The Blame Game 2016. A poem.

2016

image: radionz.co.nz

I couldn’t sleep last night. The turmoil that has been 2016 spun angry vortexes in my head through the wee hours. After a couple of hours of fitful sleep, I realised I had to write myself out of this funk. I don’t write poems very often. But I can’t tell you how much better I feel for writing this one.

Goodbye, 2016.

Onwards, friends. Onwards.

The Blame Game 2016

I’m not sleeping very well.

 

I blame 2016 and the horror that’s been this year of seismical change.

The world seems transformed, full of hate, fear and scorn; ugly, divided and strange.

 

I blame Brexit for severing the links with my bretheren with whom I have always felt tied.

They said we’d be better sans cette euro-type fetter. They made up the numbers. They lied.

 

I blame May and her minions for duplicit opinions that pretend to put everyone first.

They’re sly politicians, these social morticians; all blue-bloods with vampirical thirst.

 

I blame bold post-truth liars and climate deniers for peddling deliberate falsities.

And internet trolls, who with twitter-hate moles, dig holes in our fragile democracies.

 

I blame Daily Mail leaders, and yes, every last reader, for their role in our country’s demise.

But with a media in thrall to the governments all, it really is no great surprise.

 

I blame terrorist cells and the western cartels whose policies allow them to flourish.

Blatant state-building and oil-dollar wielding are the fuel with which ISIS is nourished.

 

I blame armaments bosses who won’t countenance losses; it’s their bombs that maim and do kill.

Wars keep on going, and refugees flowing. It’s a lack of political will.

 

I blame Jeremy Corbyn for not sticking his oar in, precisely when it was needed.

With progressive position and clear, honest vision, a call to arms might well have been heeded.

 

Yes, I blame Donald Trump, and all of his gumph, for pretending to speak for a nation.

Can the people be saved from this populist wave? A tsunami that threatens annihilation.

 

I blame me for allowing these thoughts to keep flowering and grow in the soil of my mind.

But it’s easy to feel that it’s a bloody rum deal, to be fighting these woes, don’t you find?

 

And yet

 

The world keeps on spinning, politicians keep winning on platforms that seek to divide.

Our task is quite clear, march forwards, my dear. Heads held up high, and with pride.

 

The blame game is easy, but it can’t ever please me and it won’t ever sustain through next year.

I’ll put pen to paper, and hopefully, later, produce stories of hope, not of fear.

 

Writers. Keep writing! Our words should be fighting for a future where everyone thrives.

It’s never too late. Write! Draw! Create! Let our voices be heard. Be alive!

 

©Justin Nevil Davies 2016

Writing Between Two Bridges

It’s been two months since we came to live in our house between two bridges. In the first few days, I wondered how the change of location would affect my writing; would I become so instantly inspired by the astonishing aspect we have here that I began to reel off story after story of an impressively high standard?

Well…no.

But I have felt inspired. Inspired by the views of course; how could I not be? And inspired by the bridges themselves:

They carry hopes and dreams across the water.

They transport lovers to romantic trysts and loners who roam alone.

The optimistic who can’t help but smile; the pessimistic who stare out for miles.

On them travel workers to work and shirkers who shirk

Expectant couples fresh from a pram emporium; mourners returning from the crematorium.

Trains full of cement and trucks with parcels we’ve sent.

Horses and hearses and tractors and trailers and brand new beginnings; the famous; the failures.

North bound. South bound.

On two wheels or four.

By bike, by train…

They fly; they soar.

Across the river. Away. And away. And away.

I don’t quite know what happened there; I seem to have come over all Betjeman-like. It must be the bridges because I never, ever just sit down and write verse. This was supposed to be a blog post written in prose; and now look.

I’ll leave it in. It isn’t poetry of distinction. It may not be poetry at all. But reading it back, I think it makes me smile. It might do the same for you.

And it does illustrate my point that living between the bridges gives a very real impression of the world moving. Even in bed with the curtains drawn, I’m aware of trains and vehicles crossing one way or the other. It is an outward looking place. A place which transports you. It is quite literally a place built for transportation.

Even the house we now live in was once used by the ferry operators; in the days before rail or road travel.

