Exilic Conditions

One of my favourite poems is The Seafarer , it is linked at the end of this short piece in translation by Ezra Pound. The edition that I own is the Exeter University Press Seafarer ( I will add notes, translation, editor and ISBN later as I am away from my Poetry library). In the meantime, whilst playing with a very elderly book of school-french this morning, I happened upon the phonetic transcription section of the edition which I enjoyed so much that I am adding here a little poem called , Mon Bateau. Though I would gladly add La Cerise and Nocturne also, because they are of such light.


The Oldest Joke’ from the Exeter Cathedral Folio

(Georges Rodenbach)

To live as in exile, to live seeing no one
in the vast desert of a town that is dying,
where one hears nothing but the vague murmur
of an organ sobbing, or the belfry tolling.

To feel oneself remote from souls, from minds,
from all that bears a diadem on its brow;
and without shedding light consume oneself
like a futile lamp in the depths
of dark burial vaults.

To be like a vessel that dreamed of voyage,
triumphal, cheerful, off the red equator
which runs into ice flows of coldness
and feels itself wrecked without leaving a wake.

oh to live this way ! All alone…. to witness
the wilting of the divine soul’s white flowering,
in contempt of all and without prediction,
alone, alone, always alone, observing
one’s own extinction .

Translated from the French by Will Stone.

Interestingly, I met a returned exile today who does not recognise Ireland anymore. He says there is a gentleness that has left the state, I tend to agree with him there.

“The heart’s thought that I on high streams
The salt-wavy tumult traverse alone.
Moaneth alway my mind’s lust
That I fare forth, that I afar hence
Seek out a foreign fastness.
For this there’s no mood-lofty man over earth’s midst,”

excerpted : The Seafarer  , translated by Ezra Pound

{Exeter University Press edition to be added}

Mon Bateau

Quand mon bateau
S’en va sur l’eau
Poussée gaiment
par le bon vent,
je voudrais tant
Etre dedans!

mais quand la bise
la voile brise,
Que le navire
Soudain chavire,
j’aime bien mieux
Lui dire adieu.

A. de Montgolfier

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