Guillaume Apollinaire

 

Selected Poems

 

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Contents

 

The Mirabeau Bridge. 3

Twilight4

Clotilde. 5

The White Snow.. 6

The Farewell7

Acrobats. 8

The Bells. 9

The Gypsy. 10

The Sign. 11

One Evening. 12

Moonlight13

Autumn Ill14

Hotels. 15

Hunting Horns. 16

Vitam Impendere Amori17

The Bestiary: or Orpheus’s Procession. 20

Apollinaire’s Notes to the Bestiary. 50

Index of First Lines. 54

 

 


The Mirabeau Bridge

                (Alcools: Le Pont Mirabeau)

 

Under the Mirabeau flows the Seine

          And our amours

     Shall I remember it again

Joy always followed after Pain

 

          Comes the night sounds the hour

          The days go by I endure

 

Hand in hand rest face to face

          While underneath

     The bridge of our arms there races

So weary a wave of eternal gazes

 

Comes the night sounds the hour

          The days go by I endure

 

Love vanishes like the water’s flow

Love vanishes

      How life is slow

And how Hope lives blow by blow

 

Comes the night sounds the hour

          The days go by I endure

 

Let the hour pass the day the same

          Time past returns

      Nor love again

Under the Mirabeau flows the Seine

 

Comes the night sounds the hour

          The days go by I endure


Twilight

          (Alcools: Crépuscule)

 

Brushed by the shadows of the dead

On the grass where day expires

Columbine strips bare admires

her body in the pond instead

 

A charlatan of twilight formed

Boasts of the tricks to be performed

The sky without a stain unmarred

Is studded with the milk-white stars

 

From the boards pale Harlequin

First salutes the spectators

Sorcerers from Bohemia

Fairies sundry enchanters

 

Having unhooked a star

He proffers it with outstretched hand

While with his feet a hanging man

Sounds the cymbals bar by bar

 

The blind man rocks a pretty child

The doe with all her fauns slips by

The dwarf observes with saddened pose

How Harlequin magically grows


Clotilde

             (Alcools: Clotilde)

 

The anemone and flower that weeps

have grown in the garden plain

where Melancholy sleeps

between Amor and Disdain

 

There our shadows linger too

that the midnight will disperse

the sun that makes them dark to view

will with them in dark immerse

 

The deities of living dew

Let their hair flow down entire

It must be that you pursue

That lovely shadow you desire


The White Snow

              (Alcools: La blanche neige)

 

The angels the angels in the sky

One’s dressed as an officer

One’s dressed as a chef today

And the others sing

 

Fine sky-coloured officer

Sweet Spring when Christmas is long gone

Will deck you with a lovely sun

          A lovely sun

 

The chef plucks geese

          Ah! Snowfalls hiss

          Fall and how I miss

My beloved in my arms


The Farewell

                 (Alcools: L’Adieu)

 

I’ve gathered this sprig of heather

Autumn is dead you will remember

On earth we’ll see no more of each other

Fragrance of time sprig of heather

Remember I wait for you forever


Acrobats

          (Alcools:Saltimbanques)

 

The strollers in the plain

walk the length of gardens 

before the doors of grey inns

through villages without churches

 

And the children gone before

The others follow dreaming

Each fruit tree resigns itself

When they signal from afar

 

They have burdens round or square

drums and golden tambourines

Apes and bears wise animals

gather coins as they progress


The Bells

                (Alcools: Les Cloches)

 

My gipsy beau my lover

Hear the bells above us

We loved passionately

Thinking none could see us

 

But we so badly hidden

All the bells in their song

Saw from heights of heaven

And told it everyone

 

Tomorrow Cyprien Henry

Marie Ursule Catherine

The baker’s wife her husband

and Gertrude that’s my cousin

 

Will smile when I go by them

I won’t know where to hide

You far and I’ll be crying

Perhaps I shall be dying

 


The Gypsy

                (Alcools: La tzigane)

 

The gypsy knew in advance

Our two lives star-crossed by night

We said farewell to her and then

from that deep well Hope began

 

