a meager fire

2:23 PM Posted by James Owens




Le Travail du Poète

L’ouvrage d’un regard d’heure en heure affaibli
n’est pas plus de rêver que de former des pleurs,
mais de veiller comme un berger et d’appeler
tout ce qui risque de se perdre s’il s’endort.

*

Ainsi, contre le mur éclairé par l’été
(mais ne serait-ce pas plutôt par sa mémoire),
dans la tranquillité du jour je vous regarde,
vous qui vous éloignez toujours plus, qui fuyez,
je vous appelle, qui brillez dans l’herbe obscure
comme autrefois dans le jardin, voix ou lueurs
(nul ne le sait) liant les défunts à l’enfance…
(Est-elle morte, telle dame sous le buis,
sa lampe éteinte, son bagage dispersé ?
Ou bien va-t-elle revenir de sous la terre
Et moi j’irais au devant d’elle et je dirais :

« Qu’avez vous fait de tout ce temps qu’on n’entendait
ni votre rire ni vos pas dans la ruelle ?
Fallait-il s’absenter sans personne avertir ?
Ô dame ! revenez maintenant parmi nous… »)

*

Dans l’ombre et l’heure d’aujourd’hui se tient cachée,
ne disant mot, cette ombre d’hier. Tel est le monde.
Nous ne le voyons pas très longtemps : juste assez
pour en garder ce qui scintille et va s’éteindre
pour appeler encore et encore, et trembler
de ne plus voir. Ainsi s’applique l’appauvri,
comme un homme à genoux qu’on verrait s’efforcer
contre le vent de rassembler son maigre feu…


Philippe Jaccottet






The Work of the Poet

The labor of a gaze weakened hour by hour
is no more in dreaming than in shaping tears,
but holding vigil like a shepherd and calling
all that risks being lost if he falls asleep.

*

Likewise, against a wall illuminated by summer
(or perhaps by summer‘s memory),
in the quiet of the day I watch you,
moving ever farther away, fleeing,
I call you, you who shine in the dark grass
as once in the garden, voices or glimmers
(no one knows) tying the deceased to childhood….
(Is she dead, that lady under the boxwood,
her lamp extinguished, her baggage scattered?
Or will she truly come back from underground?
And I would go before her and say:

“What have you done with all that time we heard
neither your laughter nor your footfall in the lane?
Did you have to vanish without warning anyone?
Lady … now come back among us….”)

*

The shade of yesterday hides in shadow
and today’s hour, wordless. Such is the world.
We don’t see it for very long: just enough
to grasp what sparks from it and will go out,
to call again and again, and to tremble
at seeing no more. So the impoverished man
exerts himself --- whom we might see on his knees,
who cobbles up a meager fire against the wind….


(my translation)

8 comments:

Anna said...

Excellent translation, and these are amazing photos, very artistic James. Anna :)

Roxana said...

you choose poems (and i am amazed and delighted to notice this, again and again :-) which could belong to a Floating Bridge of Poems, if i ever edited such a book with my images and poems :-)

that is to say, i love it more than i can tell. and indeed, that opening, about the poet's regard - isn't this the work of the Photographer as well, or perhaps even more? this perpetual and (lost from the start) fight against the loss in time?

and your translation is simply wonderful.

(and the images!!!)

James Owens said...

Anna: Thank you. I'm sorry that I haven't visited for such a long time. I will be by soon :-)

James Owens said...

Roxana: I think more and more that photography and poetry are nearly the same thing...

That would be a wonderful and beautiful book! And, now that you have contemplated the possibility, it is more or less inevitable :-)

Anne said...

J'aime particulièrement votre deuxième photo et le premier quatrain du poème. Merci pour cette très belle publication.
Anne

Marion McCready said...

Love the poem, that first section in particular I so relate to. The golden halo of dandelion clock, the blue heat of sky, the white sun...gorgeous!

James Owens said...

Anne: Moi aussi, le premier quatrain me touche --- la correspondance suggéré entre l’écriture et les arts visuels…. C’est vrai et très important.

James Owens said...

Marion: An end-of-summer picture....