Friday, May 01, 2009

La Jolie Rousse

Guillaume Apollinaire, "La Jolie Rousse [The Pretty Redhead]":

Here I am before you all a sensible man
Who knows life and what a living man can know of death
Having experienced love's sorrows and joys
Having sometimes known how to impose my ideas
Adept at several languages
Having traveled quite a bit
Having seen war in the Artillery and the Infantry
Wounded in the head trepanned under chloroform
Having lost my best friends in the frightful conflict
I know of old and new as much as one man can know of the two
And without worrying today about that war
Between us and for us my friends
I am here to judge the long debate between tradition and invention
Between Order and Adventure

You whose mouth is made in the image of God's
Mouth that is order itself
Be indulgent when you compare us
To those who were the perfection of order
We who look for adventure everywhere

We're not your enemies
We want to give you vast and strange domains
Where mystery in flower spreads out for those who would pluck it
There you may find new fires colors you have never seen before
A thousand imponderable phantasms
Still awaiting reality
We want to explore kindness enormous country where all is still
There is also time which can be banished or recalled
Pity us who fight always at the boundaries
Of infinity and the future
Pity our errors pity our sins

Henri Rousseau, "La Muse inspirant le poè...

Henri Rousseau, "La Muse inspirant le poète," 1909. (A portrait of Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin). Image via Wikipedia

Now it's summer the violent season
And my youth is dead like the springtime
Oh Sun it's the time of ardent Reason
And I am waiting
So I may follow always the noble and gentle shape
That she assumes so I will love her only
She draws near and lures me as a magnet does iron
She has the charming appearance
Of a darling redhead

Her hair is golden you'd say
A lovely flash of lightning that lingers on
Or the flame that glows
In fading tea roses

But laugh at me
Men from everywhere especially men from here
For there are so many things I dare not tell you
So many things you would never let me say
Have pity on me

-- From Calligrammes, 1918

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