Love heavy a performing bear

Danced upright when we wanted

And the blue bird lost his plumes

And the beggars lost their Ave

 

We knew quite well that we were damned

But hope of love in the street

Made us think hand in hand

Of what the Gypsy did foresee


 

The Sign

                (Alcools: Signe)

 

I am bound to the King of the Sign of Autumn

Parting I love the fruits I detest the flowers

I regret every one of the kisses that I’ve given

Such a bitter walnut tells his grief to the showers

 

My Autumn eternal O my spiritual season

The hands of lost lovers juggle with your sun

A spouse follows me it’s my fatal shadow

The doves take flight this evening their last one


One Evening

                (Alcools: Un soir)

 

An eagle descends from this sky white with archangels

          And you sustain me

Let them tremble a long while all these lamps

          Pray pray for me

 

The city’s metallic and it’s the only star

          Drowned in your blue eyes

When the tramways run spurting pale fire

          Over the twittering birds

 

And all that trembles in your eyes of my dreams

          That a lonely man drinks

Under flames of gas red like a false dawn

          O clothed your arm is lifted

 

See the speaker stick his tongue out at the listeners

          A phantom has committed suicide

The apostle of the fig-tree hangs and slowly rots

          Let us play this love out then to the end

 

Bells with clear chimes announce your birth

                              See

The streets are garlanded and the palms advance

                              Towards thee


 

Moonlight

                (Alcools: Clair de Lune)

 

Mellifluent moon on the lips of the maddened

The orchards and towns are greedy tonight

The stars appear like the image of bees

Of this luminous honey that offends the vines

For now all sweet in their fall from the sky

Each ray of moonlight’s a ray of honey

Now hid I conceive the sweetest adventure

I fear stings of fire from this Polar bee

that sets these deceptive rays in my hands

And takes its moon-honey to the rose of the winds


Autumn Ill

                (Alcools: Automne malade)

 

Autumn ill and adored

You die when the hurricane blows in the roseries

When it has snowed

In the orchard trees

 

Poor autumn

Dead in whiteness and riches

Of snow and ripe fruits

Deep in the sky

The sparrow hawks cry

Over the sprites with green hair the dwarfs

Who’ve never been loved

 

In the far tree-lines

the stags are groaning

 

And how I love O season how I love your rumbling

The falling fruits that no one gathers

The wind the forest that are tumbling

All their tears in autumn leaf by leaf

                              The leaves

                              You press

                              A crowd

                              That flows

                              The life

                              That goes

 


Hotels

                (Alcools: Hôtels)

 

 

The room is free

Each for himself

A new arrival

Pays by the month

 

The boss is doubtful

Whether you’ll pay

Like a top

I spin on the way

 

The traffic noise

My neighbour gross

Who puffs an acrid

English smoke

 

O La Vallière

Who limps and smiles

In my prayers

The bedside table

 

And all the company

in this hotel

know the languages

of Babel

 

Let’s shut our doors

With a double lock

And each adore

his lonely love


Hunting Horns

                (Alcools: Cors de chasse)

 

Our story’s noble as its tragic

like the grimace of a tyrant

no drama’s chance or magic

no detail that’s indifferent

makes our great love pathetic

 

And Thomas de Quincey drinking

Opiate poison sweet and chaste

Of his poor Anne went dreaming

We pass we pass since all must pass

Often I’ll be returning

 

Memories are hunting horns alas

whose note along the wind is dying


Vitam Impendere Amori

     (Vitam Impendere Amori: To Threaten Life for Love)

 

 

Love is dead within your arms

Do you remember his encounter

He’s dead you restore the charms

He returns at your encounter

 

Another spring of springs gone past

I think of all its tenderness

Farewell season done at last

You’ll return as tenderly

 

                    ****

 

 

In the evening light that’s faded

Where our several loves brush by

Your memory lies enchained

Far from our shades that die

 

O hands bound by memory

Burning like a funeral pyre

Where the last black Phoenix

Perfection comes to respire

 

Link by link the chain wears thin

Deriding us your memory

Flies ah hear it you who rail

I kneel again at your feet


 

****

 