And then there’s the traffic passing under the bridges out to sea. Oil tankers, tugs; perhaps the occasional cruise ship. The sense of motion doesn’t go away. And of course, the water itself is in constant flow. Or ebb.

It is ultimately an incredibly hopeful place. It engenders a feeling of optimism, and although I haven’t produced much in the way of writing, (I haven’t had much spare time: moving home steals any you might have had), I do feel optimistic about the few pieces I have produced since arriving here. I’ve written some very different flash fiction pieces for competition and have returned at long last to my main Work in Progress. I also have a better idea of what’s been missing in it; its major deficiency, if you like.

It might not be the change of location, (it could simply be the change of season) but I’ve a suspicion that being here will only be good for my writing. The outlook from my place between two bridges is looking good. For writing and everything else.

(All images flyingscribbler’s own)

© flyingscribbler 2013

 

When a groyne isn’t just a groyne…

This blog post really is about groynes, but don’t let that put you off.

They say things are rarely what they seem. This may well be true; wolves in sheep’s clothing and all that. But it is also true that, given the right conditions, things can seem to be entirely other than they actually are.

Whilst you struggle to work out if these two statements amount to the same thing (I can’t decide if they do or not), let me explain.

Writers tend not to leave their writer’s heads behind when they leave the confines of their writing space. They constantly observe, listen, smell, feel their way around the world, mindful of something, anything, which might turn out to be useful later; sometimes even years later.

A walk in the countryside is never just a walk: there are the myriad shades of green to try and describe; those ‘earthy’ smells to find the perfect words for. A visit to the supermarket is never quite as straightforward as fetching the groceries. It might be necessary to trail that couple to hear the end of their conversation; or you could end up furtively watching an old woman carefully choosing between two loaves of bread: can she afford the better quality loaf? Is she checking salt content like her doctor told her to? Or is she trying to remember which type of bread her house-bound husband demanded today?

On a trip down to Eastbourne last week on a gloriously sunny morning, I found myself transfixed by the groynes which segment the beach there for miles in each direction. I was unable to just walk along the promenade, taking in the view. I found myself scrabbling over the mounds of shingle, trying to find different angles from which to look at these wooden beach defenses. Up close they reminded me of soldiers standing to attention in perfect parade ground lines.2013-04-18 15.17.20

Groynes

En masse they were Cnut’s army, repelling the force of the waves.2013-04-18 15.16.54

The long view reminded me of the picked-clean skeleton of a long-dead animal, broken vertebrae snaking along the beach into the distance. 2013-04-18 15.09.30

2013-04-18 15.10.06

I couldn’t tear myself away from the groynes; there was so much to see in them. Eventually, I remembered that I wasn’t there alone, and I returned to the walk in question, armed with a battery of photos and a head full of metaphors.

Groynes they might be; their practical purpose to prevent longshore drift from eroding the beach. But to me, in those moments, they could have been so many other things. They became those other things because it just seemed that they could. Through them beach came alive, organic; it told stories.

I’ve written a poem about the groynes, (proving, if nothing else, that you can write about absolutely anything), which I’m quite pleased with. Instead of sharing it with you just yet, I’ve decided to submit it to a competition. I’m new to poetry writing (only starting recently as a result of my creative writing course), but you never know; it might turn out that someone else thinks it’s half decent too.

That morning on Eastbourne beach turned out to be more creative than I was expecting. Those groynes seemed to be so many things at once, whilst always being exactly what they were. 2013-04-18 15.05.33

Can the world around us really appear to be any more interesting than it already is? If you take your writer’s head with you it can.    

© flyingscibbler 2013

Losing My (Poetry) Virginity

 

CREATIVE WRITING STUDENT IN

VIRGINITY LOSS SHOCKER!

 

I was a virgin until last night.

There, that got your attention. It’s also a shameless ruse to bring traffic to my blog; well, if it’s good enough for the tabloids…

But I was a virgin; a poetry virgin.

The theme for my creative writing class yesterday was poetry. Clearly, there’s a limit to how much ground you can cover in only two hours, and I wasn’t expecting to learn about every aspect of poetry in such a short space of time. I wasn’t even expecting to graze the surface. But then again, I wasn’t expecting to come away having written my first ever poem; but I did.poetry

Sensibly, the tutor concentrated on aspects of writing poetry which can also be useful to the prose writer, and how these writer’s tricks can improve all of our efforts.

