restricted access Yves Bonnefoy
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106 French Yves Bonnefoy (b. 1923) To the Voice of Kathleen Ferrier All gentleness and irony converged For this farewell of crystal and low clouds, Thrustings of a sword played upon silence, Light that glanced obscurely on the blade. I celebrate the voice blended with gray That falters in the distances of singing As if beyond pure form another song’s Vibrato rose, the only absolute. O light and light’s denial, smiling tears That shine upon both anguish and desire, True swan, upon the water’s dark illusion, Source, when evening deepens and descends. You seem to be at home on either shore, Extremes of happiness, extremes of pain. And there among the luminous gray reeds You seem to draw upon eternity. The Farewell We came back to our origin, The place of clarity still, but torn apart. The windows blended far too many lights, The stairs climbed over far too many stars That mean collapsing arches, broken plaster. The fire seemed to burn in another world. And now birds fly from room to room, The shutters have fallen, stones cover the bed, The hearth is full of sky-debris, just on the edge of dying. We’d talk there in the evening, almost in whispers Yves Bonnefoy 107  Because of the echoing vaults, and nonetheless We’d hatch our plans: but a boat Laden with ruddy stones was pulling away Irresistibly from a shore, and forgetfulness Had already placed its ashes on the dreams We endlessly replayed, peopling with visions The fire that burned there up to the final day. Is it true, my friend, my love, That there is only a single word for naming The sun of morning and the evening sun In the language we call poetry, One word for the cry of joy and the cry of pain, One word for wildness upstream and the ring of axes, One word for the unmade bed and the stormy skies, One word for the newborn, and the stricken god? Yes, I believe it, I want to believe, but what Are those shadows about to sweep away the mirror? And look how brambles root among the stones On the grassy track, still incompletely cleared, Our footsteps used to trace towards the young trees. It seems to me, today and here, that speech Is that half-broken trough which spills Its water uselessly, each rainy dawn. The grass, and water in the grass, that sparkles like a river. All things of the world remain to be knit up again, united. Paradise has been dispersed, I know, The earthly task’s to recognize its flowers Strewn in the humble grass; But the angel has disappeared, a light That suddenly was only the setting sun. And so like Adam and Eve, we’ll walk One last time in the garden. 108 French Like Adam the first regret, like Eve the first Real courage, we shall wish and shall not wish To pass beyond the low half-open gate Down there, at the other end of the narrow fields, Tinted portentously by a last ray. Does the future root itself in the origin The way the sky consents to a curved mirror? And could we gather from this light, The miracle of this place, a seed To hold in our somber hands, for other ponds Hidden in other meadows “barred with stones”? Indeed, the place for mastery, for mastering ourselves, is here, Whence we depart tonight. Here endlessly, Like water from the trough, slipping away. Emily Grosholz, 2001 On the Motion and the Immobility of Douve Now the life of the spirit does not cringe in front of death nor keep itself pure from its ravage. It supports death and maintains itself in it. —Hegel Theatre I I saw you run on terraces, I saw you struggle against the wind, The coldness bled on your lips. And I have seen you break yourself and be glad of your death, O more beautiful Than lightning, when it stains the white windows of your blood. Yves Bonnefoy 109  II The dying summer frostbit you with a monotonous pleasure, we despised the imperfect joy of living. “Rather the ivy,” you said, “the clinging of ivy to the stone of its night: presence without issue, face without roots. “Last happy windowpane ripped by the sun’s claws, rather in the mountains this village to die in. “Rather this wind . . .” III It was about a wind stronger than our memories, Stupor of dresses and cry of...