Guillaume Apollinaire

Selected Poems

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2002 All Rights Reserved

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Contents


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)

Orpheus

Orpheus, Making Music for the Animals

‘Orpheus, Making Music for the Animals’
Adriaen Collaert, 1570 - 1618, The Rijksmuseun

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

Feeling

‘Feeling’
Raphaël Sadeler (I), 1581, The Rijksmuseun

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

Pegasus

‘Pegasus’
Jacopo de' Barbari, 1509 - 1516, The Rijksmuseun

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

Hilly Landscape with Two Goats

‘Hilly Landscape with Two Goats’
Reinier van Persijn, Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp, Nicolaes Visscher (I), 1641, The Rijksmuseun

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

The Fall

‘The Fall’
Anonymous, Hieronymus Cock, c. 1558 - c. 1570, The Rijksmuseun

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

The Large Cat

‘The Large Cat’
Cornelis Visscher (II), 1657, The Rijksmuseun

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

Wild Animals

‘Wild Animals’
Caspar Luyken, Christoph Weigel, 1695 - 1705, The Rijksmuseun

O lion, miserable image

Of kings lamentably chosen,

Now you’re only born in a cage

In Hamburg, among the Germans.

The Hare

River Landscape with Hare

‘River Landscape with Hare’
Abraham Genoels, Adam Frans van der Meulen, Lodewijk XIV, 1650 - 1690, The Rijksmuseun

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

Rabbits

‘Rabbits’
Frederick Bloemaert, Abraham Bloemaert, Nicolaes Visscher (I), after 1635 - 1670, The Rijksmuseun

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

Four Dromedaries

‘Four Dromedaries’
Nicolaes de Bruyn, 1594, The Rijksmuseun

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

Flowers and a Mouse on an Apple

‘Flowers and a Mouse on an Apple’
Assuerus van Londerseel, 1594, The Rijksmuseun

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

Two Elephants

‘Two Elephants’
Nicolaes de Bruyn, 1594, The Rijksmuseun

I carry treasure in my mouth,

As an elephant his ivory.

At the price of flowing words,

Purple death!…I buy my glory.

Orpheus

Orpheus and Eurydice

‘Orpheus and Eurydice’
Etienne Baudet, Nicolas Poussin, 1648 - 1711, The Rijksmuseun

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

Plants, Caterpillars and Insects

‘Plants, Caterpillars and Insects’
Jacob l' Admiral (II), Johannes Sluyter, 1710 - 1770, The Rijksmuseun

Work leads us to riches.

Poor poets, work on!

The caterpillar’s endless sigh

Becomes the lovely butterfly.

The Fly

The Fable of the Ant and the Fly

‘The Fable of the Ant and the Fly’
Aegidius Sadeler, Marcus Gheeraerts (I), Marcus Gheeraerts (I), 1608, The Rijksmuseun

The songs that our flies know

Were taught to them in Norway

By flies who are they say

Divinities of snow.

The Flea

Old Woman Picking Flea's from a Child's Head

‘Old Woman Picking Flea's from a Child's Head’
Jan Miel, 1599 - 1664, The Rijksmuseun

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

The Plagues of Locusts and Water Turned to Blood

‘The Plagues of Locusts and Water Turned to Blood’
Jan Miel, 1599 - 1664, The Rijksmuseun

Here’s the slender grasshopper

The food that fed Saint John.

May my verse be similar,

A treat for the best of men.

Orpheus

Orpheus

‘Orpheus’
Pierre -Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, French, 1824 – 1898, Yale University Art Gallery

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

Arion on the Dolphin

‘Arion on the Dolphin’
Jan Harmensz. Muller, Harmen Jansz Muller, 1589, The Rijksmuseun

Dolphins, playing in the sea

The wave is bitter gruel.

Does my joy sometimes erupt?

Yet life is still so cruel.

The Octopus

Sea Monster

‘Sea Monster’
Anonymous, 1661, The Rijksmuseun

Hurling his ink at skies above,

Sucking the blood of what he loves

And finding it delicious,

Is myself the monster, vicious.

The Jellyfish

Medusæ

‘Medusæ’
Descriptive Catalogue of the Medusæ of the Australian Seas, Lendenfeld, R. von (Robert), p39 1887, Internet Book Archive Images

Medusas, miserable heads

With hairs of violet

You enjoy the hurricane

And I enjoy the very same.

The Lobster

Lobster on the Beach

‘Lobster on the Beach’
Albert Flamen, 1664, The Rijksmuseun

Uncertainty, O my delights

You and I we go

As lobsters travel onwards, quite

Backwards, Backwards, O.

The Carp

Three Carp on a Shore

‘Three Carp on a Shore’
Adriaen Collaert, after 1598 - 1618, The Rijksmuseun

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 Death of Orpheus

‘The Death of Orpheus’
Nicolaes de Bruyn, 1594, The Rijksmuseun

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

Odysseus and the Sirens

‘Odysseus and the Sirens’
Johannes Glauber, Gerard de Lairesse, 1656 - 1726, The Rijksmuseun

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

Angels and Holy Spirit (Annunciation)

‘Angels and Holy Spirit (Annunciation)’
Nicolas Pitau (I), Philippe de Champaigne, 1642 - 1671, The Rijksmuseun

Dove, both love and spirit

Who engendered Jesus Christ,

Like you I love a Mary.

And so with her I marry.

The Peacock

Juno and the Peacock

‘Juno and the Peacock’
Magdalena van de Passe, Peter Paul Rubens, 1617 - 1634, The Rijksmuseun

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

Owls in a Cave

‘Owls in a Cave’
Magdalena van de Passe, Peter Paul Rubens, 1617 - 1634, The Rijksmuseun

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.

The Ibis

Storks in a Nest

‘Storks in a Nest’
Magdalena van de Passe, Peter Paul Rubens, 1617 - 1634, The Rijksmuseun

Yes, I’ll pass fearful shadows

O certain death, let it be so!

Latin mortal dreadful word,

Ibis, Nile’s native bird.

The Ox

Lucas and the Ox

‘Lucas and the Ox’
Hieronymus Wierix, 1563 - before 1590, The Rijksmuseun

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