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Three poems by Alain-Fournier.

Translated by ANITA MARSH and ANTHONY COSTELLO.

Now the Rain
xxxxxxxxxxxxxJanuary 2nd

The savage winds of January
And the glasshouse where I took refuge
From the rain, the glass
Making a tinkling sound − all day long;
The wind blowing chimney smoke
Back down from where it came,
Doors un-fastening, and the wind blowing
Through the bowers

− Where is she? Where is she?

There are footprints full of water
On the gravel paths…that dream-June of ours,
Beautiful season, best time of the year;
Now, the walkways and avenues
Soak in rain; the house, my heart, abandoned,
Slate tiles gleaming with water,
Nests of sparrows rotting and trailing in the wind,
Night falling, and the winds turning
Umbrellas inside out…the rain wetting
The faces of the ladies returning
From the village…Ah, my friend, my lady,
Who is not here, who does not go by,
Who does not come and swing
Open the iron gate

−I, am not waiting…

This hour goes by,
How we would have loved the hours,
And the lifetime

It rains,
Rains on the walkways
That dampened your slender ankles,
Drizzling on the chestnut trees
Gloomily confused
That you’re not on the bench,
In the shade, your blonde hair
Gathering the summer around you.

She is far away. Where is she?
Is that her pensive brow
Placed against the mullioned window?

At the entrance,
I pass by the yew trees for the last time.
Night falls. The windows will be closed.
The soaked shutters will be shut.
And the abandoned croquet set on the wet lawn taken in.

Road-Song

xxx“…The Roads Untravelled.”
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Jules Laforgue

We had the fever,
xxxxxxxxxxxx The marsh fever
As we went on our way,
And a warning the forests
Would offer only curséd sun

We had stories of broken stretches,
Lost irons, wounded horses
And crippled donkeys with broken hooves
Refusing to move

We had no memory
Of the events of the day,
Or any sense of arrival

Horses tack and saddles
To make shoes,
Walking through rugged broom,
Our feet bleeding
And then drying out
In the dust;
xxxxxxxx …We marched on,
Crushing and grinding
Heath and heather
For balsams
To heal our wounds

We could have sat in ditches
To rest our worn-out bodies,
We had no hope
xxxxxxxxxxxx And nothing to say

We preferred disordered flights
On ravaged roads, the boundary stones
And marker posts
xxxxxxxxxxxxxx Of defeated horizons
That we left behind in the dust
And met further on, always in the distance,
Towns with far away names
Sounding like the pebbles underneath our steps.

We will never arrive at the
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx City of Wonders
That is only a name and dead in the sun
We want to live in the
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Sun of Heaven,
Your skies, with our heads aglow
And ringed with glory,
Sparks for feet, and throats
Glittering in victory song, our songs libations

We had the fever,
xxxxxxxxxxxxx The marsh fever
As we went on our way,
A forest without shade,
Surrounded by the gaze of russet-coloured heathers,
Their wild fragrance within us.

 

The Sun & The Road

The squares are in full shadow
Under the chestnut trees,
And the big sun beats down on the road.
In ranks of two, a wedding passes by
On this stifling afternoon − a long bridal procession ,
A country wedding, finery, “a beautiful day!”
The children look lost and walk in line,
Their fears and woes unrecognized.

I think about a little boy who looks like me
On a spring morning under the aspens;
Although he’s been invited, he is alone
At this summer wedding he imagines;
Under a sky scented with wild roses
They will place him in line next to her,
Whose beauty makes him cry with desire,
(Oh Mothers! If only you knew childrens’
Tears, and nights full of love, sadness)

I’ll wear a big white hat made of straw,
My arm touched with the lace of her sleeve,
As I dream her dream in my Sunday best;
That beautiful time of love and summer,
She, soft and gentle and bent on my arm,
I creeping along to take her parasol
And saying, softly, “Miss, Young Lady”;

Firstly…no…well…in the evening…perhaps…
I will dare to take her hand, le petit pas;
If this takes too long, and the evening is fresh,
I will speak the truth until I’m out of breath,
And her eyes will be wet with words so tender
And with no-one overhearing, she will answer.

…But here I am! –
Observing a mundane bride and groom
That can be witnessed in any town hall…

Music makes of the blinding road a procession
And first-time outfits are tugged at, shunned,
While I dream in the dust of their trains;
Here pass, two by two, well-bred little girls,
Little girls in white-laced sleeves
And boys from the big towns and cities
Carrying bouquets of artificial flowers;
I think about the little boys, full of fear,
Who are placed with no-one in particular;
I think about the village, its lads and lovers
Jostling about in this ridiculous cortege!
Young boys who come with no-one in particular
Caught up in the rhythmical process,
Pulled along in a way… disproportionate?
Small boys now lost among the ranks
Of other small boys, all these boys Motherless,
And there, is one boy who bears a resemblance
To me; above all else this boy is lost
In his Sunday best made of silk and straw…
The day’s intensity… the full sun…the dry joy.

Through the dust and tears of a mocking laughter,
I see him on the road and chasing after a long line of Ladies & Gentlemen.


Alain-Fournier is the pseudonym of Henri-Alban Fournier (3 October 1886 – 22 September 1914), the author of Le Grand Meaulnes (1913). The French text, taken from the 1924 Gallimard edition of Miracles, is here.

Anthony Costello read Literature & Philosophy at Middlesex University and was awarded an MA from (what was) the University of north London. He taught English in Felpham, West Sussex, and has worked as a bookseller and gardener. His poetry has appeared in Poetry Review (UK), Poetry Salzburg Review, Magma, Orbis, Dream Catcher, Acumen and Anon.

Anita Marsh studied English & French at Southampton university. She worked as a language assistant in Belgium, a translator for BNP Paribas, and a Senior bookseller in London. Anita had a lifelong love of the French language and French Literature and spent the last year of her life living in France and translating the poems of Alain-Fournier.

”The Sun & The Road” first appeared here: Grey Suit: Poem Stream

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