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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Vase
By Henri de Régnier (1864–1936)
From ‘Six French Poets’: Translation of Amy Lowell

MY heavy hammer rang in the light air; I saw the river and the orchard, the field, and as far as the woods, beneath the sky growing bluer hour by hour, then rose and mauve in the twilight; then I stood up straight and stretched myself, happy in the task of the hours, numb with having crouched from dawn till twilight before the block of marble upon which I cut out the sides of the vase, still in its shell, that my ponderous hammer struck, stressing the clear morning and the good day, happy at being resonant in the light air.  1
  The vase took shape in the worked stone. Slender and pure, it had grown larger, still unformed in its slenderness, and I waited, with idle and unquiet hands, for days, turning my head to the left, to the right, at the slightest sound, without polishing the belly farther or lifting the hammer. The water ran from the spring as though breathless. In the silence, I heard the fruits of the orchard trees falling, one by one, from branch to branch; I breathed a heralding perfume of distant flowers on the wind; often I thought that some one spoke low, and one day that I dreamed—not sleeping—I heard, beyond the fields and the river, the playing of flutes.  2
  Still another day, between the ochre and gold leaves of the woods, I saw a faun with shaggy yellow legs dancing; I caught sight of him also, another time, coming out of the wood, along the road, and sitting down upon a stump to take a butterfly from one of his horns.  3
  Another time, a centaur crossed the river swimming, the water streamed from his man’s skin and his horse’s coat; he advanced a few steps into the reeds, snuffed the wind, whinneyed, and crossed back over the water; the next day I saw the prints of his hoofs stamped in the grass.  4
  Naked women passed carrying baskets and sheaves, very far off, quite at the other end of the plain. One morning I found three at the spring, and one of them spoke to me. She was naked. She said to me: “Carve the stone after the form of my body in your thoughts, and make my bright face smile in the marble block; listen all round you to the hours danced by my sisters, whose circle winds itself, interlaced, and revolves and sings and unwinds.”  5
  And I felt her warm mouth upon my cheek.  6
  Then the vast orchard, and the woods, and the plain, shivered to a strange noise, and the spring ran faster, with a laugh in its waters; the three Nymphs standing near the three reeds took one another by the hand and danced; red-haired fauns came out of the wood in troupes, and voices sang beyond the trees of the orchard, with flutes awake in the light air. The ground echoed to the gallop of centaurs; they came from the depths of the resonant horizon, and one saw lame satyrs, stung by bees, sitting on the rushing cruppers, holding twisted staves and big-bellied leather bottles; hairy mouths and vermillion lips kissed each other, and the immense and frenzied circle—heavy hoofs, light feet, fleeces, cruppers, tunics—turned wildly about me, who, grave while it went on, carved on the rounded sides of the vase the whirl of the forces of life.  7
  From the perfume sent out by the ripe earth, an intoxication mounted through my thoughts, and in the smell of fruits and crushed grapes, in the shock of hoofs and the stamping of heels, in the fallow odor of goats and stallions, under the breeze of the circle and the hail of laughter, I carved upon the marble what I heard humming; and amidst the hot flesh and the warm exhalations, neighings of muzzles or murmurings of lips, I felt, loving or savage, upon my hands, the breath of nostrils or the kisses of mouths.  8
  Twilight came and I turned my head.  9
  My intoxication was dead with the accomplished task; and upon its pedestal, at last, from foot to handles, the great vase stood up naked in the silence, and carved in a spiral about its living marble, the dispersed circle, of which a feeble wind brought the echo of the vanished noise, turned, with its goats, its gods, its naked women, its rearing centaurs, and its nimble fauns, silently round the side, while alone forever in the gloomy night, I cursed the dawn and wept toward the darkness.  10

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