Audio : L’Offrande à la Nature by Anna de Noailles read by Julia Slade translation by Sebastian Hayes

December 14, 2012 at 8:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Click here to hear the poem read in French. English translation follows.
L’offrande à la nature t1

 L’Offrande à la Nature

Anna de Noailles Nature au cœur profond sur qui les cieux reposent,
Nul n’aura comme moi si chaudement aimé,
La lumière des jours et la douceur des choses,
L’eau luisante et la terre où la vie a germé.

La forêt, les étangs et les plaines fécondes
Ont plus touché mes yeux que les regards humains,
Je me suis appuyé à la beauté du monde
Ey j’ai tenu l’odeur des saisons dans mes mains.

J’ai porté vos soleils ainsi qu’une couronne
Sur mon front plein d’orgueil et de simplicité,
Mes jeux ont égalé les travaux de l’automne
Et j’ai pleuré d’amour aux bras de vos étés.

Je suis venue à vous sans peur et sans prudence
Vous donnant ma raison pour le bien et le mal,
Ayant pour toute joie et toute connaissance
Votre âme impétueuse aux ruses d’animal.

Comme une fleur ouverte où logent des abeilles
Ma vie a répandu des parfums et des chants,
Et mon cœur matineux est comme une corbeille
Qui vois offre du lierre et des rameaux penchants.

Soumise ainsi que l’onde où l’arbre se reflète,
J’ai connu des désirs qui brûlent dans vos soirs
Et qui font naître au cœur des hommes et des bêtes
La belle impatience et le divin vouloir.

Je vous tiens toute vive entre mes bras, Nature!
Ah! faut-il que mes yeux s’emplissent d’ombre un jour,
Et que j’aille au pays sans vent et sans verdure
Que ne visitent pas la lumière et l’amour…

Anna de Noailles

  My Offering to Nature

Sustaining Nature from whom bosom all life springs,
None have adored you with such passion from their birth;
The light of days and all the tenderness of things,
The shining water and the dark and fruitful earth.

I lent against your beauty since my youth began;
Dark forests, mountain pools, the open fertile lands,
These touched my eyes more than the wandering looks of man,
I have the odour of the seasons on my hands.

Your suns I bore as a tiara on my brow,
With pride and innocence I answered to your charms,
Your autumn labours matched my childhood play, and how
I wept for joy when clasped within your summers’ arms.

I came to you most trustingly, wanting it so,
Denying sense and reason, be it for good or ill;
The recompense and prize I sought was just to know
Your fervent essence and your cunning animal will.

I am an open flower where bees can make their home,
My life has spread abroad perfume and song and dance,
My morning heart is like a basket filled with loam
And trailing boughs that blooms and foliage enhance.

Like water I reflect the overarching trees,
And willingly, at night, have yielded to that fire
That fills both beasts and men, inspiring without cease
A wild abandonment and a sublime desire.

I hold you breathing at my breast, Nature, my own!
And must I live with shadows and exchange all this
For that drear landscape, grassless, windless and unknown,
Where neither sun nor moon will shine and no love is ?

Translated by Sebastian Hayes

 

 

 

 

 

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Audio : L’âme et le Corps by Anna de Noailles translated by Sebastian Hayes

December 14, 2012 at 7:59 pm (Uncategorized)

Click here to listen to the poem read in French by Julia Slade. English translation follows the original French.

L’âme et le corps 1

L’Ame et le Corps 

Anna de Noailles Ils ont inventé l’âme afin que l’on abaisse
Le corps, unique lieu de rêve et de raison,
Asile du désir, de l’image et des sons,
Et par qui tout est mort dès le moment qu’il cesse.

Ils nous imposent l’âme, afin que lâchement
On détourne les yeux du sol, et qu’on oublie
Après l’injurieux ensevelissement,
Que sous le vin vivant tout est funèbre lie.

— Je ne commettrai pas envers votre bonté
Envers votre grandeur, secrète mais charnelle,
O corps désagrégés, o confuses prunelles,
La trahison de croire à votre éternité.

Je refuse l’espoir, l’altitude, les ailes,
Mais étrangère au monde et souhaitant le froid
De vos affreux tombeaux, trop bas, trop étroits,
J’affirme, en recherchant vos nuits vastes et vaines,
Qu’il n’est rien qui survive à la chaleur des veines !

Anna de Noailles

 

    The Soul and the Body

The soul was first conceived in order to demean
The body, the domain of dreams and reasoning,
Sole source of our desire, of all that’s heard and seen,
For when it stops, it marks the close of everything.

They foist the soul upon us, so we cannot see
What’s underneath our feet, and in our cowardice
Deny our squalid end, the grim reality
That when the wine is drunk, there’s nothing but the lees.

O shattered bodies, eyes whose fire is at an end,
I shall not now commit the shameful  treachery
Against your greatness and your beauty to pretend
That you are as you were for all eternity.

No. I refuse all hope, distrust sublimity,
I am an outcast from your world and  I invite
The chill of your ignoble tombs, so mean, so small,
For I declare, on contemplating that vast night,
That once our blood is cold, it is the end of all.

Translated by Sebastian Hayes

 

 

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The Trace I wish to Leave by Anna de Noailles

December 14, 2012 at 7:49 pm (Poetry, Uncategorized)

L’Empreinte

The Trace I wish to Leave

I aim to thrust myself against this life so hard,
And clasp it to me fiercely, leaving such a trace,
That when the sweetness of these days I must discard
The world will keep awhile the warmth of my embrace.

The sea, spread out across the globe so lavishly,
On stormy days my fitful memory will sustain,
And in its myriad, random motions ceaselessly
Preserve the acrid, salty, savour of my pain.

What will be left of me in heath and windswept coomb?
My blazing eyes will set the yellow gorse on fire,
And the cicada perched upon a sprig of broom
Will sound the depth and poignancy of my desire.

Each spring, in emerald meadows where the skylark sings,
In lanes and wayside ditches where wild flowers grow,
The tufted  grass will tremble at the touch of unseen wings,
The phantoms of my hands that held them long ago.

