Maison du Berger I – by Alfred de Vigny

If your heart groans under the weight of our
life, drags and struggles like a hurt eagle,
carries upon its servile wing a whole
fatal world like mine, crushing and cold; if it
beats only when it bleeds thru’ its wound, if
it no longer looks on love, its faith-
ful star to brighten th’ horizon unseen, alone:

If your spirit’s like mine in chains, tired
of its ball and bitter bread, in mourning lets
the oar fall from the slave-ship’s deck, lowers
its pallid head and cries over waves and
seeks in the icy flows a path unknown,
sees shivering there on its own naked
shoulder the common letter written with iron;

If secret passions shake your body’s core,
and it chafes at looks, feels hesitant & thrills:
If it seeks in its beauty retreats profound
to better hide the mocking outsider,
if your lip is parched with poisonous lies,
your lovely face reddens at passing an
impure unknown in dreams which sees and listens to

You: Go bravely, leave all the towns & don’t
sully your feet with dust along the way;
from the top of our thots look at the slavish
cities, like fatal stones of man’s bondage.
The vast woods and fields are great refuge,
free like the sea about the somber isles;
go walking through the fields, a flower in your hand.

Nature waits for you in majestic quiet;
by your toes the grass raises evenings’ cloud,
and ‘farewell’s’ sigh balances from sun to
ground the gorgeous lilies like burning incense;
the forest has covered its columns deep,
the mountain hides and on pale waters
the willow has suspended its chaste resting spot.

Evening kindly falls, asleep in the valley
on emerald lawn and on the golden grass,
beneath the pliant rushes of spring’s source,
under trees, the dreamer who trembles at the
horizon sways while fleeing in wild vines,
night Throws its gray coat on the edge of shores,
and with the flowers of the dark opens the jail.

On my mountain a thick heather sprouts where
the hunter’s tracks are scarcely to be seen
and he raises his haughty head above our
looks, watches in the night the shepherd and
stranger. Come & hide your love and your divine
fault; if the grass is disturbed, or not tall
enough, I’ll move along for you the Sheperd’s Hut.

It goes gently with its four wheels, the roof
is no higher than your face and eyes and it
is the color of coral just like your cheeks
and silent men dye th’ axles, side like night.
A scented entrance, alcove broad and dark,
and there among the flowers, we will find
in shade a silent bed to rest, our hair entwined.

I will see, if you want, the lands of snow,
where the star in love devours and shines bright,
which winds rush at, countries the sea attacks,
those where th’ obscure pole under ice is cursed.
We’ll follow by chance the wandering course.
Why should I care about the day or world?
I will say they are lovely when your eyes speak it.

How God guides the noxious fume to its end
over the iron which crosses the mountain paths,
and upright angel on its clanging forge,
When it goes under earth or makes bridges
tremble and with teeth of fire devours in-
cinerators, impales cities and jumps o’er
rivers more quickly than a deer in burning leaps!

Yes, if the blueyed Angel isn’t watchful on its
way and sword in hand hangs not or defends the
path; if it did not count the lever’s blows or
listen to each turning spoke in its triumphant
course, not eye waters and hold its hand on
embers to light the magic furnace up in
a blaze, will always be enough for child’s stone.

On this iron bull which breathes smoke and lows,
the man climbed too early. No one yet knows
what raging storms this blind, severe man bears
and merry traveller gives him treasures,
he adds father and sons as hostages
in the burning belly of Carthage’s bull,
who throws them back in ash at the feet of god in gold.

But one must triumph over time and space
arrive or die. The merchants are jealous.
Gold rains under the coals of vapor which
passes, the moment and goal is our whole
world. All said: “Let us go!” But no one is
master of the roaring dragon a wise man gave
birth to; we mocked ourselves more harshly than we all.

As well! That all circulates and that great
causes on wings of flame launch actions as
long as they are always open to generous
things; how the ways of traders serve passions!
Business would be blessed by the herald’s staff
if Love that tortures a dark intention
could in a single day cut ‘cross two great nations!

But, unless a friend is threatened in this life,
don’t toss out, in crying, despairing call,
or what in its trumpet France invites us
to, festivals of battle, fights of know-
ledge; unless in a dead man’s bed a tearful
mother wants not yet to fix on her adored
line these sad, soft eyes that one should no longer look

At, let’s avoid these paths.—Their voyage lacks
grace, since it is also prompt, on its lines of
iron along which the arrow shot through space
crossing from arc to goal whistles in th’ air,
so thrown far off, the human being does
not breathe and doesn’t see, in all nature,
that it is a choking fog which crosses in a flash.

On the road, you will never hear the horse’s sharp
hoof stamping on the cobblestones in flame:
Good-bye slow voyages, far-off sounds that one
hears, the laughter of the passer by, delays
of the axle, turns unforeseen on the
rough slopes, a friend met, forgotten hours;
the hope of coming late into a savage place.

Distance and time are conquered. Knowledge circum-
scribes a sad and right way upon the earth.
Our world is focused through experience, &
the equator is no more than one, too narrow
ring—one more chance—each shall slip on their line,
frozen before the sole rank parting assigns,
buried in the plunge of frigid calculation’s silence.

Never will the loving, peaceful reverie
see without horror its white foot attached;
because it has to run its eyes’ long look
on each thing seen like a pouring stream,
that it questions with the utmost concern,
and making holy secrets into a study,
it walks, it stops and goes with its collar upraised.


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