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

Glazed Clay

Jar, elegantly curved, with brown and blue glaze.Glazed Clay

Two mighty rivers’ ceaseless flow
beneath a high and cloudless sky;
to either side the ochre glow
of arid countries rolling by;

and here and there a golden maze,
the buildings’ cubes, the cities’ grid:
this jar with blue and brownish glaze
from Babylon still mirrors it.

Christina Egan © 2016

Mesopotamian jar (9th to 7th c. BC) Photograph: © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The city and country of ‘Babylon’ were under Assyrian rule at the time the little jar was made, but I just used the name as the most familiar for all the civilisations of Mesopotamia.

For a German poem about Babylon with the Euphrates and the Hanging Gardens, see Die Hängenden Gärten.

The perfect elegance of this tiny everyday object is an example for the simple beauty I call for in Fewer Things, where you can also see a red Roman bowl. 

Ode to London Wall

Ode to London Wall

Moss is conquering your broken stones,
weeds are rooting between your bricks;
but you still stand tall, Wall,
facing the winds, the seasons, the years.

The round foundations of your towers
harbour herbs now, neatly labelled;
but your walkways bore watchmen once,
to guard the goods going round and the people.

You lie at my feet now, tall Wall,
I look down from the walkway above you;
but when I step down by two thousand years,
I see you could shelter me still or crush me.

And then I seem to remember –
we have met before, Wall –
you guarded me indeed –
and I guarded you!

On the treacherous clay we erected you,
in the obnoxious fog and sleet:
even and straight and strong as a rock,
forming a line in the marshy meadow,

forming a square along the vague river,
forming a knot in the net of roads,
from London to Chester and York,
from Paris to Sousse and Palmyra.

O Wall of soldiers and explorers,
O Wall of merchants and accountants:
yes,
you still stand tall and you talk,
you tell me to tell your story to all.

Christina Egan © 2015

High wall of neatly piled stone and brick in the midst of the city

You can see a section of the Wall of London and learn more about it in the Roman Galleries of the Museum of London. A visit there inspired me to write these lines. I talk to the stones as they talk to me; and I pass their story on.

Photograph: Roman city wall near Tower Hill Tube station,
by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz).

London Wall Had Fallen Down

London Wall had fallen down,
brick by brick and stone by stone;
in the crenellation’s crown,
storks and starlings built their home.

London Wall stood in the mud,
but we fixed it brick by brick,
and we filled the wasteland up
with new lanes across the grid.

London Wall was melting down,
but we used it stone by stone;
and we built a bigger town
on the ground of proud old Rome!

Christina Egan © 2015

After the end of the Roman Empire, the Roman City of London was left uninhabited for generations, while a new city sprung up next to it; later, the original precincts became the centre again. This area is now known as ‘The City of London’, although it forms only a small part of the centre of town.

Musical score of 'London Bridge is falling down'

 

This little song alludes to the nursery rhyme London Bridge is falling down.