My joy and restless passion will not die with me,
Nature will breathe me in, making of me a part
Of all that lives, while sorrowing humanity
Will hold the individual profile of my heart.

Anna de Noailles

Click here to hear the poem read in French by Julia Slade
L’Empreinte   

L’Empreinte

Je m’appuierai si bien et si fort à la vie,
D’une si rude étreinte et d’un tel serrement,
Qu’avant que la douceur du jour me soit ravie
Elle s’échauffera de mon enlacement.

La mer, abondamment sur le monde étalée,
Gardera, dans la route errante de son eau,
Le goût de ma douleur qui est âcre et salée
Et sur les jours mouvants roule comme un bateau.

Je laisserai de moi dans le pli des collines
La chaleur de mes yeux qui les ont vu fleurir,
Et la cigale assise aux branches de l’épine
Fera vibrer le cri strident de mon désir.

Dans les champs printaniers la verdure nouvell
Et le gazon touffu sur le bord des fossés
Sentiront palpiter et fuir comme des ailes
Les ombres de mes mains qui les ont tant pressés.

La nature qui fut ma joie et mon domaine
Respirera dans l’air ma persistante ardeur,
Et sur l’abattement de la tristesse humaine
Je laisserai la forme unique de mon cœur…

Anna de Noailles 

 

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Anniversary Poem for Anna de Noailles by Roger Hunt Carroll

November 14, 2012 at 11:29 am (Uncategorized)

ANNIVERSAIRE CXXXVI   Anna de Noailles   15 novembre 1876

Photo of Anna de Noailles

Anna de Noailles

She has triumph enough of her own,
knowing now it’s only when she passes
the point of no return that she can sing
of an imagined returning to her past.

So many things slip beyond importance—
she lets them go, all of them, without catalogue
or droll recitation, in proper sequence or not:
making an inventory is not in her scheme.

It’s sufficient for her to recall her desire
as vividly cast in momentary memory
as it was in it’s first white heat;
that’s the heat she remembers most of all.

For her there are graceful trappings, stage sets,
fixed and appropriate for her scene—
flowers, yes, flowers she’ll always have
in terraced gardens stretching toward her lake.

She waves at them in their variegated display,
then turns to her desk to take her pen
in her powerful hand and scratch down
how night’s appearing just might shield day.

Roger Hunt Carroll  13 November 2012

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Anna de Noailles : Eight Poems translated by Sebastian Hayes

June 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm (Literary Criticism, Philosophy, Poetry, Uncategorized)

The Trace I wish to Leave
I aim to thrust myself against this life so hard,
And clasp it to me fiercely, leaving such a trace,
That when the sweetness of these days I must discard
The world will keep awhile the warmth of my embrace.

The sea, spread out across the globe so lavishly,
On stormy days my fitful memory will sustain,
And in its myriad, random motions ceaselessly
Preserve the acrid, salty, savour of my pain.

What will be left of me in heath and windswept coomb?
My blazing eyes will set the yellow gorse on fire,
And the cicada perched upon a sprig of broom
Will sound the depth and poignancy of my desire.

Each spring, in emerald meadows where the skylark sings,
In lanes and wayside ditches where wild flowers grow,
The tufted  grass will tremble at the touch of unseen wings,
The phantoms of my hands that held them long ago.

My joy and restless passion will not die with me,
Nature will breathe me in, making of me a part
Of all that lives, while sorrowing humanity
Will hold the individual profile of my heart.
Anna de Noailles

Click here to hear the poem read in French by Julia Slade.
L’Empreinte

L’Empreinte

Je m’appuierai si bien et si fort à la vie,
D’une si rude étreinte et d’un tel serrement,
Qu’avant que la douceur du jour me soit ravie
Elle s’échauffera de mon enlacement.

La mer, abondamment sur le monde étalée,
Gardera, dans la route errante de son eau,
Le goût de ma douleur qui est âcre et salée
Et sur les jours mouvants roule comme un bateau.

Je laisserai de moi dans le pli des collines
La chaleur de mes yeux qui les ont vu fleurir,
Et la cigale assise aux branches de l’épine
Fera vibrer le cri strident de mon désir.

Dans les champs printaniers la verdure nouvell
Et le gazon touffu sur le bord des fossés
Sentiront palpiter et fuir comme des ailes
Les ombres de mes mains qui les ont tant pressés.

La nature qui fut ma joie et mon domaine
Respirera dans l’air ma persistante ardeur,
Et sur l’abattement de la tristesse humaine
Je laisserai la forme unique de mon cœur…

Anna de Noailles

The Soul and the Body

The soul was first conceived in order to demean
The body, the domain of dreams and reasoning,
Sole source of our desire, of all that’s heard and seen,
For when it stops, it brings the close of everything.

They foist the soul upon us, so we cannot see
What’s underneath our feet, and in our cowardice
Deny our squalid end, the grim reality
That when the wine is drunk, there’s nothing but the lees.

O shattered bodies, eyes whose fire is at an end,
I shall not now commit the shameful  treachery
Against your greatness and your beauty to pretend
That you are as you were for all eternity.

No. I refuse all hope, distrust sublimity,
I am a stranger to your world, and  I invite
The chill of your ignoble tombs, so mean, so small,
For I declare, on contemplating that vast night,
That once our blood is cold, it is the end of all.

Anna de Noailles 

   

            L’Ame et le Corps

Ils ont inventé l’âme afin que l’on abaisse
Le corps, unique lieu de rêve et de raison,
Asile du désir, de l’image et des sons,
Et par qui tout est mort dès le moment qu’il cesse.

Ils nous imposent l’âme, afin que lâchement
On détourne les yeux du sol, et qu’on oublie
Après l’injurieux ensevelissement,
Que sous le vin vivant tout est funèbre lie.

— Je ne commettrai pas envers votre bonté
Envers votre grandeur, secrète mais charnelle,
O corps désagrégés, o confuses prunelles,
La trahison de croire à votre éternité.