You’ve not surprised my secret yet

Already the cortège moves on

But left to us is the regret

of there being no connivance none

 

The rose floats at the water’s edge

The maskers have passed by in crowds

It trembles in me like a bell

This heavy secret you ask now

 

****

 

Evening falls and in the garden

Women tell their histories

to Night that not without disdain

spills their dark hair’s mysteries

 

Little children little children

Your wings have flown away

But you rose that defend yourself

Throw your unrivalled scents away

 

For now’s the hour of petty theft

Of plumes of flowers and of tresses

Gather the fountain jets so free

Of whom the roses are mistresses


 

                    ****

 

You descended through the water clear

I drowned my self so in your glance

The soldier passes she leans down

Turns and breaks away a branch

 

You float on nocturnal waves

The flame is my own heart reversed

Coloured as that comb’s tortoiseshell

The wave that bathes you mirrors well

 

                    ****

 

O my abandoned youth is dead

Like a garland faded

Here the season comes again

Of suspicion and disdain

 

The landscape’s formed of canvasses

A false stream of blood flows down

And under the tree the stars glow fresh

The only passer by’s a clown

 

The glass in the frame has cracked

An air defined uncertainly

Hovers between sound and thought

Between ‘to be’ and memory

 

O my abandoned youth is dead

Like a garland faded

Here the season comes again

Of suspicion and disdain


     The Bestiary: or Orpheus’s Procession

                              (Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée)

     (Illustrated with woodcuts by Raoul Dufy)

 

                   

 

                            Orpheus

 

Admire the vital power

And nobility of line:

It’s the voice that the light made us understand here

That Hermes Trismegistus writes of in Pimander.


                 

 

   The Tortoise

 

From magic Thrace, O delerium!

My sure fingers sound the strings.

The creatures pass to the sounds

Of my tortoise, and the songs I sing.


                                       

                   

     The Horse

 

My harsh dreams knew the riding of you

My gold-charioted fate will be your lovely car

That for reins will hold tight to frenzy,

My verses, the patterns of all poetry.


                   

 

            The Tibetan Goat

 

The fleece of this goat and even

That gold one which cost such pain

To Jason’s not worth a sou towards

The tresses with which I’m taken.


                                        

                   

   The Serpent

 

You set yourself against beauty.

And how many women have been

victims of your cruelty!

Eve, Eurydice, Cleopatra:

I know three or four more after.


                   

 

       The Cat

 

I wish there to be in my house:

A woman possessing reason,

A cat among books passing by,

Friends for every season

Lacking whom I’m barely alive.


                                         

                             

           The Lion

 

O lion, miserable image

Of kings lamentably chosen,

Now you’re only born in a cage

In Hamburg, among the Germans.

 

                                          

           The Hare

 

Don’t be fearful and lascivious

Like the hare and the amorous.

But always let your brain weave

The full form that conceives.


                                           

                   

          The Rabbit

 

There’s another cony I remember

That I’d so like to take alive.

Its haunt is there among the thyme

In the valleys of the Land of Tender.


                                           

                   

      The Dromedary

 

With his four dromedaries

Don Pedro of Alfaroubeira

Travels the world and admires her.

He does what I would rather

If I’d those four dromedaries.


                                           

                   

 

         The Mouse

 

Sweet days, the mice of time,

You gnaw my life, moon by moon.

God! I’ve twenty eight years soon,

and badly spent ones I imagine.


                                           

                   

        The Elephant

 

I carry treasure in my mouth,

As an elephant his ivory.

At the price of flowing words,

Purple death!…I buy my glory.


                     

 

          Orpheus

 

Look at this pestilential tribe

Its thousand feet, its hundred eyes:

Beetles, insects, lice

And microbes more amazing

Than the world’s seventh wonder

And the palace of Rosamunde!


                                           

                   

       The Caterpillar    

 

Work leads us to riches.

Poor poets, work on!

The caterpillar’s endless sigh

Becomes the lovely butterfly.


                                           

                             

             The Fly

 

The songs that our flies know

Were taught to them in Norway

By flies who are they say

Divinities of snow.


                                           

                   

           The Flea

 

Fleas, friends, lovers too,

How cruel are those who love us!

