
Nacrous waves, silver suns, glaciers, ember skies!
Gaunt wrecks deep in the brown vacuities
Where the giant eels riddled with parasites
Fall, with dark perfumes, from the twisted trees!
I would have liked to show children dolphins
Of the blue wave, the golden singing fish.
– Flowering foams rocked me in my drift,
At times unutterable winds gave me wings.
Sometimes, a martyr tired of poles and zones,
The sea whose sobs made my roilings sweet
Showed me its shadow flowers with yellow mouths
And I rested like a woman on her knees...
Almost an isle, blowing across my sands, quarrels
And droppings of pale-eyed clamorous gulls,
And I scudded on while, over my frayed lines,
Drowned men sank back in sleep beneath my hull!...
Now I, a boat lost in the hair of bays,
Hurled by the hurricane through bird-less ether,
I, whose carcass, sodden with salt-sea water,
No Monitor or Hanseatic vessel could recover:
Freed, in smoke, risen from the violet fog,
I, who pierced the red skies like a wall,
Bearing the sweets that delight true poets,
Lichens of sunlight, gobbets of azure:
Who ran, stained with electric moonlets,
A crazed plank, companied by black sea-horses,
When Julys were crushing with cudgel blows
Skies of ultramarine in burning funnels:
I, who trembled to hear those agonies
Of rutting Behemoths and dark Maelstroms,
Eternal spinner of blue immobilities,
I regret the ancient parapets of Europe!
I’ve seen archipelagos of stars! And isles
Whose maddened skies open for the sailor:
– Is it in depths of night you sleep, exiled,
Million birds of gold, O future Vigour? –
But, truly, I’ve wept too much! The Dawns
Are heartbreaking, each moon hell, each sun bitter:
Fierce love has swallowed me in drunken torpors.
O let my keel break! Tides draw me down!
If I want one pool in Europe, it’s the cold
Black pond where into the scented night
A child squatting filled with sadness launches
A boat as frail as a May butterfly.
Bathed in your languor, waves, I can no longer
Cut across the wakes of cotton ships,
Or sail against the pride of flags, ensigns,
Or swim the dreadful gaze of prison ships.
A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels
Someday I’ll talk about your secret birth-cries,
A, black velvet jacket of brilliant flies
That buzz around the stenches of the cruel,
Gulfs of shadow: E, candour of mists, of tents,
Lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of parsley:
I, purples, bloody salivas, smiles of the lonely
With lips of anger or drunk with penitence:
U, waves, divine shudders of viridian seas,
Peace of pastures, cattle-filled, peace of furrows
Formed on broad studious brows by alchemy:
O, supreme Clarion, full of strange stridencies,
Silences crossed by worlds and by Angels:
O, the Omega, violet ray of her Eyes!
Lord, when the fields are cold,
When, in the abject hamlets,
The long angelus is silent...
On nature, deflowered, old,
Falling from the open sky
Let the lovely rooks sweep by.
Strange army with your stern calls,
Cold winds attack your nests!
You, along the yellowed river-edge,
Over the roads’ with old crosses, fall,
Over the wayside ditches, and the alleys,
Disperse yourselves, then rally!
In thousands, over the fields of France,
Where sleep the dead of yesteryear,
Wheel, then, in the wintry air,
So each traveller, at a glance
Remembers! Be the call to duty,
O our black funereal beauty!
But, saints of heaven, at the oak’s top,
Mast lost in the charm of fading day,
Leave the little warblers of May
For those imprisoned in the copse,
In depths from which one cannot flee,
Who defeat, without a future, see.