We were asked to find, and bring in, a short piece of poetry or prose which had influenced us, or which we had found particularly inspiring, and to concentrate on the sound qualities of the writing. Oddly, I found even this simple task rather difficult. Short of re-reading every book I own to find a suitable passage,(and being short on time, this wasn’t a sensible or achievable option), I decided to simply choose something from the book I’m currently reading. As luck would have it Mrs Dalloway is crammed with beautifully poetic prose. I have always struggled with Virginia Woolf, but having determined to read this novel in two sittings, (and these need to be daytime sittings: a novel with no chapter divisions, a stream of consciousness, requires proper concentration; my day-weary bedtime reading frequently lasts only ten minutes before my book drops to the floor as my eyelids droop south), I succeeded in completing her masterpiece. It is, and I rarely say this, a work of genius, and furnished me with the necessary example of a piece of writing with interesting sound qualities.

The class read their various selections, which ranged wonderfully from Sappho to Carol Ann Duffy, via Dave Eggers, Gerard Manley Hopkins and, of course, Ms Woolf.

It was refreshing, and interesting, to hear how such varied writers use language, rhythm and words to create atmosphere and emotion. It was also an instructive way of introducing the poetry novice (me) to aspects of writing verse or poetic prose. We spent some time discussing use of alliteration, assonance and repetition in writing, using further examples to illustrate how each can be used effectively. alliterationI have always been reluctant to dissect writing like this, but as I found out last week, it’s entirely necessary to the study of how successful writers write successfully. This week, I found that I enjoyed the task even more. I think because I’ve never really tried my hand at poetry (I’ll be honest: I’m a touch in awe of poets) I’m really keen to understand how they go about their art.

Throughout the session, I was aware that the class would culminate in being asked to write a poem. It was a moment I had been, if not dreading, then nervously anticipating; and my previous weeks’ efforts at on-the-spot writing hadn’t been entirely satisfying. The tutor offered us two wildly different types of poem (although by the same poet) to use as inspiration: the first was a series of words depicting colours; a poetic roll-call of paint shades, formed into carefully constructed stanzas. This poem, titled ‘Colours’ by Georges Szirtes, makes full and glorious use of alliteration, assonance, musicality and goodness knows what else to astonishing effect. The second Szirtes poem was ‘We Love Life Whenever We Can’. Following a more conventional (to me, at least) form, the poet reuses the title line repeatedly throughout the poem. There’s a lot more than that going on here, (surprising punctuation, unexpected line breaks, varied sentence length), but it was this feature I decided to try and emulate for my attempt.

For two terrifying seconds I had no idea where to start, but then decided to latch on to the very first thing that came to mind and just write it down. This then became my repeating phrase: ‘If you ever get the chance.’ I don’t know if it was the convivial atmosphere in the room, or the inspiration from having heard so many great pieces of writing, but I suddenly found myself writing fluently. Before I was aware of what I was doing, I’d given birth to a poem, fully formed and crying to be read. So read it  I did. To the class. It may not be a Carol Ann Duffy or a Manley Hopkins, but I am, never the less, proud of my effort. I was thrilled when my fellow students and tutor made encouraging comments. Actually, the tutor said I looked shocked. I was. Shocked to have written my first poem.

It’s the least I can do to reproduce it for you here. I have made no changes; what you read is what I wrote last night. Kindly comments will sooth. Constructive comments will improve.

 

If You Ever Get The Chance

 

If you ever get the chance

stop awhile and stare.

If you ever get the chance

linger there and take a look.

If the lights are on I don’t mind you peeping

toms can sometimes be excused.

If you ever get the chance

rest your limbs and slowly regard.

If you ever get the chance

wait outside to keep your watch.

If the lights are off shine a torch

songs always make me cry.

If you ever get the chance

ring the bell for your return.

If you ever get the chance.