Je refuse l’espoir, l’altitude, les ailes,
Mais étrangère au monde et souhaitant le froid
De vos affreux tombeaux, trop bas, trop étroits,
J’affirme, en recherchant vos nuits vastes et vaines,
Qu’il n’est rien qui survive à la chaleur des veines !

Anna de Noailles

Life-Force

I have the taste for what is ardent and intense,
Delirious crowds and bodies, a heroic role
In life, such bitter, acrid smells are like incense
To my tumultuous heart and my excessive soul.

From mundane tasks and cares I languish to be free,
Oh to be living now amidst the pent-up might
Of storm and spray, inhale the odour of the sea,
And breathe the morning air that silences the night.

Dawn breaks, the dazzled world returns to life again,
Birds sing, a clamour rises from the street below,
A thousand bustling noises fill my waking brain,
I am a canvas sail the wind swings to and fro.

To fill like this the days that lead towards the tomb,
Bearing a heart that’s swollen like a mellow fruit,
And leaves its juice and scent to beautify the room,
The mark of one who was in pleasure resolute.

To see spread out before me all that life can yield,
And clasp it to me fiercely like an infant boy
Hugging an unknown beast discovered in a field,
Who, ev’n when bitten, bloodstained, still is mad with joy.

To steel oneself for happiness, hand, will and eye,
Scaling the heights and depths of what the heart can bear,
To risk one’s all and the assaults of time defy,
To breathe the sharp and heady Himalayan air ;

To strive to emulate the wheeling sun and moon,
Monarch of golden day and night-time’s silvery queen,
To live as spumes of spray whipped up by a typhoon
Or be the unyielding thorn upon a wind-lashed green.

Sorrow and joy are lifelong comrades travelling home,
My heart reverberates to their pulsating call,
I am an emerald lawn where mating lions roam,
Upon my lips there is the taste of honey and of gall.

And finally I celebrate that ecstasy
Of dying in full strength within the midst of  strife,
Because desire exceeds my frame’s capacity,
And what I have inside me bursts the bonds of life.

                                        Anna de Noailles

              The Aftermath

Above all, after climaxes the most intense
In our close-knit uniting, frenzied, barbarous,
Reclining side by side, gasping for breath, I sense
The abyss that severs us;

In silence we recline, not understanding why,
After such pent-up fury, longed-for, deep, insane,
So suddenly we find ourselves apart and lie
As separate selves again;

You are beside me but your gaze does not reveal
That eagerness I answered with a fire unknown,
You are a helpless beast gorged with its meal,
A corpse sculpted in stone;

You sleep and do  not stir — how can another know
What dream has quieted your restless mind?
But through me yet great gusts of yearning blow
Leaving their mark behind;

I cannot cease from living, O my dearest love!
My warlike frenzy underneath its peaceful air
In desperation searches round me and above
To find a passage there!

And still you lie content! The throbbing ecstasy
Of sadness coursing through my limbs, and that profound
Confusion, nothing of all this in you I see.
My love, my only love! Between yourself and me
There is no common ground.
Anna de Noailles

My Offering to Nature

sustaining Nature from whom bosom all life springs,
None have adored you with such passion from their birth;
The light of days and all the tenderness of things,
The shining water and the dark and fruitful earth.

I lent against your beauty since my youth began;
Dark forests, mountain pools, the open fertile lands,
These touched my eyes more than the wandering looks of man,
I have the odour of the seasons on my hands.

Your suns I bore as glittering jewels on my brow,
With pride and innocence I answered to your charms,
Your autumn labours matched my childhood play, and how
I wept for joy when clasped within your summers’ arms.

I came to you most trustingly, wanting it so,
Denying sense and reason, be it for good or ill;
The recompense and prize I sought was just to know
Your fervent essence and your cunning animal will.

I am an open flower where bees can make their home,
My life has spread abroad perfume and song and dance,
My morning heart is like a basket filled with loam
And trailing boughs that blooms and foliage enhance.

Like water I reflect the overarching trees,
And willingly, at night, have yielded to that fire
That fills both beasts and men, inspiring without cease
A wild abandonment and a sublime desire.

I hold you breathing at my breast, Nature, my own!
And must I live with shadows and exchange all this
For that drear landscape, grassless, windless and unknown,
Where neither sun nor moon will shine and no love is ?

 Anna de Noailles

                   Regrets

Leave me among the graves, I wish to linger here,
The dead are in the ground, the day is bright and clear,
I smell sweet odours, water, leafy trees and hay,
The dead are in their death for ever and a day…
My dancing body will be hard to recognize
Quite soon, my temples cold, dark gaps instead of eyes;
Like them the solitary deed I shall perform
Though used to having by my side a body warm.
And all of this must cease ! all must expire!
Mouth, melting glances, kisses, my desire —
I shall become a thing of shadow, will be dumb
When next year’s spring, so green and rosy-cheeked will come,
An avalanche of  gold and mounting sap and dew !
Yet I who am so tender-hearted through and through,
So filled with idle hopes and dreams, so languorous,
No longer shall I greet the dawning of each day,
But motionless in sleep for evermore must stay !
Others I cannot know, happy and sensuous,
Young men with maidens at their sides will wander by
And see the labour in the fields, the corn, the vine,
The changing colours of the seasons, whereas I
Will notice nothing —  in the grave I shall recline,
And all the sweetness of this life will be a memory…
But you who read these lines will stop and think of me,
You’ll see what I once was before my glow departs;
My smiling ghost will comfort you in your ordeal
For, in your torpor and dejection, you will feel
That my cold cinders hold more passion than your hearts.

Anna de Noailles

               The Depths of Life

To grow in freedom as a human tree might grow,
Extending one’s desires to form a canopy,
To feel with one’s bare hands the universal flow
Of sap, in storm and quiet of evening equally.

We live if only sunbeams flit across our face,
So drink the fervid sea-foam mixed with many a tear,
Experience pain and pleasure with the self-same grace,
Vapours from humankind that fill the atmosphere!