All our blood pours out for them.

The well-beloved are wretched then.


                                           

                   

      The Grasshopper

 

Here’s the slender grasshopper

The food that fed Saint John.

May my verse be similar,

A treat for the best of men.


                                           

                             

            Orpheus

 

His heart was the bait: the heavens were the pond!

For, fisherman, what fresh or seawater catch

equals him, either in form or savour,

that lovely divine fish, Jesus, My Saviour?


                     

 

       The Dolphin

 

Dolphins, playing in the sea

The wave is bitter gruel.

Does my joy sometimes erupt?

Yet life is still so cruel.


                                          

                   

       The Octopus

 

Hurling his ink at skies above,

Sucking the blood of what he loves

And finding it delicious,

Is myself the monster, vicious.


                                           

                   

          The Jellyfish

 

Medusas, miserable heads

With hairs of violet

You enjoy the hurricane

And I enjoy the very same.

                        

                                            

         The Lobster                          

 

Uncertainty, O my delights

You and I we go

As lobsters travel onwards, quite

Backwards, Backwards, O.


                                           

                   

            The Carp

 

In your pools, and in your ponds,

Carp, you indeed live long!

Is it that death forgets to free

You fishes of melancholy?


                                           

                   

             Orpheus

 

The female of the Halcyon,

Love, the seductive Sirens,

All know the fatal songs

Dangerous and inhuman.

Don’t listen to those cursed birds

But Paradisial Angels’ words.


                   

 

       The Sirens

 

Do I know where your ennui’s from, Sirens,

When you grieve so widely under the stars?

Sea, I am like you, filled with broken voices,

And my ships, singing, give a name to the years.

    
                                         

                   

       The Dove

 

Dove, both love and spirit

Who engendered Jesus Christ,

Like you I love a Mary.

And so with her I marry.


                     

 

       The Peacock

 

In spreading out his fan, this bird,

Whose plumage drags on earth, I fear,

Appears more lovely than before,

But makes his derrière appear.


                                         

                             

          The Owl

 

My poor heart’s an owl

One woos, un-woos, re-woos.

Of blood, of ardour, he’s the fowl.

I praise those who love me, too.


                                           

                   

               Ibis

 

Yes, I’ll pass fearful shadows

O certain death, let it be so!

Latin mortal dreadful word,

Ibis, Nile’s native bird.


                                           

                             

             The Ox

 

This cherubim sings the praises

Of Paradise where, with Angels,

We’ll live once more, dear friends,

When the good God intends.


         

 

        Apollinaire’s Notes to the Bestiary

 

Admire the vital power

And nobility of line:

 

It praises the line that forms the images, marvellous ornaments to this poetic entertainment.

 

It’s the voice that the light made us understand here

That Hermes Trismegistus writes of in Pimander.

 

‘Soon’ we read in the Pimander, ‘they descend into the shadows….and an inarticulate cry rises from there that seems the voice of light.’

Is not this ‘voice of light’ the design, that is to say the line?

And where the light fully expresses all its colour. Painting is truly a luminous language.

 

From magic Thrace

 

Orpheus was a native of Thrace. That sublime poet played on a lyre that Mercury gave him. It was made from the shell of a tortoise, stuck round with leather, with two horns and a sounding board and strings made from sheep’s gut. Mercury gave these lyres to both Apollo and Amphion. When Orpheus played and sang, the wild animals themselves came to hear his singing. Orpheus invented all the sciences, all the arts. Grounded in magic he knew the future and predicted the Christian coming of the Saviour.


 

My harsh dreams knew the riding of you

My gold-charioted fate will be your lovely car

 

Bellerephon was the first to ride Pegasus when he attacked the Chimaera. There are many chimaeras that exist today, and before combating one of them, the greatest enemies of poetry, it is necessary to bridle Pegasus and even yoke him. One knows well what I wish to say.

 

The full form that conceives.

 

In the lair (the form) of the female hare superfetation (second conception during gestation) is possible.

 

                    With his four dromedaries

Don Pedro of Alfaroubeira

Travels the world and admires her.

