Translated from the French of Paul Valéry by Tim Smith-Laing
Cimetière Marin (Stanzas One to Eight)
This peaceful roof where doves couple and hum
shakes with the heat, through the pine trees and tombs
as noon the arbiter unfolds in fire
the need that the sea begin again, endlessly:
this is the final recompense for thoughts
that looked on the wrong calmness of the gods.
What perfect shifts of brightnesses consume
myriad diamonds of imperceptible foam,
and what peace, seemingly conceived in mists!
When a sun settles itself on the abyss,
an eternal cause’s pure achievements glow,
Time turns to flecked fire, what was Dreamt, to known.
Calm mass of arrogance, close-kept trove of light,
this tide is Minerva’s simplest shrine, an Eye
of visible reserve, upturned, restraining
such a store of rest beneath its veil of flames,
O my silence! … constructed in the soul,
but, Roof, golden summit to a thousand tiles.
Time’s temple, summed in a sigh’s loneliness,
I accustom myself to the cliff’s crest,
surrounded by the sight of burning sea;
and, as if it were my highest offering
to the gods, the flecked fires sow, serene,
upon this height, a sovereign disdain.
As the fruit concludes itself in pleasure,
as delight springs from its being-no-more,
between the teeth that eat its form away,
I snuff the smoke of my future in this place,
and the sky sings to the soul in its teeth
whispers of sands shifting beneath the sea.
Handsome sky, I am abandoning myself
to a shining vacuum beneath your truth,
after so much pride, after such strange lengths
of idleness, but full, heaven, of strength,
look how I change! My shadow passes over
the graves and tames me to its frail shiver.
You have your weapons, light, are merciless:
I uphold your admirable justice,
soul stripped before the brands of equinox!
Pure I return you unchanged to your source
to see yourself! … But reflection assumes
to the light the same again, left in gloom.
By a heart, at the wellspring of the poem,
in myself, to myself, for me alone,
between the pure event and the vacuum,
I wait the echo, ever still to come
of the grandeur within me, in my soul,
a sombre, bitter, sonorous hollow.