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  • Satire IV

    See the tall and lonely castle mirrored in the placid lake,
    ‘Neath those waters does its shadow through the ages never wake,
    Silently above the pine-tress rise its ancient rampart stark,
    Throwing wide a flood of shadow o’er the brooding waters dark.
    Through the high and arched windows silver curtains one can see,
    Like the hoar frost coldly shining, hanging folds of drapery.
    Slowly climbing up the heavens shows the moon behind the pines,
    And the rocky crags and tree tops on the silver sky designs,
    While the mighty oaks encircling like a watching giant band
    Round, as though around some treasure, silent guard of honour stand.
    Only the white swans that slowly through the rushes take their way,
    Emperors of that lonely water, hold their proud and silent sway,
    Now, as though to mount the heavens, spreading wide their mighty wings
    Do they beat the water’s surface, breaking it in silver rings,
    While the sleeping rushes shiver giving forth a secret sight
    And in the flower-sprinkled grass does a cricket sound its cry;
    There’s sweet sound and so much scent and so much summer in the air…

    Beneath the hidden balcony a lonely knight is standing there,
    The balcony hung o’er with leaves, in clusters round its pillars twined
    Roses of Shiraz in bloom, and creeping plants of diverse kind;
    While he intoxicated by the breeze that off the sleeping water strays
    Amidst fair nature’s magic spell on his guitar a nocturne plays.
    “Beloved, show thyself again in thy long flowing silken gown
    Which clinging close about thee seems with silver dust to be weighed down.
    My whole life would I gaze on thee, that dost a crown of radiance wear
    When thou dost lift thy small white hand to smooth aside thy golden hair.
    Come sport with me… and with my luck… throw from thy casement in the skies.
    A little faded meadow flower that on thy swelling bosom lies,
    So that in falling it may strike on my guitar a trembling sound.
    So bright the darkness it does seem that silver snow lies on the ground.
    If to the perfumed fastness of your curtained boudoir I might win
    Intoxicated with the scent of snowy flaxen sheets within,
    Cupid, that small bantering page, would hide between his hands flame the flame.
    Of thy bright gleaming bedside lamp, my beauteous, my graceful dame !”
    A gentle sound of rustling silk … a form that moves the leaves between
    Among the scarlet roses and the climbing deep blue creepers seen.
    Among the flowers the maiden laughs, and leans her hand the bars above-
    Sweet as the image of a saint the faces are of those that love-
    She throws him down a crimson rose, then on her lips a finger lays
    As though to chide him, yet the while soft words of passion says.
    Then drawing back she disappears… sound of steps that come in haste…
    And through the door she slips at last, the knight has taken her round the waist
    And arm in arm they stride away… a pretty match they make withal
    So lovely she, and he so young, and both of them so slim and tall.
    Out of the shadow of the cliff, towards the open shining lake,
    With loose and lazy flapping sails, their boat its gentle course does take
    And slowly through the silver night, amid the sound of lapping oars,
    They glide across a magic lake that lies between enchanted shores.

    The moon now, to her fullness come, athwart the sky her lantern swings
    And o’er the water, shore to shore, a path of silver brilliance flings

    That she upon the ripples lays, as though by lips of fairies kissed,
    She the child of heaven’s clear, dream of everlasting mist.
    Gradually her beam grows brighter, clearer still and still more clear,
    While the farther hills upstanding in her gleam quite close appear,
    Wider too the forest growing that does clothe the water’s side,
    Spreading ‘neath the disc of heaven, Queen of all that shining tide.
    The while, tall limes with shadows wide, their blossoms trailing to the ground,
    Above the shady waters lean and through their leaves soft breezes sound,
    While on the maiden’s golden head many scented petals light.
    Now does she place her slender hands about the neck of that fair knight
    And raising up her face to his, tenderly she whispers this:
    “Deep in my soul how wildly sweet the word upon thy red lip is.
    And oh, to what a heaven high within thy mind thou lift thy slave,
    Still is the yearning in thy heart the single happiness I have.
    And with its gentle fire thy voice can hurt and fill my soul with fears,
    For ours does seem a tale of lave passed dawn to us from bygone years.
    A wondrous unspoken dream thy eyes that do so sadly yearn,
    Within their humid, thirsty depths I am consumed and ever burn.
    O, give me back your gleaming eyes and turn them not away from me,
    An ever standing miracle shall their eternal darkness be,
    Fain would I gaze till I grow blind beholding them. But listen now
    How countless tress and ripples soft hold converse with the stars, and how
    The woods with dark delirious joy are full, and how the azure springs
    Speak to each other of our love amid their happy babblings,
    While Lucifer is trembling midst the summits of the highest trees,
    The whole wide earth, the lake, the sky, all are our accomplices.
    Well may we loose the rudder and let the lazy oars lie still
    That on the water’s gentle breast the waves should bear us where they will,
    No matter where the waters drive, no matter what the kind wind’s breath,
    For everywhere our joy will lie… little matter life or death.”
    Fanny, naught but fancy’s farce. When ever we are alone we two,
    How oft you take me on the lake, what seas and forests guide me through !
    Where did you see these unknown lands of which you speak to me today?
    And where these joys? Since then I deem five hundred years have passed away
    Today one may not loose one’s soul enchanted by a maiden’s gaze,
    Though sick with longing you may be, you will not gain such maiden’s ways,
    As with your arms about her neck, with mouth to mouth and breast to breast,
    Her eyes are asking: “Tell me true, ’tis really me you love the best?”
    Alas, your hand is scarce held out but opens the door and pour in through
    A swarm of wretched relatives, some uncles, then an aunt or two.
    You hang your head, grin bashfully, and silent ask the skies above
    If there be not in all the world a quiet spot in which to love.
    Like mummies brought from Egypt they, stiffly upright in their chairs,
    While you with twisting fingers writhe, numbering your moustache’s hairs,
    Or roll unwanted cigarettes, or sit with clenched and folded hands
    And show how sensible you are, who even cooking understands.