To sense with all one’s might air, blood and fire,
Gyrating, swirling, like the African simoom,
Dare to confront the real, but reverence desire,
Be in the dawning day and in the approaching gloom.

As evening dons its purple, hemmed with scarlet frills,
Let flow from your red heart water and flame combined,
And like pale-fingered dawn pressing against the hills
Lie dreaming, at the margins of the world reclined …

Anna de Noailles

       Different Kinds of Pradise

Paradise is you, beautiful white cloud-laden sky,
Or you, empty expanse, so lively and demure,
Where green-leaved spreading branches cross and multiply
Like lettering, upright, sloping, flat, ornate or pure,

Spelling out some new masterpiece the world awaits,
A book in space, sweet-scented, melancholy, rare,
A mystical Koran whose wisdom celebrates
The eternal azure and the clear sidereal air.

And paradise is you, far ranging cumulus,
Robe of an absent deity, to whom a flood
Of worn out hopes and fears each day ascend from us,
Vapours of dead desires perfumed by our heart-blood.

You also, garden paths, sombre or debonair,
Given lustre by the sun, or by the morning breeze,
Where multi-coloured flowers let down their twisted hair,
And idly preen themselves in carefree sensual ease.

You also are a paradise, earth that will cover me,
A mute unthinking paradise of dust and clay,
When death at length destroys the languid mystery
That binds me, oh so gently, to the beauty of the day…

Anna de Noailles

                L’Exaltation

Le goût  de l’héroïque et du passionnel
Qui flotte autour des corps, des sons, des foules vives,
Touche avec la brûlure et la saveur du sel
Mon cœur tumultueux et mon âme excessive.

Loin des simples travaux et des soucis amers,
J’aspire hardiment la chaude violence
Qui souffle avec le bruit et l’odeur de la mer,
Je suis l’air matinal d’où s’enfuit le silence ;

L’aurore qui renaît dans l’éblouissement,
La nature, le bois, les houles de la rue
M’emplissent de leurs cris et de leurs mouvements ;
Je suis comme une voile où la brise se rue.

Ah ! vivre ainsi les jours qui mènent au tombeau,
Avoir le cœur gonflé comme le fruit qu’on presse
Et qui laisse couler son arome et son eau,
Loger l’espoir fécond et la claire allégresse !

Serrer entre ses bras le monde et ses désirs
Comme un enfant qui tient une bête retorse,
Et qui mordu, saignant, est ivre du plaisir
De sentir contre soi sa chaleur et sa force.

Accoutumer ses yeux, son vouloir et ses mains
À tenter le bonheur que le risque accompagne ;
Habiter le sommet des sentiments humains
Où l’air est âpre et vif comme sur la montagne.

Être ainsi que la lune et soleil levant
Les hôtes du jour d’or et de la nuit limpide ;
Être le bois touffu qui lutte dans le vent
Et les flots écumeux que l’ouragon dévide !

La joie et la douleur sont de grands compagnons,
Mon âme qui contient leurs battements farouches
Est comme une pelouse où marchent des lions…
J’ai le goût de l’azur et du vent dans la bouche.

Et c’est aussi l’extase et la pleine vigueur
Que de mourir un soir, vivace, inassouvie,
Lorsque le désir est plus large que le cœur
Et le plaisir plus rude et plus fort que la vie…

Anna de Noailles

       C’est après les moments…

C’ est après les moments les plus bouleversés
De l’étroite union acharnée et barbare,
Que, gisant côte a côte, et le front renversé
Je ressens ce qui nous sépare!

Tous deux nous nous taisons, ne sachant pas comment,
Après cette fureur souhaitée, et suprême,
Chacun de nous a pu, soudain et simplement,
Hélas! redevenir soi-même.

Vous êtes près de moi, je ne reconnais pas
Vos yeux qui me semblaient brûler sous mes paupières;
Comme un faible animal gorgé de son repas,
Comme un mort sculpté sur sa pierre,

Vous rêvez immobile, et je ne puis savoir
Quel songe satisfait votre esprit vaste et calme,
Et moi je sens encore un indicible espoir
Bercer sur moi ses jeunes palmes!

Je ne puis pas cesser de vivre, mon amour!
Ma guerrière folie, avec son masque sage,
Même dans le repos veut par mille détours
Se frayer encore un passage!

Et je vous vois content! Ma force nostalgique
Ne  surprend pas en vous ce muet désarroi
Dans lequel se débat ma tristesse extatique —
Que peut-il y avoir, ô mon amour unique,
De commun entre vous et moi!

Anna de Noailles

L’Offrande a la Nature

Nature au cœur profond sur qui les cieux reposent,
Nul n’aura comme moi si chaudement aimé,
La lumière des jours et la douceur des choses,
L’eau luisante et la terre où la vie a germé.

La forêt, les étangs et les plaines fécondes
Ont plus touché mes yeux que les regards humains,
Je me suis appuyé à la beauté du monde
Et j’ai tenu l’odeur des saisons dans mes mains.

J’ai porté vos soleils ainsi qu’une couronne
Sur mon front plein d’orgueil et de simplicité,
Mes jeux ont égalé les travaux de l’automne
Et j’ai pleuré d’amour aux bras de vos étés.

Je suis venue à vous sans peur et sans prudence
Vous donnant ma raison pour le bien et le mal,
Ayant pour toute joie et toute connaissance
Votre âme impétueuse aux ruses d’animal.

Comme une fleur ouverte où logent des abeilles
Ma vie a répandu des parfums et des chants,
Et mon cœur matineux est comme une corbeille
Qui vois offre du lierre et des rameaux penchants.

Soumise ainsi que l’onde où l’arbre se reflète,
J’ai connu des désirs qui brûlent dans vos soirs
Et qui font naître au cœur des hommes et des bêtes
La belle impatience et le divin vouloir.

