Valery Larbaud
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100 French Valery Larbaud (1881–1957) These Sounds and This Movement Ode Lend me your great noise, your great smooth speed, Your nocturnal gliding across lighted Europe, O train de luxe! and the agonizing music That hums along your corridors of gilded leather, While behind lacquered doors with latches of heavy copper Sleep the millionaires. I wander through your corridors singing And I follow your course toward Vienna and Budapest, Mingling my voice with your hundred thousand voices, O Harmonica-Zug! I felt for the first time all the sweetness of life In a compartment of the North Express between Wirballen and Pskow. We were gliding by meadows where shepherds At the foot of groups of great trees like hills Were clothed in raw and dirty sheepskin . . . (Eight o’clock on an autumn morning, and the beautiful singer With violet eyes was singing in the next compartment.) And you, great squares across which I have seen Siberia as it passed and the hills of Samnium, Harsh, unflowering Castille, and the sea of Marmara under a warm rain! Lend me, O Orient Express, South-Brenner-Bahn, lend me Your miraculous deep sounds and Your vibrant voices like first strings; Lend me the light and easy breathing Of tall, slender locomotives with such unconstrained Movements, the express locomotives Effortlessly preceding four yellow coaches with gold lettering Valery Larbaud 101  In the mountainous solitudes of Serbia, And, further away, crossing Bulgaria with all its roses . . . Ah! these sounds and this movement Must enter my poems and speak For my life that has no speech, my life Like a child’s that does not want to know anything, only To hope eternally for vague things. Images I One day at Kharkov, in a densely populated area, (O that Meridional Russia where all the women With white shawls on their heads look like Madonnas!), I saw a young woman coming from the fountain Carrying, as they do, just as in the time of Ovid, Two buckets suspended from the ends of a piece of wood Balanced on her neck and shoulders. And I saw a child in rags approach and speak to her. Then, amiably inclining her body to the right, She let down the bucket of pure water so that it rested on the pavement Level with the lips of the child that had kneeled to drink. II One morning in Rotterdam on the quay of Boompjes (It was the 18th of September 1900, around eight o’clock), I observed two young girls going off to their workshops; And in front of one of the great iron bridges they were saying goodbye, Their roads not being the same. They kissed each other tenderly; their trembling hands Wished and did not wish to separate; their mouths Drew distant sorrowfully and came together again While they gazed in each other’s eyes . . . 102 French Thus they remained a long moment close to each other Upright and motionless among the busy passers-by, While the tugs grumbled on the river And trains maneuvered whistling on the iron bridges. III Between Cordova and Seville There is a small station where, for no apparent reason, The South Express always stops. In vain the traveler searches with his eyes for a village Beyond that little station asleep beneath the eucalyptus trees. He sees only the Andalusian countryside, green and golden. However, on the other side of the track, facing it, There is a hut of black branches and earth. And at the sound of the train a swarm of ragged children comes out. Their older sister precedes them, and approaches on the platform, And without saying a word, but smiling, She dances for pennies. Her feet in the dust appear to be black; Her swarthy and dirty face is without beauty; She dances, and through large holes in her skirt the color of ashes You see, nakedly, the movements of her scrawny thighs And rolling of her little yellow stomach; And this is why, every time, some gentlemen laugh In the odor of cigars in the diner. Louis Simpson, 1995 La rue Soufflot Romance For the fan of Madame Marie Laurencin No, you will never know . . . Paris. Valery Larbaud 103  Our little day will soon be over: the last Years open before us like these streets; And the school is there as always and the laid-out Square, and the old church where we once saw The dead Verlaine come in. After all, despite the sea And so many crossings...


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