    O, I am weary of a life composed of desilusion’s stuff,
    Of misery and bitter prose… of such a life I’ve had enough;
    To hallow with so many tears an instinct so banal and vain,
    An instinct that the birds have got, and every spring comes back again.
    You do not live, another soul inspires you, lives in your stead,
    Laughs with your mouth, is happy. He, and he it was who whispered.
    Your lives are like the ripples which into oblivion run away,
    Eternity is evil all, and sin, a demigod, holds sway.
    Do you not realize your love is not your own, you madman you?
    Do you not know what nonsense cheap you hold for marvels and are true?
    Do you not realize that love is only one of nature’s needs?
    Do you not know it nurtures lives that have in them but Satan’s seeds?
    Do you not see your laughter is the source of your own children’s tears?
    Cain’s influence is on the earth and still no end to it appears.
    O, theatre of puppet plays full of the babble of mankind…
    Like parrots, they a thousand jokes and endless nonsense tales unwind.
    Yet understand they not at all the things they tell. An actor climbs
    Upon the stage and tells himself again, again ten thousand times,
    What every age has always said, what every age will always say
    Until the sun dips in the sea upon the eve of judgement day.
    O, do you dream when midst the clouds the moon her nightly course does steer.
    Dream deep in your imagined world that you your maiden can ender?
    At midnight wander through the snow along a frosty wind-swept road
    And gaze through lighted windows at the lighted rooms of her abode?
    You’d see her stand complacently with many a worthless waiting beau
    There gathered round, and each in turn a little winsome ogle throw,
    Hear clank of spurs, see silken gowns from which faint rustling murmurs rise,
    The young men turn mustachios, the ladies rolling sheeplike eyes.
    While she with amorous glance accepts their propositions at her ease,
    You, with your stupid sentiments, would you before her doorway freeze?
    O passionate and stubborn fool, to love her in this childish way
    When she is cold and whimsical, and sudden as an April day.
    You clasp together longing hands, a madman’s dream does you enthral,
    For you would take her in your arms, to have her and to hold her all,
    As though a Parian marble fair, or canvas that Correggio wrought,
    Cold and coquettish as she is. Believe me, ’tis a foolish thought.
    Aye, the maiden I had dreamt of, who would of loves enchantment know,
    Who when I sat enwrap in thought would lean upon my shoulder so
    That I would feel her presence near, and know I understood at last
    To make of living but a tale, a life in happy legend past.
    I seek no more. What should I seek? The same old song of my desire,
    The hunger for eternal peace that sets my wretched soul afire.
    The silver chords are broken now, my lyre no more of love does sing,
    And yet the ancient song I hear sometimes at night beside the spring

    Where, here and there, amidst the dark, a gleam of milk-white moonlight strays
    From out a Carmen seculare as I did dream in former days…
    But for this sad sigh and wailing, whistling, discordant sound,
    Scattered cries and tangled noises in my weeping lyre are found.
    Through my mind a breeze of winter sadly is a journey wending,
    And around me chants forever tale of time inept unending.

    What the outcome of existence? Where the message that I had?
    All the lyre’s chords are broken, and the minstrel man is mad.


    Translated by Corneliu M. Popescu