Je vous tiens toute vive entre mes bras, Nature!
Ah! faut-il que mes yeux s’emplissent d’ombre un jour,
Et que j’aille au pays sans vent et sans verdure
Que ne visitent pas la lumière et l’amour…

Anna de Noailles

                      Regrets

Allez, je veux rester seule avec les tombeaux :
Les morts sont sous la terre et le matin est beau,
L’air a l’odeur de l’eau, de l’herbe, du feuillage,
Les morts sont dans la mort pour le reste de l’âge…
Un jour, mon corps dansant sera semblable à eux,
J’aurai l’air de leur front, le vide de leurs yeux,
J’accomplirai cet acte unique et solitaire,
Moi qui n’ai pas dormi seule, aux jours de la terre !
Tout ce qui doit mourir, tout ce qui doit cesser,
La bouche, le regard, le désir, le baiser !
Etre la chose d’ombre et l’être de silence
Tandis que le printemps vert et vermeil s’élance
Et monte trempé d’or, de sève et de moiteur !
Avoir eu comme moi le cœur si doux, le cœur
Plein de plaisir, d’espoir, de rêve, et de mollesse
Et ne plus s’attendrir de ce que l’aube cesse ;
Etre au fond du repos l’éternité du temps…
D’autres alors seront vivants, joyeux, contents,
Des hommes marcheront auprès des jeunes filles,
Ils verront des labeurs, des moissons, des faucilles,
La couleur délicate et changeante des mois.
Moi, je ne verrai plus, je serai morte, moi,
Je ne saurai plus rien de la douceur de vivre…
Mais ceux-là qui liront les pages de mon livre,
Sachant ce que mon âme et mes yeux ont été,
Vers mon ombre riante et pleine de clarté
Viendront, le cœur blessé de langueur et d’envie,
Car ma cendre sera plus chaude que leur vie…

Anna de Noailles

         La Vie Profonde

Etre dans la nature ainsi qu’un arbre humain,
Étendre ses désirs comme un profond feuillage,
Et sentir par la nuit paisible et par l’orage,
La sève universelle affluer dans ses mains !

Vivre, avec les rayons du soleil sur la face,
Boire le sel ardent des embruns et des pleurs,
Et goûter chaudement la joie et la douleur
Qui font une buée humaine dans l’espace !

Sentir, dans son cœur vif, l’air, le feu et le sang,
Tourbillonner ainsi que le vent sur la terre  —
S’élever au réel et pencher au mystère,
Être le jour qui monte et l’ombre qui descend.

Comme du pourpre soir aux couleurs de cerise,
Laisser du cœur vermeil couler la flamme et l’eau,
Et comme l’aube claire appuyée au coteau
Avoir l’âme qui rêve, au bord du monde assise…

Anna de Noailles

           Les Paradis

Le paradis, c’est vous, beaux cieux lourds de nuages,
Cieux vides, mais si vifs, si bons et si charmants,
Où les arbres, avec de longs et verts jambages,
Pointus, larges, légers, agités ou dormants,

Écrivent je ne sais quelle suprême histoire,
Quel livre de l’espace, odorant, triste et vain,
Quel mystique Koran, qui relate la gloire
De l’azur éternel et de l’éther divin.

Le paradis, c’est vous, voyageuse nuée,
Robe aux plis balancés d’un dieu toujours absent,
Vers qui montent sans fin, ardeur exténuée,
Les vapeurs du désir et le parfum du sang.

C’est vous le paradis, jardins gais ou maussades,
Lustrés par le soleil ou le vent du matin,
Où les fleurs de couleur déroulent leurs torsades,
Et jouissent en paix du sensuel instinct ;

Et c’est vous, sol poudreux, argileux, tiède terre,
Le paradis naïf et muet qui m’attend,
Lorsque la mort viendra rompre le mol mystère
Qui me lie, ô douceur ! à la beauté du temps…

Anna de Noailles

         L’Empreinte

Je m’appuierai si bien et si fort à la vie,
D’une si rude étreinte et d’un tel serrement,
Qu’avant que la douceur du jour me soit ravie
Elle s’échauffera de mon enlacement.

La mer, abondamment sur le monde étalée,
Gardera, dans la route errante de son eau,
Le goût de ma douleur qui est âcre et salée
Et sur les jours mouvants roule comme un bateau.

Je laisserai de moi dans le pli des collines
La chaleur de mes yeux qui les ont vu fleurir,
Et la cigale assise aux branches de l’épine
Fera vibrer le cri strident de mon désir.

Dans les champs printaniers la verdure nouvell
Et le gazon touffu sur le bord des fossés
Sentiront palpiter et fuir comme des ailes
Les ombres de mes mains qui les ont tant pressés.

La nature qui fut ma joie et mon domaine
Respirera dans l’air ma persistante ardeur,
Et sur l’abattement de la tristesse humaine
Je laisserai la forme unique de mon cœur…

Anna de Noailles


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Persephone and Anna de Noailles

March 2, 2010 at 7:26 pm (Uncategorized)

Persephone (Roman Proserpine) is,  you may recall, the goddess associated with the seasonal death and rebirth of Nature. Daughter of Demeter, the Greek Earth Goddess, she was abducted by Hades (Roman Dis), the god of the Underworld, while gathering flowers on the hillside, as immortalised in Milton’s beautiful lines

“…nor that fair field
Of Enna, where Proserpine gathering flowers,
Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis
Was gathered…”

(Paradise Lost, Book IV, v.207-272)

Demeter wandered about distraught looking for her vanished daughter with the result that the  flowers faded, the plants  stopped growing and humanity was in danger of  extinction from famine. Eventually, Persephone was traced to the Underworld and a modus vivendi was concluded thanks to the intervention of Zeus (Hades’ elder brother and king of the gods)  : Persephone  was to stay for four months of the year in the Underworld and return to Earth during  Spring and Summer — the Greeks do not seem to have bothered with autumn.

