Poems by Jules LaForgue
Translated by Will Schmitz and Mary Susan Iosue
Lord Pierrot’s Lament
Let’s dress in costume
And march up there, my friend,
Cause my mind is dead
And I’d prefer, now, to gape
My mouth and yours
The unconscious descends
(it likes to confuse the
dictionaries, sexes and maps)
Turning us into fakes,
Copper plates, chaste
True hearts and flakes.
People born of better blood
Recognize the enormous regency of Venus,
That she’s stranded by
Untidy complaints and feints.
Dislocate your modesties!
Oh– with a white costume
I will imitate Leda
And you will dive in
Carrying off the act
That creates unflat Helen
In a minute of buffoonery with
A crooked twist of pleasure.
See here! The universe enjoys
Being inside out.
And all these honors are yours, Lord Pierrot.
What have you got to say about them?
I like your divine dignity.
Don’t give it up. If she could only
Have chosen my lips to drink of and die
Enraptured by the unwillingness of my kiss.
But we are only allowed to live
By old compromises and the universe
Is not enough, the way it localizes and
Screams about pain without feeling away.
All this honors you, Pierrot.
Why are you asking, “And then?”
Yes, It’s too hot, it’s too wet
It’s raining, it’s going to be dry
Poor Venus! Have a drop of morphine,
Everything’s going too slow.
Stop flustering, Pierrot!
My heart has turned Chinese,
I want a private berth on tonight’s train
It’s certain to be a miserable trip,
Jerked off among corpses and stones.
Paris is kicking up a charivari
Under the gaslights. A knellish clock
Strikes one. Sing! Dance! Live!
Life is short. Everything is fruitless
And, up there, the moon dreams as coldly
As when man was not.
Ah, what a banal fate. Everything
Shimmers and passes. All of us proceeding,
Enticed away from an infinity of truth’s love,
‘Til a grave opens
Waking us to the tears, cries
And powerful fanfares
Babylon, Memphis, Benares, Carthage, and Thebes
Whose ruins now nurture spring flowers and weeds.
And how many days do I have
Before I’m delivered to the ground
To rot through centuries
Of nothingness from which
No god will spring?
But now I hear the peaceful night
The resonant step preceding a drunken worker
Singing an impotently melancholy dirge
Returning from the festival to his hovel
While the moon continues to stream hotly
As before there were men.
Song of the Little Hypertrophic
The doctor told me that my mother died
Of an enlargement of the heart
Tir la la lan re!
And that I’ve inherited the disease.
Oh, I hear my heart beating, beating
It’s mother telling me I’ve got to say
Bye-bye to the earth.
They laugh at me in the streets
At my awkward body
At this drunken child
Who has difficulty with its steps.
I choke, cough, gasp, reel
And my heart says that
Mother is calling me.
I’ve gone to the country
To sob in the setting sun
It’ s very stupid.
But, then I don’t know
The sun seems to be a heart
Screaming above the beats of mine
Saying, “come to me.”
If only Genevieve wanted my heart
Puff shatter slam!
She’s rosy, gay and beautiful
While I am yellow and sad.
Mother, stop calling me!
No, every heart is wicked
In its way
Except for the heart of
The setting sun
Tir la la lan re!
And if I was to say
Goodbye to world…
Tell me mama, are you
A Displaced Curiosity
The universe must pulsate a thought
Inside the mechanism of its metamorphosizing,
Something that we can understand from where we,
One eyed, spin. The intention can be perceived
If we let our priests study without hindrance
But who can wait
Who can give
When we know that
Because we have to die
Everything is insane.
The stars blend and whirl A black garden strewn
And to this madman Stuck on a streetcorner of
Trying to light a damp cigar The heavenly family is
The air is
a true mirror
Of the violent, fragile touch
The song I hum
As I pass