The Companions in the Gardenby René Char
Translated by Mary Ann Caws
Man is only a flower of air held by the earth, cursed by the stars, inhaled by death; the breath and the shadow of this coalition, sometimes, lift him up.
Our friendship is the white cloud preferred by the sun.
Our friendship is a free bark. It does not detach itself from the deeds of our heart.
Where the spirit no longer uproots but replants and takes care, I am born. Where the childhood of the people begins, I love.
Twentieth century: people were at their lowest. Women lit up and moved about quickly, on an overhang to which only our eyes had access.
To a rose I bind myself.
We are ungovernable. The only master propitious to us is Lightning, which now lights us and now again splits us apart.
Lightning and rose, in us, in their fleetingness, add together to accomplish us.
I am grass in your hand, my adolescent pyramid. I love you on your thousand flowers closed up.
Lend to the bud, leaving it the future, all the shine of the deep flower. Your harsh second look can do that. Thus the frost will not destroy it.
Let’s not permit anyone to remove the part of nature we close up in ourselves. Let’s not lose one stamen, let’s not give up one water’s gravel.
After the departure of the harvesters, on the plains of the Ile-de-France, this narrow tapered flint protruding from the earth, lightly held, causes an equivalent kernel to come forth from our memory, a kernel of a dawn whose change or end we believe we shall not see; only the sublime blush and the lifted face.
Their crime: a raging will to teach us to scorn the gods we have within us.
These are the pessimists that the future raises. They see the realization, in their lifetime, of the object of their apprehension. Yet the grape cluster, which followed the harvest, above its stem, forms a circle; and the children of the seasons, who aren’t gathered in the ordinary way, hasten to make firm the sand at the edge of the wave. That, the pessimists see also.
Ah, to be able to rise differently.
Say, will what we are cause us to spurt forth as a bouquet?
A poet should leave, not proofs, but traces of his passage. Only traces set us dreaming.
To live, is that to insist on completing a memory? To die, is that to become, but nowhere at all, alive?
The real sometimes takes away the thirst of hope. That’s why, expectation to the contrary, hope survives.
To touch a manure heap with our shadow, so much does our side enclose maladies and our heart mad thoughts, is possible; but to have in yourself something sacred.
When I dream and move forward, when I retain the ineffable, waking up I am on my knees.
History is only the other side of the way masters comport themselves. Also a frightful land where the lycaon hunts and the viper scrapes. Distress is in the gaze of human societies and Time, with victories rising.
Shine and leap forward – ready knife, slow star.
In the breaking apart of the universe that we are undergoing, oh marvel! The falling pieces are alive.
My all, my earth, as a bird changed into fruit in an eternal tree, I am yours.
What your winters ask from us, is to take off in the air what would be without that only filings and drudges. What your winters ask from us, is to serve as prelude for your taste: a taste equal to that sung by the civilization of fruit under its winged roundness.
What consoles me, when I will be dead, is that I will be there—dislocated, hideous—to see myself as a poem.
My lyre must not find me out, my verse must not become what I would have been able to write.
The marvelous in this being: every spring, in him, gives birth to a stream. With the slightest of his gifts doves shower down.
In our gardens forests are getting ready.
Free birds do not let anyone look at them. Let’s remain obscure, let’s renounce ourselves, near them.
Oh still surviving, better and better!
René Char (1907-88) is one of the most important modern French poets.