© flyingscribbler 2013

 

The Literary Tourist Goes to….Prescott, Arizona

‘The Literary Tourist’ is constantly alert to new discoveries which might be considered for inclusion in the ‘Goes To….’ series of blogs. The Tourist happened upon this entry quite unexpectedly on an unscheduled stop in the city of Prescott, Arizona. Prescott is on the stunning 89a route which leads south from Flagstaff; the road passes first through Oak Creek Canyon, before hitting Sedona (famous for its red rocks and alternative therapy gurus), Jerome in the Black Hills (an artists’ colony clinging to the side of a mountain, with panoramic views across the Verde Valley), and finally continuing through Yavapai County, where it brings you to Prescott, the one-time capital of Arizona Territory.

This city (population 40,000) retains the look of a frontier kind of town.

Prescott, Arizona. Taken by The Literary Tourist.

Prescott, Arizona. Taken by The Literary Tourist.

It has a court house which sits proudly in its centre, surrounded on all sides by low-rise buildings.

Prescott Court House. as snapped by The Literary Tourist

Prescott Court House. as snapped by The Literary Tourist

Some of these are still bars and saloons, but in times past a great many more were home to drinking establishments, frequented presumably by frontier-types, prospectors and cowboys. The row of buildings along Montezuma Street has the moniker ‘Whisky Row’, and is probably the town’s most famous feature.

Whisky Row, present day.(google images)

Whisky Row, present day.
(google images)

Placards placed nearby allude to its colourful past, when it was a notorious strip of cowboy saloons, visited by the likes of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

An earlier Whisky Row(google images)

An earlier Whisky Row
(google images)

In 1883 most of “The Row” was destroyed in a fire; the rebuilt Palace Saloon, said at the time to be fireproof, was reduced to ashes again in 1900, its destruction observed from across the street by its erstwhile patrons who, it was said, toasted the flames with drinks purloined from the burning bar.

Another placard I found offers a quote from a poem written by Gail. I. Gardner (1892-1988). This citizen of Prescott was a cowboy poet. I’ve never come across this term before, but of course, it is only logical that some cowboys (and cowgirls) must also have been (still are) poets; you may know of a contemporary cowboy who even now is composing lines of verse whilst planning their next roundup.

The quotation comes from ‘The Sierry Petes’ (or Tying the Knots in the Devil’s Tail), which Gardner wrote in 1917. It concerns the antics of two cowboys, Buster Jig (said to be the poet himself) and Sandy Bob, who decide to take a break from the arduous toil of cattle herding, and head down to Whisky Row for the evening:

“Oh, they starts her in at the Kaintucky Bar,

At the head of Whisky Row,

And they winds up down by the Depot House,

Some forty drinks below.”

There were indeed forty or so bars and saloons along Whisky Row at one time, and, according to the poem, these cowboys, having taken libations in each, were accosted by the devil on their way back to camp. They soon have the horned mischief-maker tied to a tree with their ropes:

“If you’re ever up high in the Sierry Petes,

An’ you hear one Hell of a wail,

You’ll know it’s that Devil a-bellerin’ around,

About them knots in his tail.”

 

I rather like the sound of Gail. I. Gardner. He was a highly educated young man – he attended an Ivy League University – who decided that he wanted, above all things, to become a cowboy. There is a romance to this, which, coupled with his dashing looks and flair with words, has the makings of a great movie.

A young Gail.I.Gardner(google images)

A young Gail.I.Gardner
(google images)

To my mind, it’s as romantic a story as that of those other dashing young cowboys from ‘Brokeback Mountain’; they made poetry of a different sort, as I recall.

Having  read several of Gardner’s poems, two things strike me: firstly, they offer an intriguing glimpse into the daily life of a cowboy in mid twentieth century Arizona: the hard, physical grind out in all weathers; the solitary nature of their existence; the inevitable dealings with the money men. Mostly, though, I’m taken with the ironic tone he employs in his work. In ‘Real Cowboy Life’ he begins by highlighting the effort involved in being a cowboy:

“When the roundup starts in April,

The first job you undertake

Is to shoe up all your horses

Till you think your back will break.”

But the job gets worse:

“When you have a real hard winter,

And your cows all try to die,

You ride out every morning,

And to lift ‘em up you try.”

Gardner finishes this poem with a warning, tongue (I hope) firmly in a tobacco-filled cheek:

“If you ever have a youngster,

And he wants to foller stock,

The best thing you can do for him,

Is to brain him with a rock.