The myth of Persephone doubtless resonated with Anna de Noailles because of its ambivalence : on the one hand Persephone’s association with flowers, youth and carefree existence and, on the other, with sorrow, separation, darkness and death.  Persephone, like Anna de Noailles herself,  belonged to two worlds, to the sunlight but also to the dark.  The blaze of summer had its equivalent  in the brilliant social life of Countess Anna de Noailles who hosted one of the leading salons of the time attended by Proust and Cocteau, but other parts of her life were spent in depression and solitude — at one time her husband had her sent to what seems to have been a kind of mental hospital in all but name. All her life, Anna de Noailles was obsessed with death

“I know not where I come from, where I am going; sometimes, in the centre of a garden, I hear the universal veins singing and rushing; my ears are familiar with the sound of things germinating and dying. Cybele and Persephone, when they listened to the earth, must have caught this sound.”

(La Domination by Anna de Noailles, p. 262, it is the heroine who is speaking Catherine Perry tells me)

Like Orpheus, who also visited the Underworld and returned, Persephone has a shamanic role as ‘crosser of boundaries’ and it was  this aspect of the myth that appealed to Anna de Noailles rather than the more simplistic role of fertility goddess. Like other mortals,  Persephone entered the land of perpetual darkness but, unlike ordinary mortals, she acquired  the power to return to the world above.  “She [Persephone] has the freedom to overstep these boundaries at will”, as Catherine Perry says  in her biography of Anna de Noailles significantly entitled Persephone Unbound

Also,  in the context of Anna de Noailles’ Nietzschean philosophy, Persephone represents the “willingness… to encounter the fateful aspects of existence” (Catherine Perry op. cit.) and there is, interestingly,  a version of the Greek myth in which Persephone, who has belatedly fallen in love with her captor Hades, declines to return to Earth at all and only accepts to do so reluctantly by order of Zeus.

Persephone, or rather Proserpine, has been a frequent subject for poets and dramatists but in the last two centuries at any rate, it is more her role as Queen of the Underworld that has inspired writers rather than her role as giver of life.

Roger Hunt Carroll has very kindly sent me his Hymns for Persephone specifically dedicated

‘To the memory of Anna de Noailles’

Here are some extracts from Roger Carroll’s elegant and soulful work :

Hymns for Persephone

3

The transcribed flower opens in her.
Its paraphrase carries her motive
through a drunken melody—
and in it all opulent petals ring.

Serenely the sounds circle
a shining silence and cover the plain:
“Persephone! Persephone!” the grasses sing
as they race toward noon.

If no other thing is sure, this is sure:
in her body’s apparition,
leaf and blossom rise again.

6

She is leaving her delicate land,
setting her eyes against the day
in which liquid reds of poppies ran
and shimmering silver birches
framed in silver the shivering hour.

From within where her reign was still
and calm, though in defeat,
she slips away, letting drafts of time
blow her gently toward autumn’s night.

But even in this exit, she must know
it’s but a moment she is gone—
a silent, almost breathless retreat.

9

There can be no farewell.
Particles of former lives she cannot leave
she treasures as her ancient charms
drawn out to enchant the dark.
She has kept them all.

It is at such appointed time
announced to her heart alone
that she takes these pieces in her hands
and hides them from the frightening sky.
She does not refuse the pounding apparitions
that rise from summer’s death:
in the antiphons of mourners’ eyes
which will not let her from their sight,
she makes the solemn retreat in her grief,
going as one deaf to hymns dying grasses sing,
deaf to the wizardry of locusts’ wings,
not hearing sad bells her forced leave-taking
rings over long shadows of the earth.
Tightly in her grasp, she holds her charms
close against her trembling breast.
Thin folds of her summer gown sheathe
her secrets and catch the predicted tear
she lets fall from her cheek.
Hers are the saddest steps in this
most sad cortège.

But listen: under her breath, in music
almost too soft for the sharpest ears,
she intones her versicle and response:

“There can be no farewell:
I will come this way again in forms
created from other lives,
bound with lilac and softer flowers
whose breath will speak my advent and reprise.”

10

Envoi

You are not lost, no, not you;
never could you be robbed
from the orchard of earth,
not from flowers in the fields,
the high grasses, no, nor from soft shrubs
that sway along the riverside.

It is we who have misplaced you,
dear and most-loved daughter of the world.
We loosened the cords of your summer gown,
and in our vision you fell in the evening light,
your hair shaded by leaves, your face behind a mask,
hidden from our careless sight.

O were it not so!
All rules that hold you are wrongly formed,
for there is nothing we may have but what deludes;
now though we think the world without song,
it is our deafness that stops earth’s tongue:
your songs continue sweet beyond our ears.

Persephone, you are not lost, merely gone aside—
but what of you would we know at all,
if the old Ancient Ones had blindly lied?

Roger Hunt Carroll

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Anna de Noailles by Claude Mignot-Ogliastri

December 10, 2009 at 7:16 pm (Uncategorized)

Anna de Brancovan, comtesse de Noailles (1876 – 1933), a Greek-Rumanian princess, born and living in Paris, ascribed her poetic vocation to her childhood among musicians and to her garden in Amphion near Lake Geneva. Famous for her poems since she was 24 years old, and also a prodigious speaker among her contemporaries, she awoke languishing French literature and led “the invasion of women authors” before her friend Colette, whose later glory has survived better.

Noailles was rather forgotten in 1986, when I began my publications about her — currently available only in libraries except for the Cocteau-Noailles Correspondence, ed. Gallimard, Cahiers Cocteau no. 11, 1989. My monograph, Anna de Noailles (éd. Méridieus – Klincksieck, 1989, 456 pp.), full of unpublished documents, throws light on her formation, her literary start, her loves often struck down by death : Barrès, Henri Franck — who in 1908 – 1912 led her to renew her inspiration and to contribute to the N.R.F. — Edmond Rostand, Henri Gans. And her friends : Proust, Cocteau, Mauriac, Valèry, Jean Rostand… This survey also deals with the genesis, originality and reception of her works : after Po¬emes d’Enfance (in fact written at the age of 18), her “naturisme” sparkles in Le Cœur Innombrable (1901) and L’Ombre des Jours (1902), written before she encountered Francis Jammes’s poetry. Afterwards, in spite of illness, 17 volumes (9 verse and 8 prose works : novels, short stories, prose poems) came out during 30 years and obtained a world fame.

