La Mer, enfin

La Mer, enfin
(Cimetière marin, Sète)

Ô vagues de vers sincères et idolâtres…
Ce vaste pan de verre d’un vert bleuâtre
Entre cieux et ombres suspendu,
Et cet essaim neigeux de tombes en marbre
Parmi les flammes géantes noires des arbres :
La Mer, enfin. J’ai vu et j’ai vécu.

Ces fleurs en bas, comme lèvres entrouvertes,
Impérissables certes, mais inertes,
Moulues de cet argile du Midi ;
Ces fleurs en haut, rosées et scintillantes,
Ces tressaillantes et minces, mais vivantes !
Le Cimetière. J’ai vu et j’ai écrit.

Christina Egan © 2016

Light-blue sky and light-green ocean in the background, white tombs in the foregrund; in the front, a flat marble slabs decorated with two large pink flowers, one in clay and one in plastic.

 

Paul Valéry’s tomb on the Cimetière marin, which has become famous through his poem. It is shown and played all day in the neighbouring art museum erected as a homage to him.

These lines are closely related to Valéry’s. The durable but lifeless flowers are of clay and plastic; the perishable but living ones blossom on the bushes around. My picture and poem were created in early January!

An automatic translation into English may convey the meaning of  my French homage to Valéry quite well — but not the music of the words!

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2016

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Arles im Winter

Arles im Winter

Die Fensterläden wie ein Farbenkasten,
kornblumenblau und flieder und türkis;
die goldnen Wände, die im Wind verblaßten,
die Gasse, die den kurzen Schnee verschlief.

Die Bogengänge wie bestickte Bänder,
die Krippenbilder wie ein Glockenspiel…
Und das Theater wechselnder Gewänder,
wo nie – seit Rom – der letzte Vorhang fiel.

Die weiche Luft am weiten Strom von Norden,
wo beißendkalter Wind bis eben blies,–
er wälzt sich meerwärts, kostet wohl schon morgen
Kornblumenblau und Flieder und Türkis!

Christina Egan © 2016

Lane with old houses, window shutters in various shades of turquoise and green.The Old Town of Arles is huddled together within the precincts of the Roman city, next to the vast River Rhône  and close to its mouth into the Mediterranean Sea – with the churches built of the stones of the temples and the houses built with the stones of the theatre.

Down the funnel of the river valley, there is a forceful and often icy wind, the Mistral; but there is also a mild wind from south, the Wind from the Sea, which may warm up the city in the midst of winter, so that you can sit in the Roman ruins…

Model village on steep hills as backdrop to a nativity scene

There are exhibitions of nativity scenes and figurines in all styles, even contemporary, at Saint-Trophime; in another mediaeval church, a whole side-chapel is filled with a model village with rocks and trees, running water and flickering fire, and hundreds of tiny local people.

I have written another poem on Arles and the Vent de la mer  in French and English. This one here may work quite well in a translation software.

Photographs: Arles. Christina Egan © 2011.

Ein Muster aus Muscheln / Greek Islands

Ein Muster aus Muscheln

Ein Muster aus Muscheln und Bernstein und Bein,
mit Karneol und Koralle durchsetzt,
auf lapislazuliblauem Grund:
So leuchten die Inseln im Sonnenschein,
vor dreitausend Jahren… und letzthin… und jetzt:
ein Mosaik, ein vollendeter Fund.

Vors Fenster des sinkenden Flugzeugs gespannt,
vom Guckloch des finsteren Turmes gerahmt
– nur einen Moment – nur einen Moment –
das Muster aufs wartende Auge gebannt,
die Farben ins wache Gedächtnis gemalt:
ein Bild, das nach dreißig Jahren noch brennt.

Christina Egan © 2016

Standard_of_Ur_BM_121201

Standard of Ur (2500 BC). – Photograph© The Trustees of the British Museum.

I am showing this ancient object – twice as old as our classical antiquity – because it must have inspired my poem about Greece. The images on the box are made of shell, lapis lazuli, and red limestone, but I did not remember those details or  even think of the thing. When you have the chance to go to London, do not miss out on the Sumerian galleries of the British Museum!

The longing for a return to Greece, both for the Mediterranean environment and for the ancient civilisation, is also expressed in On Eating Olives / Beim Olivenessen  and in Greek Islands  (below). There are a number of poems about Crete in German and English on this website.


Greek Islands

There is more blue in the air
between here and the horizon,
between morning and evening,
than the cup of the eye can hold.

So my soul may flow over
into the sky,
into the sea,
into this scattered paradise…

Christina Egan © 2012 


On the topic of the blue Mediterranean Sea, see also Meine blaue Mauer  and O Heimatland aus Stein und Licht. On the manifold colours of the same sea, see The Purple Sea / Das lila Meer.

Mer de miel

 Clouds in hte sunset, looking like a bright yellow sea, an orange coast and purple sky. An optic illusion above a real coast (not visible here).