Or if rocks ain’t very handy,

You kin shove him down the well;

Do not let him be a cowboy,

For he’s better off in Hell.”

Another poem, ‘The Dude Wrangler’, depicts the sorry end a cowboy will come to if he allows his head to be turned by ‘a woman from Chicago’: he winds up becoming a cowboy tourist guide, asking his former cowboy ‘pardner’ to shoot him dead and put him out of his misery. Despite Gardner’s assertion that the cowboy life is hard, one suspects his opinion is really, ‘once a cowboy, always a cowboy.’

‘The Cowman’s Troubles’ concerns the woefully short returns a cowboy can expect for his troubles in a world where everyone wants a piece of the profits:

“With the bankers and lawyers and the forest officials,

The land office men and inspectors as well,

A-ridin’ the cowman all over the county,

No wonder his business has all gone to Hell.”

A forest ranger comes to inspect the cowboy’s business, asking:

““ How many cattle have you on your ranges?

And how many head did you say you had sold?

Let’s have your calf-tally with the steers and the heifers?

How many have you eaten and how many have you stole?””

The cowboy muses on whether he will finally find his reward in heaven:

“But I’ll bet you my saddle that here’s what would happen,

There would be forty things that Saint Peter must know.

 

“Oh, how many angles have you in your chorus?

And how many tunes on your harp can you play?

How many white robes have you got in your war bag?

How many gold streets have you dug up today?””

He ends by suggesting that only in the fires of Hell will an old cowman get some rest.

What shines through these poems is that despite Gardner’s protestations that the life of a cowboy is a hard one, it is clearly one of which he was terribly fond; that playful irony only highlights the poet’s love for it.  I wonder if he found life somewhat dull when it was all over.

It’s perhaps not so easy to picture Buster Jig and Sandy Bob walking into a saloon in present-day Prescott; you’re as likely to see a suited real estate agent clutching a Starbucks coffee these days. His poems do however offer the contemporary reader a glimpse into an existence which was real; one which formed part of the fabric of everyday life of an Arizona frontier town.

I wonder what that cowboy or girl, snatching a moment in the saddle to scribble a verse or two on their smart phone, has to say about the life of a modern rancher. If you know of any twenty-first century cowboy poets, let me know.

© flyingscribbler 2013

(All excerpts of Gardner’s poems are from his book Orejana Bull. I found them at cowboypoetry.com, where as well as reading them in full, you can see more photos of the poet himself).

The Literary Tourist Goes to….Troyes

The Literary Tourist goes to….Troyes

We’ve just returned from an impromptu trip to northern France and to have something interesting to do on a brumous last day, decided on a drive to Troyes in the Champagne region.

Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t go with the intention of uncovering or learning about a great figure of French literature; I’d simply never been and wanted to take a look at this famously well-preserved medieval city (and to find a stylish brasserie for lunch. We did; the pork in a prune reduction was delicious).

Troyes is beautiful. Ancient, half-timbered houses overhang narrow streets, affording the city’s feline population easy aerial passage. Many properties retain their original detailed carvings, or have been restored lovingly.

I took these pictures myself:View of Troyes medieval centre.

This place takes its past seriously, as befits a town which played host to one of history’s most important days: it was here in 1420 that the Treaty of Troyes was signed by which Henry V of England was betrothed to Catherine, daughter of France’s Charles VI, allowing him to succeed to the French crown rather than the dauphin.

Aside from dynastic dealings and royal wranglings, Troyes has a more romantic and literary claim to fame; one occurring to me only later on, which is shameful considering my French degree background, including, of all things, a course on medieval literature.

Chrétien de Troyes is one of the most famous, if not the greatest of writers of courtly romances. It isn’t known if he was born in the city, but he certainly lived and worked there during the 12th century. He did so at the court of Marie de Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine. She set Troyes up as a centre of culture, modelled on that of her mother’s at Poitiers, and it appears that Chrétien de Troyes was a beneficiary of her largesse.

He was a trouvère. These were poets writing narrative, dramatic, satiric, comic and lyric verse during the 12th and 13th centuries. Trouvères were the northern French version of Provençal troubadours, famous for developing the conception of ‘courtly love’ which was a central theme of poetry at the time.

