for Victor Hugo
Andromache, I think of you - this meagre stream,
This melancholy mirror where had once shone forth
The giant majesty of all your widowhood,
This fraudulent Simois, fed by bitter tears,
Has quickened suddenly my fertile memory
As I was walking through the modem Carrousel.
The old Paris is gone (the form a city takes
More quickly shifts, alas, than does the mortal heart);
I picture in my head the busy camp of huts,
And heaps of rough-hewn columns, capitals and shafts,
The grass, the giant blocks made green by puddle-stain,
Reflected in the glaze, the jumbled bric-à-brac.
Once nearby was displayed a great menagerie,
And there I saw one day - the time when under skies
Cold and newly bright, Labour stirs awake
And sweepers push their storms into the silent air -
A swan, who had escaped from his captivity,
And scuffing his splayed feet along the paving stones,
He trailed his white array of feathers in the dirt.
Close by a dried out ditch the bird opened his beak,
Flapping excitedly, bathing his wings in dust,
And said, with heart possessed by lakes he once had loved:
'Water, when will you rain? Thunder, when will you roar?'
I see this hapless creature, sad and fatal myth,
Stretching the hungry head on his convulsive neck,
Sometimes towards the sky, like the man in Ovid's book -
Towards the ironic sky, the sky of cruel blue,
As if he were a soul contesting with his God!
Paris may change, but in my melancholy mood
Nothing has budged! New palaces, blocks, scaffoldings,
Old neighbourhoods, are allegorical for me,
And my dear memories are heavier than stone.
And so outside the Louvre an image gives me pause:
I think of my great swan, his gestures pained and mad,
Like other exiles, both ridiculous and sublime,
Gnawed by his endless longing! Then I think of you,
Fallen Andromache, torn from a husband's arms,
Vile property beneath the haughty Pyrrhus' hand,
Next to an empty tomb, head bowed in ecstasy,
Widow of Hector! O! and wife of Helenus!
I think of a negress, thin and tubercular,
Treading in the mire, searching with haggard eye
For palm trees she recalls from splendid Africa,
Somewhere behind a giant barrier of fog;
Of all those who have lost something they may not find
Ever, ever again! who steep themselves in tears
And suck a bitter milk from that good she-wolf, grief!
Of orphans, skin and bones, dry and wasted blooms!
And likewise in the forest of my exiled soul
Old Memory sings out a full note of the horn!
I think of sailors left forgotten on an isle,
Of captives, the defeated ... many others more!
Přeložil James McGowan