Monday, January 28, 2013

ars poetica


     What sayst thou, traveller, of all thou saw'st afar?
        On every tree hangs boredom, ripening to its fall,
     Didst gather it, thou smoking yon thy sad cigar,
        Black, casting an incongruous shadow on the wall?

     Thine eyes are just as dead as ever they have been,
        Unchanged is thy grimace, thy dolefulness is one,
     Thou mind'st one of the wan moon through the rigging seen,
        The wrinkled sea beneath the golden morning sun,

     The ancient graveyard with new gravestones every day,—
        But, come, regale us with appropriate detail,
     Those disillusions weeping at the fountains, say,
        Those new disgusts, just like their brothers, littered stale,

     Those women! Say the glare, the identical dismay
        Of ugliness and evil, always, in all lands,
     And say Love, too,—and Politics, moreover, say,
        With ink-dishonored blood upon their shameless hands.

     And then, above all else, neglect not to recite
        Thy proper feats, thou dragging thy simplicity
     Wherever people love, wherever people fight,
        In such a sad and foolish kind, in verity!

     Has that dull innocence been punished as it should?
        What say'st thou? Man is hard,—but woman? And thy tears,
     Who has been drinking? And into what ear so good
        Dost pour thy woes for it to pour in other ears?

     Ah, others! ah, thyself! Gulled with such curious ease,
        That used to dream (Doth not the soul with laughter fill?)
     One knows not what poetic, delicate decease,—
        Thou sort of angel with the paralytic will!

     But now what are thy plans, thine aims? Art thou of might?
        Or has long shedding tears disqualified thy heart?
     The tree is scarcely hardy, judging it at sight,
        And by thy looks no topping conqueror thou art.

     So awkward, too! With the additional offence
        Of being now a sort of dazed idyllic bard
     That poses in a window, contemplating thence
        The silly noon-day sky with an impressed regard.

     So totally the same in this extreme decay!
        But in thy place a being with some sense, pardy,
     Would wish at least to lead the dance, since he must pay
        The fiddlers,—at some risk of flutt'ring passers-by!

     Canst not, by rummaging within thy consciousness,
        Find some bright vice to bare, as 't were a flashing sword?
     Some gay, audacious vice, which wield with dexterousness,
        And make to shine, and shoot red lightnings Heavenward!

     Hast one, or more? If more, the better! And plunge in,
        And bravely lay about thee, indiscriminate,
     And wear that face of indolence that masks the grin
        Of hate at once full-feasted and insatiate.

     Not well to be a dupe in this good universe,
        Where there is nothing to allure in happiness
     Save in it wriggle aught of shameful and perverse,—
        And not to be a dupe, one must be merciless!

     —Ah, human wisdom, ah, new things have claimed mine eyes,
        And of that past—of weary recollection!—
     Thy voice described, for still more sinister advice,
        All I remember is the evil I have done.

     In all the curious movements of my sad career,
        Of others and myself, the chequered road I trod,
     Of my accounted sorrows, good and evil cheer,
        I nothing have retained except the grace of God!

     If I am punished, 'tis most fit I should be so;
        Played to its end is mortal man's and woman's rôle,—
     But steadfastly I hope I too one day shall know
        The peace and pardon promised every Christian soul.

     Well not to be a dupe in this world of a day,
        But not to be one in the world that hath no end,
     That which it doth behoove the soul to be and stay
        Is merciful, not merciless,—deluded friend.

~WHAT SAYST THOU, TRAVELLER, OF ALL THOU SAW'ST AFAR? ~Paul Verlaine