Monday, 17 February 2014

Poetry Revisited: Le merle – The Blackbird

(1852)

Un oiseau siffle dans les branches
Et sautille gai, plein d'espoir,
Sur les herbes, de givre blanches,
En bottes jaunes, en frac noir.

C'est un merle, chanteur crédule,
Ignorant du calendrier,
Qui rêve soleil, et module
L'hymne d'avril en février.

Pourtant il vente, il pleut à verse;
L'Arve jaunit le Rhône bleu,
Et le salon, tendu de perse,
Tient tous ses hôtes près du feu.

Les monts sur l'épaule ont l'hermine,
Comme des magistrats siégeant.
Leur blanc tribunal examine
Un cas d'hiver se prolongeant.

Lustrant son aile qu'il essuie,
L'oiseau persiste en sa chanson,
Malgré neige, brouillard et pluie,
Il croit à la jeune saison.

Il gronde l'aube paresseuse
De rester au lit si longtemps
Et, gourmandant la fleur frileuse,
Met en demeure le printemps.

Il voit le jour derrière l'ombre,
Tel un croyant, dans le saint lieu,
L'autel désert, sous la nef sombre,
Avec sa foi voit toujours Dieu.

A la nature il se confie,
Car son instinct pressent la loi.
Qui rit de ta philosophie,
Beau merle, est moins sage que toi !

Théophile Gautier
(1811-1872)

(1852)

A bird from yonder branch at dawn
Is trilling forth a joyful note,
Or hopping o'er the frozen lawn,
In yellow boots and ebon coat.

It is the blackbird credulous.
Little of calendar knows he,
Whose soul, with sunbeams luminous,
Sings April to the snows that be.

Rain sweeps in torrents unrepressed.
The Arve makes dull the Rhone with mire.
The pleasant hall retains its guest
In goodly cheer before the fire.

The mountains have their ermine on,
Each one a mighty magistrate,
And hold grave conference upon
A case of Winter lasting late.

The bird dries well his wing, and long,
Despite the rains, the mists that roll,
Insists upon his little song,
Believes in Spring with all his soul.

He softly chides the slumberous morn
For dallying so long abed,
And bids the shivering flower forlorn
Be bold, and raise aloft its head.

Behind the dark sees day that smiles,
Even as behind the Holy Rod,
When bare the altar, dim the aisles,
The child of faith beholds his God.

He trusts to Nature's purpose high,
Sure of her laws for here and now.
Who laughs at thy philosophy,
Dear blackbird, is less wise than thou!

Translated by Agnes Lee

From: The Complete Works of Théophile Gautier, Volume XXIV: Enamels and Cameos
Cambridge, MA: University Press, John Wilson and Son, 1903

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