Harriet Monroe, ed. (18601936). Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. 191222.
Louis Eleventh, Curious Man
By John Strong Newberry, trans.
From Poems by Paul Fort
Translated from the French
LOUIS ELEVENTH, for trifles fain, I love you, curious man. Dear chafferer in chestnuts, discreetly did you plan to pluck the chestnuts of fair Burgundy! You seemed all friendliness and courtesy. Your hood was hung with images of lead and copper medals. Watchers would have said your pious thoughts were fixed on things above. Sudden you stooped, your long arms outward drove. Gently, not even ruffling your sleek glove, you filched a chestnut, another, half a dozen, beneath the menacing gauntlet of your cousin.
But if by chance he let his great fists fall upon your back, your scrawny back, you roared with laughter and his stolen goods restored. Twas but an empty shell. Void were the chestnuts all. Your gentle industry served your fortunes well.
So I, good singer, sage of little worth, pilfer both heaven and earth, provinces of my brain, under the hands of the Lord, all light. I deftly pull from His fingers the roses of the dawn, the rings of the storm, the lilies of starry nights, and gain little ineffable images, a heap of shining things stored up beneath my skull.
To filch by slow degrees but sure, sweet Louis Eleventh, O man most rare! May God, good politician, O rare among the Louis, have you in His good care; and as, in days of old, when you were pleased, your favorite greyhound stretched beneath your breeches, mildly to judge by that grateful warmth appeased, beneath his golden slippers in Paradise may you be, blest little king at rest, his most fervent counsellor.
And, for having praised you, counter to my teachers, and with all candor having kept your law, when the day of my doom is at hand, when I, in my turn, shall stand awaiting judgment at the bar above, pluck at Gods robe that he place me in His love.