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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Tâter pour une langue

Tâter pour une langue

Il me manque les mots…
Ils flottent sur les flots :
turquoise… îlots…
glaciers et glaçons…
le bateau, le ballon –
ardoise… sillage…
nuit et naufrage –
sans peindre une scène,
sans rendre une chaîne,
parure, ceinture,
magie d’écriture !
Ô langue étrangère,
étrange, passagère,
je te cherche, te chasse,
je regarde dans ma tasse –
il me manque les mots !

Christina Egan © 2016


These lines describe the struggle to write literature in a foreign language. The poet has to look into her coffee-cup for inspiration…

The sequence of words appears to be disconnected but does produce the outline of a scene or story — a vague turquoise and grey image of a dangerous voyage — which also scans and rhymes. So there is the poem!

Le tesson / The Shard

Le tesson

En février givré, je fouille
les feuilles mortes pour des fleurs
modestes et fortes et courageuses :
soldats contre la froideur

ou des pierres précieuses
éparpillées en bas, fragments
pâlis de la Cité Céleste
que quelques éblouis attestent.

Parfois, une sphère lumineuse
me frappe, vive mais tranquille :
plutôt que le premier bouton
ton œil est le tesson qui brille.

Christina Egan © 2017

A pair of mauve crocusses, wide open, in bright sunlight, with honey-bee hovering above.

The Shard

In frosty February, I scour
decaying leaves for the first flower:
some modest soldiers, strong and bold
against the kingdom of the cold,

or precious stones on muddy ground,
some faded fragments of the round
of Heavenly Jerusalem,
that dazzling more-than-real realm.

At times a circle full of light,
as calm as lively, strikes my sight:
but rather than spring’s early guard
your eye is the resplendent shard.

Christina Egan © 2017


For a German and English parallel poem about the first spring flowers, go to my previous post, King Spring / König Frühjahr.

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2017.
Crocusses with honey-bee, captured in London in mid-February!

Moment dans la mare

Moment dans la mare
(Boulogne-sur-Mer)

À la plage immense, vidée de la mer,
le vent est trempé du soleil et du sel :
caresse chanceuse de l’univers,
regard maternel rempli d’étincelles.

La mare autour des chevilles surprises,
le sable mouillé, moulé de soleil :
tout ça – l’océan et la boue et la brise –
tout est mêlé et tout est pareil.

Tout est tiède et tout est limpide,
tout est liquide autour des doigts…
Tout est un rêve réel, et le vide
commence à se combler de joie.

Il n’y a pas de bataille, il n’y a pas de triage
de quatre ou cinq éléments lumineux :
plutôt une étreinte éternelle, mariage
de plage et marée, bénit des cieux.

Christina Egan © 2016


The poem refers to the four or five elements which make up the universe, an ancient philosophical concept found in variations in many civilisations.

Greek philosophers held that war, or conflict, between the forces of nature generate everything and challenge us to greatness. I propose that the Greek elements of fire, air, water, earth — and spirit — exist, but work through interaction and union, and that humans grow most when working within and with nature.

This makes harmony instead of conflict the driving force of the universe. It is also a female philosophical approach rather than a traditional male one.

In French literature, the ‘void’ is essential, marking loneliness, mortality, and the pointlessness of life; I want to hold up the ‘void’ or ‘silence’ as an experience of peace and fulfilment, communion with the universe, and a foretaste of eternal life.

When I stood on the beach of Boulogne at sunset, the sky and the sea and the sand were gleaming in streaks of otherworldly purple and orange.

An automatic translation into English may convey the sense of these lines well, but in the original French, they are conceived to sound like music… like waves.

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

dans le verre / Mother-of-Pearl

dans le verre

Glass screen with patterns in black, white and gold, resembling surf and seagulls.les couleurs de la mer
sont versées dans le verre
du présent du souvenir
faites-les resurgir

les couleurs de la mer
de l’argent jusqu’au vert
améthyste et saphir
laissez-les reluire

dans ce vers

Christina Egan © 2016


Mother-of-Pearl

The sea is not blue,
no more is the sky:
that is a child’s view,
a picture-book’s lie.

Whenever the rainbow
touches the sea,
it sprinkles a faint glow
of eternity.

From indigo ink,
to raspberry pink,
with peppermint green
and gold-leaf between…

The sea is not blue,
or grey of some hue:
the sea is a swirl
of mother-of-pearl!

Christina Egan © 2016


Photograph: ‘Rhizome’. Sculpture by Laurence Bourgeois (Lô).
Verse pattern of French poem after Jean-Yves Léopold (J. Y. L.).

Le vent de la mer se lève

Le vent de la mer se lève
(Alyscamps, Arles)

Tout doux, le vent de la mer se lève
parmi les colonnes à l’aube de l’an,
dans mon esprit réjouissant
ressuscitant mon ancien rêve,
un rêve de tuiles couleurs du couchant,
un rêve de murs couleurs océan.

Le vent se renforce et lève la sève
des hauts platanes le long de la rue,
ces forts piliers du ciel du Midi…
Mais quel tombeau révèle le rêve,
lieu lumineux et réapparu ?
Ô vent de la mer, Ô vent de ma vie !

Christina Egan © 2015

Wide avenue with sarcophagi to the left and right,leading to a mediaeval portal. Winter scene in fair weather, light-brown and light-blue.

Alyscamps, Arles. Photograph:  Christina Egan © 2010

 

The Wind from the Sea is rising
(Alyscamps, Arles)

The Wind from the Sea is rising, all mild,
between the columns and graves at the dawn
of the year, stirring up in my jubilant mind
my resplendent dream of antiquity,
a dream of tiles resembling the sun,
a dream of walls resembling the sea.

The wind is now swelling and ready to rouse
the sap in the plane-trees along the wide road,
those pillars supporting the sky of the South…
Which tomb may hold my mystery of old,
the luminous place that has just reappeared?
O Wind from the Sea, O wind of my soul!

Christina Egan © 2016

Painting by van Gogh: Avenue with very high trees, with path and foliage in bright orange, sarcophagi and sky in blue.

The Roman cemetery known as the Alyscamps has been immortalised by Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh.

Vincent van Gogh: L’Allée des Alyscamps (1888). Photograph: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

You can read an English and German poem about a Roman road in France at Where Road and River Meet / Überm Fluß .