Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Two pomes

It just so happened, on one day, I clicked on two poems from the same rough corner of the poetic landscape.

The first, which I'm not supposed to reproduce, but which you can read here, Elizabeth Bishop's superficially chirpy One Art, a sort of whistling-past-the-graveyard poem, in which she makes a virtue of a necessity by designating losing as an art. You probably know it by its first line rather than its title:

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Then, via John Baker, came the poignant hymn to lost love Le vase brisé by Sully Prudhomme, written in 1865, for which John helpfully provided a source (warning: pop-up infested site) for an English translation, by Pete Crowther. It's not a bad job, though he seems to have bunked off home before finishing the final stanza. Bloody Friday afternoon translations, eh?

The Broken Vase

A fan’s light tap
Was enough to chip
This flower vase
In which the roses
Now are dying.
No sound it made

But a hairline crack
Day after day
Almost unseen
Crept slowly round the glass
And dropp by dropp
The water trickled out

While the vital sap
In the roses’ stems
Grew dry.
Now no-one doubts:
“Don’t touch”, they say,
“It’s broken”.

Often, too, the hand one loves
May lightly brush against the heart
And bruise it.
Slowly then across that heart
A hidden crack will spread
And love’s fair flower perish.