A Suite of Po­ems

New England Review - - Translations - Au­guste La­caus­sade Le Pi­ton des Neiges To my friend A. Lion­net

Ocean, Ocean, when your fum­ing waves Lift, roar­ing, mak­ing one ma­jes­tic wave From foam­ing heads, rear­ing up to air, Ap­pear­ing to touch the sky with its sub­lime crest; We see its peak smok­ing like a vast Crater, its huge mass mas­ter­ing the wa­ters!

The fur­rows that its vol­ume com­presses, Come in fury to smash them­selves at its base; The wave rises and leaps to­wards its ar­ro­gant Brow; but this one—see!—like the God of the tem­pest, With foam and va­pors crowns its crest, And seems to dom­i­nate its fu­ri­ous as­pect.

Just as in these places you pre­vail, Glo­ri­ous Salazian moun­tain, just As from nearby moun­tains your aerial Fore­head tow­ers, juts, projects! Im­mense, mo­tion­less, eter­nal From the high cen­ter of my isle, Your sum­mit, calm and no­ble, Im­poses and com­mands the gaze; Seat of an eter­nal winter, The wind be­sieg­ing your Face cov­ered in snow and hoar­Frost like old men's heads.

From the cra­dle of the deep seas, The eye that per­ceives your vir­ile beauty, There, upon the green daugh­ter of the waves, Loves your splen­did de­cay. And you seem in your si­lence, To lis­ten to the noise in the skies Of the gen­tle, sway­ing breeze

Or of the north wind that rushes; Or like a lone colos­sus, Fix­ing a cen­te­nar­ian's gaze Upon the earth and the waves, To dream, grave and sound­less!

When day dies and shad­ows ap­pear, When the moon rises above cloud, The ocean at your feet shines like a mir­ror; From the skies, night's orb whitens vast domes And you see ships like white phan­toms, Slid­ing along the hori­zon un­der evening's va­pors And the poor fish­er­man whose swift boat Bounds lightly upon the liq­uid pas­ture And the seabird sur­prised by night, Per­ceive your peak from a great dis­tance, Navigating by your sub­lime sum­mit, Ad­vanc­ing cra­dled by the air's breath.

And from afar on the im­mense sea, By the dream­ing moon's rays, The voy­ager's star­tled eye Con­tem­plates you in si­lence. The stray­ing cloud that halts, Seems to stir upon your sum­mit, As one sees float­ing upon their Heads white plumes of heroes; And your an­cient and pro­found mass Flooded by a gen­tle bright­ness Seems to be the blue specter Of wave up­right on the waves' abyss! Ah! how many cen­turies have passed Be­fore your wrin­kled face? Yet time's foot­fall is erased From your rav­aged peak. How many days of calm and cy­clone, And of cloud and sun, And of ship­wreck and pain, Have glim­mered be­fore your an­cient eye? Tem­pest, shadow, north wind, light, All re­turned to primeval night, But you with your im­mense height, You were then as you are today!

Then, as now, morn­ing's first light, And van­ish­ing day's last light, Spread out their fires on your azure coun­te­nance; And when dawn or night come to smile over The world, you alone shone in the ethe­real em­pire, Like a lighthouse with soft and sound­less glints. Then, as now, from your ster­ile rocks You poured pure and limpid tor­rents onto our fields; And, ever de­fy­ing the de­stroy­ing tem­pest, Drap­ing your bare flanks with a cloak of va­pors, Like a spirit seated on the throne of ages, You raised the skies to your im­pe­ri­ous face.

Pyra­mids of na­ture, Peaks, sum­mits, grandeur, Whose gi­gan­tic struc­ture Speaks to man of his au­thor; Lofty moun­tains, un­de­fined en­tity, Depths and dishar­mony That a pro­pi­tious or deadly Spirit sowed in these re­mote places; Blood-red light­ning flashes, Dark cloud, eyrie from where the storm rushes Leap­ing fu­ri­ous Into the heart of the ap­palled heav­ens; Gulfs, tor­rents, tem­pest, sea, Carry me away in your hor­ror! For I love to feel the force of your Wrath rag­ing over me! I love to con­tem­plate your abysses, Take mea­sure of your high peaks, Fol­low your sub­lime waves, Be glut­ted with your ter­rors; To con­stantly merge my essence With winds, with flame, with waves, For my heart is ex­cited and rages And ev­ery­thing in­side me intensifies! . . .

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