‘Courtly love’ was all about the relationship between a knight and his lady (the lord was frequently away crusading, leaving the lady of the manor home alone, as it were.)  It was about the chivalric adventures of the chevalier and his love for his lady, a love which was often, if not always, unfulfilled. This, of course, was a time when the aristocracy made strategic marriages; love rarely came into it. Step forward therefore Sir Lancelot to make your chivalrous advances on the lady Guinevere.

The following are all impressions of courtly love as depicted at the time (thanks to google images).

Courtly Love

More courtly love

Third base, courtly love style.

This was how Chrétien de Troyes made a name for himself: he wrote a number of ‘poems’, including one about Lancelot, which were based on the relationship of the lover to his adored lady. Those poor knights: it must have taken hours to get out of their chain mail, only to be frustrated in their pursuit of their one and only true love. Armour and amour: the stuff of legend.

Chrétien de Troyes’ legacy is one that resonates still today. Everyone knows the story of Lancelot and Guinevere, but how many are aware that their tale first appeared in his work, ‘Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart’ (Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charette)?

It’s nearly nine hundred years since Chrétien plied his trade in Troyes; most of the city has been rebuilt many times over the centuries. Nevertheless, strolling the narrow streets it’s hard not to catch a sense of the chivalry and romance he wrote about seeping out of every ancient cobblestone and timber. Or perhaps it was simply the carafe of wine I enjoyed with that porc aux pruneaux. You’ll have to visit Troyes yourself to decide.

The Literary Tourist Goes to….Montreal

The Literary Tourist Goes To….

Montréal.

Émile Nelligan. Poet.

Regular visitors to my blog might be expecting some flash fiction, and whilst I’m not giving up on my own writing (far from it, I’m working on a novel-length story for children which is taking up most of my writing time) and still hope to post some stories here occasionally, I’ve decided to spice things up a bit and make more use of the fabulous opportunity I have in travelling to so many different places around the world.

I came up with ‘The Literary Tourist Goes To….’. I see it as combining travelling with my interest in writing, writers and things literary.

Before I leave for a destination, I’m going to do some research on a writer from there about whom I know nothing or very little. Then I aim to discover a bit more about them when I get there, by walking in their footsteps, as it were, and visiting places they might have been themselves.

Let me know what you think and feel free to add to/annotate/correct what I come up with.

To get the literary ball rolling then, please meet Émile Nelligan.  If ever there was a tortured soul then this would be the face of it. What pain are those eyes so desperate to communicate?

Nelligan seems to fall into that category of brilliantly gifted young people whose star burns brightly, oh so brightly, for a short time, before being extinguished suddenly. Keats, Wilfred Owen, Joe Orton, even Amy Winehouse. Illness, war, murder and drugs: they’ve all taken their toll. In Nelligan’s case though it was insanity; and it didn’t kill him, just his creativity and ability to write.

Émile was born and died in Montréal. I tried to find the house he was born in on the Rue de la Gauchetière, but it no longer exists. The city’s main teaching hospital now looms large over the area, presumably having consumed streets and buildings as it grows. However, if it was anything like the houses nearby which are still standing, I wouldn’t say he was born into poverty, and it seems that he had the fortune of a good education.

In any case, it is clear that he was something of a prodigy. All his poems of note were produced in three short years between the ages of sixteen and nineteen; 170 poems, sonnets and rondels. During this time he also became a member of the École Littéraire de Montréal  (Montréal School), where he ‘performed’ some of his poems before an audience at the Château de Ramezay.

According to my research, he was influenced by the French symbolist poets Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine: they stressed restraint, objectivity and precise description as a reaction against the more emotional response of the Romantics who came before them. He is also known for the sadness, nostalgia and inner sorrow which he displayed in his work, drawing inspiration from his “inner self”.

This recording of his poem La Romance du Vin certainly suggests the melancholic nature of Nelligan (even if the music and ponderous voice lays it on a bit thick).

He performed this poem (seen as a rallying call in defence of beauty and poetry) himself at the Château in 1899, apparently to great acclaim, but was destined to never produce another word. Shortly after his appearance Nelligan succumbed to his mental demons, spending the rest of his life in institutions.

