La Cas­cade Saint-suzanne (Saint Suzanne Wa­ter­fall)

New England Review - - Translations -

It was a peace­ful place I loved to be. The cool vi­sion haunts my mem­ory. En­closed by high hills on three sides, The val­ley opens west and de­scends to the sea. A wa­ter­fall bathes black rocks at its depths With crys­talline wa­ters, its specks of spray Scat­ter­ing to the air in white muslins. At the foot of steep rocks, in its end­less fall, Wa­ter drops and spreads out into a huge pool, Where the dreamy Saint-suzanne River With its great co­conut-palm bow­ers, feeds And sleeps, the sun at its zenith beats down there; But, in the af­ter­noon, the high-peaked moun­tains Pour down the cool­ness of a wel­com­ing shade. Leav­ing the bank with its cur­tain of tall bam­boos, The moorhens swim on the azure ex­panse; And, skim­ming past in flight, the quick swal­low frol­ics In winged games around those blue swim­mers. At the waves' edge, a few lazy oxen Wan­der free, and on the grassy bank Aim­lessly trail their happy in­dif­fer­ence. Fur­ther off, a white bull flecked with brown, Ly­ing down in the brush, in­hal­ing the rus­tic breeze, Eyes half-closed, ru­mi­nates and has a snooze. Up high, be­tween roughly stacked stones, Bristling with cac­tus, loaded with vines, With sure and spir­ited foot that no abyss can halt, The nim­ble kabri climbs with capri­cious leaps. Sud­denly, one sees it on the crest From which the wa­ter­fall's ver­tig­i­nous waves drop, Stand­ing against the sky in sil­hou­ette.

On the op­po­site bank, to the left of the ravine, The tran­quil pond's wa­ter flows upon fine Sand bordered by a cool rim of fresh young grass and mosses. Here, the moun­tain­sides have gen­tler slopes, And the fruit trees ex­posed to the sun Spread their bow­ers to woody in­clines. Un­der the dark thick­ness of its strong branches The black trunk of the mango tree dis­plays its ripe clus­ters; The guava-tree with white blos­som and golden fruits;

With its crim­son petals, the sup­ple pas­sion­fruit; The sugar-ap­ple and the lo­quat tree, pic­turesque ar­range­ment, Mix their fo­liage in the same scent. The Vir­gin's blue bird with wel­com­ing in­stincts, Harm­less bird of the hos­pitable peaks Likes be­ing in this mild and shady peace: Furtive, it watches and fol­lows the steps of the trav­eler Who comes to these plateaus, to rest and pon­der, To breathe the vast tran­quil­ity of the high places. From the ravine's slopes, from moun­tains, from dense forests, From ev­ery quar­ter an in­ef­fa­ble peace set­tles, The en­velop­ing charm of a lu­mi­nous si­lence, Of si­lence made of wing­beats and wa­ters Pass­ing through air, ris­ing from reeds and rushes, And from shiny bam­boo swayed by a light breeze.

O calm of the sum­mits, calm of the fir­ma­ment, Who pour ap­pease­ment into the trou­bled heart, Calm of deep woods where tur­tle­dove's faint coo­ing Min­gles with the wa­ters' song; O ravine, o cas­cade, o cradling mur­mur, Am­bi­ent sweet­ness of fo­liage and flow­ers; O re­pose em­a­nat­ing from things, chaste drunk­en­ness Known in the past to my pen­sive ado­les­cence When, trail­ing my dream among these re­mote gran­ites, I lis­tened to po­etry singing in my heart; Soli­tude serene and wor­thy of the muse, Made of breeze and shadow and light dif­fuse; Float­ing vi­sions of my dis­tant land, Lovely places, o places so sweet to my happy dawn. Val­ley, tran­quil pond loved by the swal­low, That faith­ful mem­ory evokes with ar­dor, Cra­dle in my mind so wounded by time The present's trou­bles in the past's calm!

—trans­lated from the French by John Kin­sella

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