The Drunken Boat
|As I was descending impassible rivers,
I no longer felt myself being towed by haul lines:
Yelping redskins were using the crew for targets,
having nailed them naked to painted poles.
I was indifferent to all the equipage,
cargo of Flemish grain or English cottons.
When this ruckus with my crew had ceased,
the Rivers let me go where I wanted.
In the angry boiling of the surf,
More insensible than children's brains, the other winter
I ran. And unmoored peninsulas
have not endured a more triumphant hubbub.
The tempest blessed my sea awakenings.
Lighter than a cork I danced on waves,
named eternal rollers of victims,
ten nights without missing the droll flash of lanterns.
Sweeter than the flesh of hard apples to children,
the green water entered my coffin shell
and washed away the spots of blue wine
and vomit, scattering rudder and grappling-hook.
And ever since I have bathed in the Poem
of the Sea, infused with stars and all milky,
devouring the green azures; where–blenched and ravished
flotsam–now and then a pensive drowned man sinks;
Where, suddenly tingeing the blueness, deliriums
and slow rhythms under the rosy gleams of day,
stronger than alcohol, larger than our lyres,
the bitter redness of love swells!
I know the skies cracking with lightning, and the waterspouts
and the breakers and the currents; I know the evening,
and the dawn exalted like a throng of doves,
And I have often seen that which man thought he saw.
I saw the low sun spotted with mystic horrors,
shining with long violet curdlings,
looking like actors in very ancient dramas,
the waves rolling far off their rattling shutters.
I dreamed the night green with dazzling snows,
a kiss sluggishly rising to the eyes of the sea,
the circulation of unheard of saps,
and the yellow and blue flaring of singing phosphorous.
I followed, for pregnant months, the surge
just like hysterical cows, assaulting the reefs,
without dreaming that the luminous feet of the Marys
could curb the muzzle of the wheezing oceans.
I struck, you know, unbelievable Floridas
mingling among flowers with panther eyes and human
skin! Rainbows stretched like bridles
under the horizon of seas toward pale green herds.
I saw enormous swamps fermenting, fish-traps
where a whole Leviathan rots among canes!
Thundering water in the midst of a calm sea,
and the distances cataracting toward the abyss.
Glaciers, suns of silver, pearly waves, skies of live coals!
Hideous crashes at the bottom of brown gulfs
where giant serpents devoured by bugs
drop from gnarled trees with black scents!
I would have liked to show children those iridescent fish
of the blue wave, those fish of gold, those singing fish.
–Spumes of flowers lulled me seaward
and ineffable winds winged me away by the moment.
At times, a martyr wearied of poles and zones,
the sea whose sobs made my rolling sweet
raised toward me her dark flowers with yellow suckers
and I stayed that way like a woman on her knees ...
Almost an island, tossing up on my shores the quarrels
and the dung of squawking birds with gold eyes.
And I rowed out, when passing through my frail ropes
drowned men sank backwards to sleep!
Now me, a boat lost in the hair of coves,
thrown by the hurricane into the ether without birds.
Me, carcass drunk with water that Monitors
and sails of the Hansa would not fish out;
Free, smoking, plumed with violet clouds,
Me who bored through the sky growing red like a wall
bearing –jam for good poets–
lichens of sunlight and azure snot;
Who ran, splattered with small electric moons,
Drunken plank, surrounded by black seahorses,
when Julys made ultramarine skies with burning throats
reel under the blows of cudgels;
Me who trembled, hearing fifty leagues off
the moan of rutting Behemoths and turbid Maelstroms,
Eternal spinner of blue immobilities,
I miss the Europe of ancient parapets!
I have seen sidereal archipelagos! and islands
where delirious skies are open to the oarsman:
–In these bottomless nights do you sleep and exile yourself,
million birds of gold, O future Health?
But, surely I have cried too much! Dawns feel awful.
Every moon is hateful and every sun bitter.
Acrid love has swollen me with enervating torpors.
O shatter my keel! O rush me to the sea!
If I want a water of Europe, it is the black,
cold puddle where towards sweet smelling evening
a child full of sadness stoops and lets loose
a sailboat as frail as a May butterfly.
Bathed in your languors, o waves, I can no longer
steal away in the wake of cotton freighters,
nor traverse the pomp of flags and flames,
nor swim under the ghastly eyes of prison ships.
--Trans. Don Wellman
What cities! What a people this is for whom the Alleghenies
and these Lebanons of dream have arisen! Chalets of crystal and wood that
move on invisible rails and pulleys. Ancient craters girdled by colossi
and copper palm trees roar melodiously in the fires. Amorous revels ring
out over the canals suspended behind chalets. The play of chimes clamors
in the gorges. Guilds of giant singers congregate in robes and oriflammes
as dazzling as the light of the summits. On platforms in the midst of whirlpools,
the Rolands trumpet their valor. On footbridges over the abyss and on the
roofs of the inns the fire of the sky adorns the masts with flags. The
collapse of apotheosis joins the fields to the highlands where seraphic
centauresses spin among the avalanches. Above the level of the highest
crests, a sea troubled by the eternal birth of Venus, heavy with Orpheonic
fleets and the murmur of pearls and precious shells; –he sea grows somber
sometimes with fatal flashes. On the slopes, harvests of flowers large
as our weapons and our vessels bellow. Processions of Mabs in russet dresses,
opaline, ascend from the ravines. Up their, there feet in the waterfall
and the brambles, stags suck at Diana's breast. The Bacchantes of the suburbs
sob and the moon burns and howls. Venus enters the caves of blacksmiths
and hermits. Groups of belfries sing the ideas of the peoples. From castles
built of bone issues unknown music. All the legends evolve and elks rush
through the towns. The paradise of storms crumbles. The savages dance ceaselessly
the revels of the night. And, one hour, I went down into the bustle of
a boulevard in Baghdad where companies sang the joy of the new work under
a heavy breeze, circulating without being able to escape the fabulous phantoms
of the mountains where we were to have met again.
What strong arms, what lovely hour will give me back this region from
which come my slumbers and my slightest movements?
--Trans. Marjorie Perloff