513. Anna de Noailles ; huit poèmes en anglais

The Trace I wish to Leave

I aim to thrust myself against this life so hard,
And clasp it to me fiercely, leaving such a trace,
That when the sweetness of these days I must discard
The world will keep awhile the warmth of my embrace.
The sea, spread out across the globe so lavishly,
On stormy days my fitful memory will sustain,
And in its myriad, random motions ceaselessly
Preserve the acrid, salty, savour of my pain.

What will be left of me in heath and windswept coomb?
My blazing eyes will set the yellow gorse on fire,
And the cicada perched upon a sprig of broom
Will sound the depth and poignancy of my desire.

Each spring, in emerald meadows where the skylark sings,
In lanes and wayside ditches where wild flowers grow,
The tufted grass will tremble at the touch of unseen wings,
The phantoms of my hands that held them long ago.

My joy and restless passion will not die with me,
Nature will breathe me in, making of me a part
Of all that lives, while sorrowing humanity
Will hold the individual profile of my heart.

The Soul and the Body

The soul was first conceived in order to demean
The body, the domain of dreams and reasoning,
Sole source of our desire, of all that’s heard and seen,
For when it stops, it brings the close of everything.

They foist the soul upon us, so we cannot see
What’s underneath our feet, and in our cowardice
Deny our squalid end, the grim reality
That when the wine is drunk, there’s nothing but the lees.

O shattered bodies, eyes whose fire is at an end,
I shall not now commit the shameful treachery
Against your greatness and your beauty to pretend
That you are as you were for all eternity.

No. I refuse all hope, distrust sublimity,
I am a stranger to your world, and I invite
The chill of your ignoble tombs, so mean, so small,
For I declare, on contemplating that vast night,
That once our blood is cold, it is the end of all.


I have the taste for what is ardent and intense,
Delirious crowds and bodies, a heroic role
In life, such bitter, acrid smells are like incense
To my tumultuous heart and my excessive soul.

From mundane tasks and cares I languish to be free,
Oh to be living now amidst the pent-up might
Of storm and spray, inhale the odour of the sea,
And breathe the morning air that silences the night.

Dawn breaks, the dazzled world returns to life again,
Birds sing, a clamour rises from the street below,
A thousand bustling noises fill my waking brain,
I am a canvas sail the wind swings to and fro.

To fill like this the days that lead towards the tomb,
Bearing a heart that’s swollen like a mellow fruit,
And leaves its juice and scent to beautify the room,
The mark of one who was in pleasure resolute.

To see spread out before me all that life can yield,
And clasp it to me fiercely like an infant boy
Hugging an unknown beast discovered in a field,
Who, ev’n when bitten, bloodstained, still is mad with joy.

To steel oneself for happiness, hand, will and eye,
Scaling the heights and depths of what the heart can bear,
To risk one’s all and the assaults of time defy,
To breathe the sharp and heady Himalayan air ;

To strive to emulate the wheeling sun and moon,
Monarch of golden day and night-time’s silvery queen,
To live as spumes of spray whipped up by a typhoon
Or be the unyielding thorn upon a wind-lashed green.

Sorrow and joy are lifelong comrades travelling home,
My heart reverberates to their pulsating call,
I am an emerald lawn where mating lions roam,
Upon my lips there is the taste of honey and of gall.

And finally I celebrate that ecstasy
Of dying in full strength within the midst of strife,
Because desire exceeds my frame’s capacity,
And what I have inside me bursts the bonds of life.

The Aftermath

Above all, after climaxes the most intense
In our close-knit uniting, frenzied, barbarous,
Reclining side by side, gasping for breath, I sense
The abyss that severs us;

In silence we recline, not understanding why,
After such pent-up fury, longed-for, deep, insane,
So suddenly we find ourselves apart and lie
As separate selves again;

You are beside me but your gaze does not reveal
That eagerness I answered with a fire unknown,
You are a helpless beast gorged with its meal,
A corpse sculpted in stone;

You sleep and do not stir — how can another know
What dream has quieted your restless mind?
But through me yet great gusts of yearning blow
Leaving their mark behind;

I cannot cease from living, O my dearest love!
My warlike frenzy underneath its peaceful air
In desperation searches round me and above
To find a passage there!

And still you lie content! The throbbing ecstasy
Of sadness coursing through my limbs, and that profound
Confusion, nothing of all this in you I see.
My love, my only love! Between yourself and me
There is no common ground.