I found a bust of Nelligan in a quiet corner of a small park near the Francophone University.

Bust of Nelligan in Sq St-Louis, Montreal

He even looks tortured, cast in bronze. Young lovers, dog-walkers and literary tourists glance at him on their way to sit by the pretty fountain nearby. It’s a decent place to be remembered. I wonder if the fountain’s gently cascading water soothes his soul.

Don’t feel obliged, but here is that poem in full, with an English Translation to follow.

La Romance du Vin.

by Émile Nelligan (1879-1941)

Tout se mêle en un vif éclat de gaieté verte
O le beau soir de mai ! Tous les oiseaux en choeur,
Ainsi que les espoirs naguère à mon coeur,
Modulent leur prélude à ma croisée ouverte.

O le beau soir de mai ! le joyeux soir de mai !
Un orgue au loin éclate en froides mélopées;
Et les rayons, ainsi que de pourpres épées,
Percent le coeur du jour qui se meurt parfumé.

Je suis gai! je suis gai ! Dans le cristal qui chante,
Verse, verse le vin ! verse encore et toujours,
Que je puisse oublier la tristesse des jours,
Dans le dédain que j’ai de la foule méchante !

Je suis gai ! je suis gai ! Vive le vin et l’Art !…
J’ai le rêve de faire aussi des vers célèbres,
Des vers qui gémiront les musiques funèbres
Des vents d’automne au loin passant dans le brouillard.

C’est le règne du rire amer et de la rage
De se savoir poète et objet du mépris,
De se savoir un coeur et de n’être compris
Que par le clair de lune et les grands soirs d’orage !

Femmes ! je bois à vous qui riez du chemin
Ou l’Idéal m’appelle en ouvrant ses bras roses;
Je bois à vous surtout, hommes aux fronts moroses
Qui dédaignez ma vie et repoussez ma main !

Pendant que tout l’azur s’étoile dans la gloire,
Et qu’un rythme s’entonne au renouveau doré,
Sur le jour expirant je n’ai donc pas pleuré,
Moi qui marche à tâtons dans ma jeunesse noire !

Je suis gai ! je suis gai ! Vive le soir de mai !
Je suis follement gai, sans être pourtant ivre !…
Serait-ce que je suis enfin heureux de vivre;
Enfin mon coeur est-il guéri d’avoir aimé ?

Les cloches ont chanté; le vent du soir odore…
Et pendant que le vin ruisselle à joyeux flots,
Je suis gai, si gai, dans mon rire sonore,
Oh ! si gai, que j’ai peur d’éclater en sanglots !

 

Song of Wine
Translation by
Fred Cogswell (1917-2004)

Fresh in joy, life, light – all things coincide,
This fine May eve ! like living hopes that once
Were in my heart, the choiring birds announce
Their prelude to my window open wide.

O fine May eve! O happy eve of May!
A distant organ beats out frigid chords;
And long shafts of sun, like crimson swords,
Cuts to the heart the scent of dying day.

How gay, how glad am I ! Pour out, pour out
Once more the wine into the chiming glass
That I may lose the pain of days which pass
In scorn for all the wicked human rout.

How glad am I ! My wine and art be blest!
I, too, have dreamt of making poetry
That lives, of poems which sound the exequy
For autumn winds that passing far-off mist.

The bitter laugh of rage is now good form,
And I, a poet, must eat scorn for food.
I have a heart but am not understood
Save by the moonlight and the great nights of storm.

Woman ! I drink to you who mock the path
where the rose-dream calls with arms flung wide;
I drink, too, to you men with brows of pride
Who first refuse my hand then scorn my life!

When the starry sky becomes one glorious roof,
And when a hymn resounds for golden spring,
I do not weep for all the days’ calm going,
Who wary grope within my own black youth.

How glad am I ! May eve all eves above.
Not drunk but desperately glad am I !…
Has living grown at last to be a joy?
Has my heart, too, been healed of my sick love?

The clocks have struck and the wind smells of night
Now the wine gurgles as I pour it out.
So glad am I that I laugh and shout
I fear I shall break down and sob outright.