Philippe Jaccottet
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114 French Philippe Jaccottet (b. 1925) “Night is a great sleeping city” Night is a great sleeping city where the wind blows. It has come a long way to the refuge of this bed. It is midnight in June. You are sleeping, I have been led to the edges of infinity. The wind shakes the hazel tree. The call comes that approaches and draws back. One could swear a light is flying across woods, or surely shadows turning, they say, in the underworld. (That call in the summer night, how many things I could say about it, and your eyes . . . ) But it is only the bird named barn owl calling to us from suburban woods, and already our smell is that of corruption. In the morning light already under our skin that is so warm, bone pierces, while stars darken at street corners. Seed Time I We would want to be pure even if evil had more reality. We would want not to hate though the storm stuns the seeds. The one who knows how light seeds are would hardly be devoted to thunder. II I follow the blurred line of trees where the pigeons flap their wings: Philippe Jaccottet 115  you whom I caress where your hair begins . . . but under the fingers deceived by distance the gentle sun is broken like straw. III Earth here is threadbare. But let it rain a single day, you see in its humidity a mixture from which it returns renewed. Death, for a moment, has the cool appearance of the flower snowdrop. IV Daylight stamps in me like a bull: one would like to think that he is strong . . . If one could tire the bullfighter and delay a while the death of the bull! V Winter, the tree draws into itself. Then one day laughter is humming and the murmur of leaves, ornament of our gardens. For the one who no longer loves anyone life is always farther away. VI O first days of Spring playing in the schoolyard between two classes of wind! VII I am impatient and I am anxious; 116 French who knows the wounds and knows the treasures that another life brings? Spring may leap toward joy or blow towards death. —Here’s the blackbird. A timid girl comes out of her house. Dawn is in the wet grass. VIII At a very great distance I see the street with its trees, its houses, and the unseasonably cool wind that often changes direction. A handcart goes by with white furniture in an undergrowth of shadows. The days are vanishing before it, what is left me I count in a short time. IX The thousand insects of rain have worked all night; the trees have blossomed in raindrops, the downpour sounds like a distant whip. The sky however is still clear; in gardens the bell of the tools rings Matins. X The air that you do not see carries a distant bird and the weightless seeds that tomorrow will germinate the edge of the woods. Oh, how life is running, mad to be down below! Philippe Jaccottet 117  XI The Seine, March 14, 1947 The crackled river is muddy. The waters rise and wash the paving stones on the banks. For wind like a tall, somber ship has come down from the ocean, with a cargo of yellow seeds. It spreads a smell of water, distant and faint. You tremble only for having surprised opening eyelids. (There was a mirroring canal that you followed, the factory canal. You threw a flower into the spring, to find it again in the town.) A childhood memory. The one who would take water in his hands . . . Someone lights a fire of branches on the bank. XII All this green stuff does not pile up but trembles and shines, as when you look at the rustling curtain of a fountain sensitive to the least current of air; and above the tree it seems that a swarm of humming bees has settled; a pleasant landscape where birds that we never see call to us, voices uprooted like seeds, and you with your hair falling over clear eyes. XIII A single moment this Sunday brings us together again, when the winds and our fever have fallen, and under the street lamps fireflies light up, then go out. One would say, paper lanterns far away in a park, perhaps for your feast . . . I too believed in you, and your light 118 French made me burn, then left...