Anna de Noailles relives also through my separate editions of her Correspondence with Loti, Jammes, Gide, Cocteau and, more recently, my revelation (long forbidden) of the Noailles-Barrès Correspondence éd. L’Inventaire, Paris, 1994, 838 pp.

My works amend clichés : Noailles ‘pagan’? but she was nostalgic for “un dieu fraternel”; ‘oriental’ ? but chiefly in a dream; ‘Muse of Gardens’ ? more poet of life, dance, jubilation, distress (hence her hold on young readers as revealed in my study about the review Les Essais, 1904-1906, which she sponsored). Behind her traditional metrics, she breaks the Carte4siajn discourse, the corset of sonnet, the matrix of abstract vocabulary replaced by plain sensations and puissant cries. Her aesthetics of snapshot and surprise liberate our spontaneity, open our fancy to a poetic of motion, verticality, where body mingles with space, confronts love and death.

Claude Mignot-Ogliastri, Université Paul Valèry, Montpellier, France.

Note :  I am deeply grateful to Mme Claude Mignot-Ogliastri,  who has, by her writings, done so much to keep the memory of Anna de Noailles alive, for this piece which I invited her to contribute. Mme Mignot’s English is virtually perfect and, though authorised to make any corrections  I deemed necessary, I did no more than change one or two words.    Sebastian Hayes

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Anna de Noailles : Belle Epoque Femme Fatale and Woman of Letters

November 2, 2009 at 12:25 pm (Uncategorized)


Photo of Anna de Noailles

Anna de Noailles

Although a French speaker and fairly well conversant with French poetry, I only came across the writings of Anna de Noailles (1876–1933) a year or so  ago, which shows how much she is an almost forgotten figure (not one of her many volumes of poetry is currently in print). I was at once struck by the burning sincerity and power of these poems which make the writings of Mallarmé and other Symbolists, her immediate predecessors in French poetry, appear tame and frigid.

Take, for example, the following poem which is my favourite

The Trace I Wish to Leave

I aim to thrust myself against this life so hard,
And clasp it to me fiercely, leaving such a trace,
That when the sweetness of these days I must discard
The world will keep awhile the warmth of my embrace.

The sea, spread out across the globe so lavishly,
On stormy days my fitful memory will sustain,
And in its myriad, random motions ceaselessly
Preserve the acrid, salty, savour of my pain.

What will be left of me in heath and windswept coomb?
My blazing eyes will set the yellow gorse on fire,
And the cicada perched upon a sprig of broom
Will sound the depth and poignancy of my desire.

Each spring, in fertile meadows where the skylark sings,
In lanes and wayside ditches where wild flowers grow,
The tufted  grass will tremble at the touch of unseen wings,
The phantoms of my hands that held them long ago.

My joy and restless passion will not die with me,
Nature will breathe me in, making of me a part
Of all that lives, while sorrowing humanity
Will hold the individual profile of my heart.

(translation by Sebastian Hayes)

Or again

Life-Force

I have the taste for what is ardent and intense,
Delirious crowds and bodies, a heroic role
In life, such bitter, acrid smells are like incense
To my tumultuous heart and my excessive soul.

From mundane tasks and cares I languish to be free,
Oh to be living now amidst the pent-up might
Of storm and spray, inhale the odour of the sea,
And breathe the morning air that silences the night.

Dawn breaks, the dazzled world returns to life again,
Birds sing, a clamour rises from the street below,
A thousand bustling noises fill my waking brain,
I am a canvas sail the wind swings to and fro.

To fill like this the days that lead towards the tomb,
Bearing a heart that’s swollen like a mellow fruit,
And leaves its juice and scent to beautify the room,
The mark of one who was in pleasure resolute.

To see spread out before me all that life can yield,
And clasp it to me fiercely like an infant boy
Hugging an unknown beast discovered in a field,
Who, ev’n when bitten, bloodstained, still is mad with joy.

To steel oneself for happiness, hand, will and eye,
Scaling the heights and depths of what the heart can bear,
To risk one’s all and the assaults of time defy,
To breathe the sparse and heady Himalayan air ;

To strive to emulate the wheeling sun and moon,
Monarch of golden day and night-time’s silvery queen,
To live like spumes of spray whipped up by a typhoon
Or like the unyielding thorn upon a wind-lashed green.

Sorrow and joy are lifelong comrades travelling home,
My heart yields always to their joint pulsating call,
I am an emerald lawn where pairs of lions roam,
Upon my lips there is the taste of honey and of gall.

And finally I celebrate that ecstasy
Of dying in full strength within the midst of  strife,
Because desire exceeds my frame’s capacity,
And what I hold inside me bursts the bonds of life.

(translation by Sebastian Hayes)

I assumed Anna de Noailles  must have been a rebellious, tormented individual who published little in her lifetime — a sort of French Charlotte Mew —  and led the recommended late nineteenth century poète maudit existence. Imagine, then, my surprise — and to a certain extent chagrin —  when I discovered that she was in her lifetime extremely successful : an aristocrat fêted by Parisian literary high society, a friend of Proust, Rostand, Gide, Cocteau, Valéry, you name them. Leading artists painted her and Rodin sculpted her. Her first collection of verse Le Cœur Innombrable (‘The Numberless Heart’) was something of a literary sensation and, since, with her long black hair and piercing eyes, she was hauntingly beautiful as well, she attained for a while almost the sort of status of Princess Diana in our own era. Reputedly, a fashionable young man, Charles Demange, committed suicide out of unrequited love for her.

