Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘Birds in the Night’
By Paul Verlaine (1844–1896)
Translation of Gertrude Hall

SOME moments, I’m the tempest-driven bark
  That runs dismasted mid the hissing spray,
And seeing not Our Lady through the dark,
  Makes ready to be drowned, and kneels to pray.
Some moments, I’m the sinner at his end,        5
  That knows his doom if he unshriven go,
And losing hope of any ghostly friend,
  Sees hell already gape, and feels it glow.
Oh, but!—some moments, I’ve the spirit stout
  Of early Christians in the lion’s care,        10
That smile to Jesus witnessing, without
  A nerve’s revolt or turning of a hair!

    GIVE ear unto the gentle lay
      That’s only sad that it may please;
      It is discreet, and light it is:        15
    A whiff of wind o’er buds in May.
    The voice was known to you, (and dear?)
      But it is muffled latterly
      As is a widow,—still, as she
    It doth its sorrow proudly bear,        20
    And through the sweeping mourning-veil
      That in the gusts of Autumn blows,
      Unto the heart that wonders, shows
    Truth like a star now flash, now fail.
    It says—the voice you knew again!—        25
      That kindness, goodness, is our life;
      And that of envy, hatred, strife,
    When death is come, shall naught remain.
    It says how glorious to be
      Like children, without more delay,        30
      The tender gladness it doth say
    Of peace not bought with victory.
    Accept the voice,—ah, hear the whole
      Of its persistent, artless strain:
      Naught so can soothe a soul’s own pain,        35
    As making glad another soul!
    It pines in bonds but for a day,—
      The soul that without murmur bears.
      How unperplexed, how free it fares!
    Oh, listen to the gentle lay!        40

  I’VE seen again the One child, verily;
  I felt the last wound open in my breast,—
  The last, whose perfect torture doth attest
That on some happy day I too shall die!
Good, icy arrow, piercing thoroughly!        45
  Most timely came it from their dreams to wrest
  The sluggish scruples laid too long to rest,—
And all my Christian blood hymned fervently.
I still hear, still I see! O worshiped rule
Of God! I know at last how comfortful        50
  To hear and see! I see, I hear alway!
O innocence, O hope! Lowly and mild,
How I shall love you, sweet hands of my child,
  Whose task shall be to close our eyes one day!

  THE SKY-BLUE smiles above the roof
            Its tenderest;
    A green tree rears above the roof
            Its waving crest.
    The church-bell in the windless sky
            Peaceably rings;        60
    A skylark soaring in the sky
            Endlessly sings.
    My God, my God, all life is there,
            Simple and sweet;
    The soothing beehive murmur there        65
            Comes from the street!
    What have you done, O you that weep
            In the glad sun,—
    Say, with your youth, you man that weep,
            What have you done?        70

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