My Offering to Nature

Sustaining Nature from whom bosom all life springs,
None have adored you with such passion from their birth;
The light of days and all the tenderness of things,
The shining water and the dark and fruitful earth.

I lent against your beauty since my youth began;
Dark forests, mountain pools, the open fertile lands,
These touched my eyes more than the wandering looks of man,
I have the odour of the seasons on my hands.

Your suns I bore as glittering jewels on my brow,
With pride and innocence I answered to your charms,
Your autumn labours matched my childhood play, and how
I wept for joy when clasped within your summers’ arms.

I came to you most trustingly, wanting it so,
Denying sense and reason, be it for good or ill;
The recompense and prize I sought was just to know
Your fervent essence and your cunning animal will.

I am an open flower where bees can make their home,
My life has spread abroad perfume and song and dance,
My morning heart is like a basket filled with loam
And trailing boughs that blooms and foliage enhance.

Like water I reflect the overarching trees,
And willingly, at night, have yielded to that fire
That fills both beasts and men, inspiring without cease
A wild abandonment and a sublime desire.

I hold you breathing at my breast, Nature, my own!
And must I live with shadows and exchange all this
For that drear landscape, grassless, windless and unknown,
Where neither sun nor moon will shine and no love is ?


Leave me among the graves, I wish to linger here,
The dead are in the ground, the day is bright and clear,
I smell sweet odours, water, leafy trees and hay,
The dead are in their death for ever and a day...
My dancing body will be hard to recognize
Quite soon, my temples cold, dark gaps instead of eyes;
Like them the solitary deed I shall perform
Though used to having by my side a body warm.
And all of this must cease ! all must expire!
Mouth, melting glances, kisses, my desire —
I shall become a thing of shadow, will be dumb
When next year’s spring, so green and rosy-cheeked will come,
An avalanche of gold and mounting sap and dew !
Yet I who am so tender-hearted through and through,
So filled with idle hopes and dreams, so languorous,
No longer shall I greet the dawning of each day,
But motionless in sleep for evermore must stay !
Others I cannot know, happy and sensuous,
Young men with maidens at their sides will wander by
And see the labour in the fields, the corn, the vine,
The changing colours of the seasons, whereas I
Will notice nothing — in the grave I shall recline,
And all the sweetness of this life will be a memory…
But you who read these lines will stop and think of me,
You’ll see what I once was before my glow departs;
My smiling ghost will comfort you in your ordeal
For, in your torpor and dejection, you will feel
That my cold cinders hold more passion than your hearts.

The Depths of Life

To grow in freedom as a human tree might grow,
Extending one’s desires to form a canopy,
To feel with one’s bare hands the universal flow
Of sap, in storm and quiet of evening equally.

We live if only sunbeams flit across our face,
So drink the fervid sea-foam mixed with many a tear,
Experience pain and pleasure with the self-same grace,
Vapours from humankind that fill the atmosphere!

To sense with all one’s might air, blood and fire,
Gyrating, swirling, like the African simoom,
Dare to confront the real, but reverence desire,
Be in the dawning day and in the approaching gloom.

As evening dons its purple, hemmed with scarlet frills,
Let flow from your red heart water and flame combined,
And like pale-fingered dawn pressing against the hills
Lie dreaming, at the margins of the world reclined …

Different Kinds of Pradise

Paradise is you, beautiful white cloud-laden sky,
Or you, empty expanse, so lively and demure,
Where green-leaved spreading branches cross and multiply
Like lettering, upright, sloping, flat, ornate or pure,

Spelling out some new masterpiece the world awaits,
A book in space, sweet-scented, melancholy, rare,
A mystical Koran whose wisdom celebrates
The eternal azure and the clear sidereal air.

And paradise is you, far ranging cumulus,
Robe of an absent deity, to whom a flood
Of worn out hopes and fears each day ascend from us,
Vapours of dead desires perfumed by our heart-blood.

You also, garden paths, sombre or debonair,
Given lustre by the sun, or by the morning breeze,
Where multi-coloured flowers let down their twisted hair,
And idly preen themselves in carefree sensual ease.

You also are a paradise, earth that will cover me,
A mute unthinking paradise of dust and clay,
When death at length destroys the languid mystery
That binds me, oh so gently, to the beauty of the day…