One can only describe Anna de Noailles as a Romantic,  perhaps the last significant Romantic poet in French literature, and certainly the best female Romantic French poet. She has an edge which nineteenth-century Romantic writers like Lamartine, whom she resembles superficially, do not have because she was militantly atheistic and pantheistic, creating her own feminine version of Nietzsche’s tragic philosophy. She writes, for example,

Ils nous imposent l’âme, afin que lâchement
On détourne les yeux du sol, et qu’on oublie
Après l’injurieux ensevelissement,
Que sous le vin vivant tout est funèbre lie.

which I translate

They foist the soul upon us, so we cannot see
What’s underneath our feet, and in our cowardice
Deny our squalid end, the grim reality
That when the wine is drunk, there’s nothing but the lees.

Likewise, Anna de Noailles does not hide, indeed goes out of her way to emphasize, the dark side of passion : she writes, typically, “on aime plus âprement que l’on ne hait” where the ‘on’ refers to ‘woman’ — “We women love more violently than we hate”. She is also much more specific about sexual desire than male Romantic poets (including Byron) ever dared to be. The following remarkable poem, perhaps based on an affair with the writer Maurice Barrès, is the only poem I have ever come across (by a man or woman) which expresses female disappointment after sexual climax (because the male is unable to continue the experience)

The Aftermath

Above all, after climaxes the most intense
In our close-knit uniting, frenzied, barbarous,
Reclining side by side, gasping for breath, I sense
The abyss that severs us;

In silence we recline, not understanding why,
After such pent-up fury, longed-for, deep, insane,
So suddenly we find ourselves apart and lie
As separate selves again;

You are beside me but your gaze does not reveal
That eagerness I answered with a fire unknown,
You are a helpless beast gorged with its meal,
A corpse sculpted in stone;

You sleep and do  not stir — how can another know
What dream has quieted your restless mind?
But through me yet great gusts of yearning blow
Leaving their mark behind;

I cannot cease from living, O my dearest love!
My warlike frenzy underneath its peaceful air
In desperation searches round me and above
To find a passage there!

And still you lie content! The throbbing ecstasy
Of sadness coursing through my limbs, and that profound
Confusion, nothing of all this in you I see.
My love, my only love! Between yourself and me
There is no common ground.

(translation by Sebastian Hayes)

Anna de Noailles also wrote a lot about death and in a graphic way that betrays a real horror of physical disintegration, combined with a resolute acceptance of the finality of death.

Regrets

Leave me among the graves, I wish to linger here,
The dead are in the ground, the day is bright and clear,
I smell sweet odours, water, leafy trees and hay,
The dead are in their death for ever and a day…
My dancing body will be hard to recognize
Quite soon, my temples cold, dark gaps instead of eyes;
Like them the solitary deed I shall perform
Though used to having by my side a body warm.
And all of this must cease ! all must expire!
Mouth, melting glances, kisses, my desire —
I shall become a thing of shadow, will be dumb
When next year’s spring, so green and rosy-cheeked will come,
An avalanche of  gold and mounting sap and dew !
Yet I who am so tender-hearted through and through,
So filled with idle hopes and dreams, so languorous,
No longer shall I greet the dawning of each day,
But motionless in sleep for evermore must stay !
Others I cannot know, happy and sensuous,
Young men with maidens at their sides will wander by
And see the labour in the fields, the corn, the vine,
The changing colours of the seasons, whereas I
Will notice nothing —  in the grave I shall recline,
And all the sweetness of this life will be a memory…
But you who read these lines will stop and think of me,
You’ll see what I once was before my glow departs;
My smiling ghost will comfort you in your ordeal
For, in your torpor and dejection, you will feel
That my cold cinders hold more passion than your hearts.

(translation by Sebastian Hayes)

Anna de Noailles also wrote three novels, long out of print : it would seem that they deal mainly with the psychological pressures on young women to conform to patriarchal society.

Stylistically, Anna de Noailles resisted the temptations of free verse, and wrote almost entirely in rhymed alexandrines or octosyllabic lines. Her diction is careful and she does not use colloquialisms. Also, despite her strongly introspective tendencies, she keeps at arm’s length stream of consciousness techniques which were already becoming fashionable at the time she did most of her writing. Twentieth century authors all too often try to find some more or less novel and ingenious  manner of evading their deepest emotions, and taking refuge in the ‘unconscious’ is an ideal way of doing this.  Anna de Noailles returns Western poetry to its dual themes of Love and Death. She, like the Elizabethans, who rarely write about anything else, realizes only too clearly that these two themes are inextricably bound together: they constitute the twin poles of our biological identity. And this biological drama, as Nietzsche and Anna de Noailles  realized, has an inescapable  tragic dimension, a dimension humanism and modernism (including postmodernism) fight shy of  and attempt to trivialize.

Why has Anna de Noailles disappeared almost without a trace?

Although her social and political views were advanced and even controversial for the time, she was, nonetheless, a Countess by marriage and a Greek/Romanian princess by birth which in the inverse snobbish era of today damns her completely. Worse still, she was associated for more than twenty years with Maurice Barrès, a leading right wing political and literary figure of the time though now completely forgotten. (The Dadaists staged a mock trial of Barrès in 1921 and condemned him to twenty years of hard labour.) Anna de Noailles did at least have the integrity of not allowing him to influence either her frequentations — she had several Jewish friends — or her public views since she aligned herself behind the small and very unpopular French pacifist movement in the run up to World War I.

One might have expected radical feminism to have resuscitated Anna de Noailles but her stance is not politically correct, since she believed there were profound gender differences between men and women, and was at pains to affirm woman in her emotional and instinctual (rather than rational) persona which, for a certain type of feminist, is hopelessly retrograde.

Anna de Noailles has been very little translated and the only full-length critical appraisal is Catherine Perry’s scholarly and erceptive Persephone Unbound, Dionysian Aesthetics in the Works of Anna de Noailles (Bucknell University Press, 2003) to which I am indebted. The best-known French biography of Anna de Noailles is by Claude Mognot-Ogliastri (Méridiens-Klincksieck, 1986), who has also edited the Correspondence between Anna de Noailles and Maurice Barrès.

Sebastian Hayes

NOTE The original French of the poems translated, along with that of other poems rendered into English, can be found in a subsequent post Anna de Noailles : Eight Poems Rendered into English

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