Mer de miel
(Sète)

Levez vos yeux vers ce vitrail doré,
d’un jaune plus doux, d’un jaune plus pâle possible :
une baie cernée de hauts rochers
d’un bleu brumeux… Un crépuscule paisible.

Clignez vos yeux à ce vitrail distant,
mer de miel, montagne mauve, sauvage :
tout flotte au dessus de l’horizon –
des eaux de feu, une terre de nuages !

Ce paysage d’un or incomparable
s’évanouit et passe, une image…
Ou serait ça la côte impérissable
et notre terre et mer le grand mirage ?

Christina Egan © 2016


This poem takes up an idea from ancient pagan and Christian philosophy: our world may be only a pale reflexion of a higher, perfect, world. Those ‘heavens’, however, are an inaccessible and unimaginable place — beyond our universe — for which the visible sky is only an image.

The fiery sunset which took me quite literally ‘out of this world’ occurred in midwinter on one of the northernmost beaches of the Mediterranean, at the outskirts of Sète. For a daytime poem and photograph on the sea around Sète, see La Mer, enfin.

Clouds in the sunset, looking like a bright yellow sea, an orange coast and purple sky. An optic illusion above a real coast (also visible here).

Photographs: The sky above the coast in Sète, France. Christina Egan © 2016

gesternmuster / Zeit-Räume

A dozen beads of gold, lapis lazuli, cornelian.gesternmuster
(Knossos)

die kolossalen säulen
der stolzen pinien
jener erhabene baldachin
der schutz vor der sonnenflut bietet

die schwarzen weißen blutroten pfeiler
im heiteren palastlabyrinth
jene flecke in einem gesternmuster
das jahrtausendealt ist

Christina Egan © 2016

This is a translation of The pattern of a yesterday . At that post, you can find some photos and a link to an artistic impression of the palace 3,500 years ago.

Photograph: Minoan beads from Crete in gold, lapis lazuli, cornelian, ca. 1700-1500 BC. – © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Zeit-Räume
(Knossos)

Terrassen, Treppen, rote Säulen
zwischen himmelhohen Bäumen,
Marmorschwellen, rote Wände,
um die Ecken neue Treppen…

Wie im Traume muß man wandern
durch die Höfe, durch die Säle,
durch die Wärme, durch die Kühle,
still von einem Raum zum andern…

Schlanke Bäume, schlanke Menschen
stehn vor heitrem Himmel drinnen
in den buntbemalten Zimmern
heute wie vor tausend Jahren.

Keine Läden vor den Fenstern,
in den Türen keine Flügel,
keine Grenzen zwischen Innen,
Außen, Unten oder Oben,

keine Pforten zwischen Heute,
Gestern oder Vorvorgestern
zwischen einem bunten Zeit-Raum
unter Pinien und dem andern.

Christina Egan © 2016

The Dittany of Crete

The Dittany of Crete

I’ve found the place where red and blue,
where earth and sea and sky all meet;
I’ve even climbed the ashen rock
to pick the dittany of Crete:

to weave a spell about your eyes,
to wake your smiling silent mouth,
to share with you the flaming light
and heavy flavours of the south.

Christina Egan © 2012

Hanging oblong flowers in bright green with bright pink.

 

The ‘dittany of Crete’ is a rare wild plant, gathered as a flavouring, medicine, aphrodisiac, or love token. I tried it on Crete in a delicious and wholesome tea!

The red colour in the poem could be the pink and orange surf in the sunset, or the pink and orange beaches of Crete. The sea might be bright blue and then again bright green

Origanum dictamnus.
Photograph:
HelenaH via Wikimedia.

Winter Sunrise in Morocco / in England

Winter Sunrise in Morocco

Orange tree full of fruit and rose tree with large roses in front of high pink wallsthe rainbow scarf of the sky
stretched out above the battlements

awesome and unnoticed
by the markets which never sleep

and millions of golden roses
rolled out along the highways

in the carved and inlaid caskets
of the powdery-pink courtyards

strings of peach-coloured roses
clusters of orange-blossom and fruit

Christina Egan © 2012

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2012

You can read a German poem about a Moroccan city at In Marrakesch. The buildings and walls of Marrakesh are pink by law!

Around the turn of the year, I found it warm and sunny by day and pleasantly mild by night. In fact, people were hoping for some rain…

Winter sunrise in England

at the edge of the orb of the earth
a mighty web of finest twigs

painted onto leaf gold
by a master’s hand

and then the blob of molten gold
so bright that it seems to melt them too

like a favour from the heavens
like the face of a god

as if life were possible
one more day one more winter

Christina Egan © 2012

In northern Europe, the winter is so hard that by the beginning of spring, you may feel, even if you are not at all old, that it was the last one you reached.

In Germany, it is cold by day and by night for many months, there is snow and ice, and above all, the nights are long and the days often dull so that you may not see the face of the sun for days; in England, the cold is less bitter, but — which is worse it reaches indoors…