 

The celebrated travel book entitled: ‘History of Prince Don Pedro of Portugal, in which is told what happened to him on the way composed for Gomez of Santistevan when he had covered the seven regions of the globe, one of the twelve who bore the prince company’, reports that the Prince of Portugal, Don Pedro of Alfaroubeira, set out with twelve companions to visit the seven regions of the world. These travellers were mounted on four dromedaries, and having passed through Spain, they went to Norway and from there to Babylon and the Holy Land. The Portuguese prince even visited the Kingdoms of Prester John and returned to his own country after three years and four months.


And the palace of Rosamunde.

 

Here, regarding the palace, and a testimony of the love that the King of England possessed for his mistress, is this quatrain from a poem whose Author I do not know.

 

‘To shelter Rosamunde from hate

borne her by the queen,

the king had a palace made

such as had ne’er been seen’.

 

By the flies who are they say

Divinities of snow.

 

All have not appeared in the form of snowflakes but many have been tamed by the Finnish or Lapp sorcerers and obey them. The magicians pass them from father to son and keep them imprisoned in a box where they are invisible, ready to fly out in a swarm and torment thieves, sounding out magic words, so they themselves are immortal.

 

Here’s the slender grasshopper

The food that fed Saint John.

 

‘And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins: and he did eat locusts and wild honey.’ Mark 1.6

 


 

The female of the Halcyon,

Love, the seductive Sirens,

All know the fatal songs

Dangerous and inhuman.

 

The sailors, hearing the female Halycon sing, prepared to die, safe however around mid-December, when these birds make their nests, and one knows that then the sea will be calm. Like Love and the Sirens, these birds sing so melodiously that even the life of those who hear them is not too great a price to pay for such music.

 

This cherubim

 

One may distinguish among the angelic hierarchies, vowed to the service and glory of the divine, beings with unknown forms and the most amazing beauty. The cherubim are winged oxen, but in no way monstrous.

 

When the good God intends.

 

Those who practice poetry search for and love only the perfection that is God Himself. And will this divine grace, this supreme perfection depart those for whom life exists only to discover and glorify them? That seems impossible, and, to my mind, poets have the right to hope after their death for the everlasting happiness that obtains complete knowledge of God, that is to say of the sublime beauty.

 

                                                                                                                                           

                                                           

 

     Index of First Lines

 

Under the Mirabeau flows the Seine. 3

Brushed by the shadows of the dead. 4

The anemone and flower that weeps. 5

The angels the angels in the sky. 6

I’ve gathered this sprig of heather7

The strollers in the plain. 8

My gipsy beau my lover9

The gypsy knew in advance. 10

I am bound to the King of the Sign of Autumn. 11

An eagle descends from this sky white with archangels. 12

Mellifluent moon on the lips of the maddened. 13

Autumn ill and adored. 14

The room is free. 15

Our story’s noble as its tragic. 16

Love is dead within your arms. 17

In the evening light that’s faded. 17

You’ve not surprised my secret yet18

Evening falls and in the garden. 18

You descended through the water clear19

O my abandoned youth is dead. 19

Admire the vital power20

From magic Thrace, O delerium!21

My harsh dreams knew the riding of you. 22

The fleece of this goat and even. 23

You set yourself against beauty.24

I wish there to be in my house:25

O lion, miserable image. 26

Don’t be fearful and lascivious. 27

There’s another cony I remember28

With his four dromedaries. 29

Sweet days, the mice of time,30

I carry treasure in my mouth,31

Look at this pestilential tribe. 32

Work leads us to riches.33

The songs that our flies know.. 34

Fleas, friends, lovers too,35

Here’s the slender grasshopper36

His heart was the bait: the heavens were the pond!37

Dolphins, playing in the sea. 38

Hurling his ink at skies above,39

Medusas, miserable heads. 40

In your pools, and in your ponds,42

The female of the Halcyon,43

Do I know where your ennui’s from, Sirens,44

Dove, both love and spirit45

In spreading out his fan, this bird,46

My poor heart’s an owl47

Yes, I’ll pass fearful shadows. 48

This cherubim sings the praises. 49