(February 7 and 19, 1854)


Punished in the worlds, in the world where you are,
Black dungeon, where Doubt forged the bars,
The animate beings, the men and the beasts,
Are both the damned and both are the torturers.

In this way, divine justice created crime.
It became remorse at the same moment
The sudden murderer transforms himself into victim.
Crime is the scabbard out of which slides punishment.

All suffer, all groan, all work for bodily torment,
The torturer suffers as much as the chastened heart,
When I put Prometheus at the height of the precipice,
The vulture who bites him also made me pitiful.

The villains torture by thumbscrew and by spike,
By the bloody gaze that leaves round eyes as zeros,
Because they have the strength necessary for crime
And God says to them: I made you my Neros.

The wicked in their tower are poor doves
Of souls that fate rivets in these black pontoons,
That remorse cuts the throat of, to butcher in their tombs,
Tigers suddenly turned into sheep.

Unbeknownst to themselves, the good are torturers, too,
Night-birds of the good, dark owls of the day,
Making one single action split into two opposites,
And creating pain because they are love.

When one of them, consecrating his days for a woman,
Comes to say to her: I love you, and falls to his knees,
And believing themselves alone, they exchange their vows,
Dark punishment sits in the audience for their rendez-vous.

He says to the happy couple: "Clear a path for Jealousy!"
He says to the mother, "I sweetened your milk with poison,"
And when we put it in our poetry
He is Hamlet's father and Lear's son.

The goods are torturers with an archangel's face,
Masked assassins who bandage the eyes
Of the dumb mutes sent by an avenging fate.
And God hides behind them to punish us.

They are damned by their sublime pity
Which makes them half of all the pains.
As for me, I feel more sorry for the good than for the crime
And men of blood less than the man of tears.

They are damned by human misery
Because, small and large, everyone near them weeps.
On earth, they have found equality,
Not between all the faces, but between all the eyes.

Because they are betrothed to all pauper girls
And their hearts are always filled with orange blossoms,
Because their paternity, hovering over the families,
Is an adoption of all the orphans' bosoms.

Because God, completing their torment with pity,
Makes their spirit bleed on them with the two ends of the cross.
And on the black martyrdom, O double sacrifice,
Mary Magdalen nails them as well as Jesus-Christ.


(February 14, 1854)


No, man will never be free on earth.
He is sad prisoner of the evil, the beautiful, the good.
He cannot become --- it is the law of the mystery ---
Free, except in becoming captive of the tomb.

No, it is not enough that it be conquered, sweet dream,
Freedom on the shadow and the day to the north.
Its conquest begins, and the one who wins it,
Is the only conqueror that would be great: it is death.

No, it is not enough that he turns a prison upsidedown,
That howling he hurls thrones into the gutter.
His soul will always have a mark on the shoulder.
The human heart will never have its Tenth of August. °

He will always be there, the dark king, the master,
Doubt, making our hearts into his black servants,
Passing and again passing underneath the window,
Lighting, extinguishing the palace's luster.

You kill a tyrant, but slavery remains,
Whether he calls himself love or deceased.
When God wishes to punish, in the world of Orestes,
He gives his immortality to his torturers.

You kill a tyrant? Kill jealousy!
Then set sadness like the Louvre on fire!
You make a king succumb when your hour is chosen,
But execute then the executioner of God!

Bereavement, lion whose soul is devoured,
I have wanted to overcome you with a cyclopean weapon,
I have wanted to wear the tiger skin on my back,
And I have wanted them to say: Aeschylus The Nemean.

I have not succeeded. The wild human beast
Again tears at your flesh with his eternal fingernails;
The heart of man is still full of hateful cries.
This lions' den has no Daniel.

After me, comes Shakespeare. He lives the three sorceries,
O Nemean, to arrive at the edge of your forest,
And to spill in our hearts, those boiling engines,
The monstrous philtres of the immense secret.

He comes in this great wood, the limit of the world.
After me, the doubter, he comes to him the hunter.
And as he watches, in his deep soul,
Macbeth cries: let us flee, and Hamlet says: I am afraid.

He saves himself: Moliere then appears on the selvedge
And says: see if my soul turns frail.
Commander: come to dinner! But to the banquet of stone
Moliere trembles so, that Don Juan turns pale.

But, whether it is the spectre or the witch or the shadow,
It is always you, lion with iron claws.
You replenish the dark forest so much.
That Dante meets you on entering into hell.

This monster has whitened all the poets as ossuaries.
After ours, your art puts the finishing touch on the lesson.
It is always my lion who gnaws the skeletons
That your Quasimodos leave to Montfaucon. °

Then, the deadly (it is I who assure you)
Is love, and love is deadly.
That tooth whose horrible bite always
Makes all our kisses reek of blood.

The lock of hair that the poet cuts,
That Don Juan strips from some pretty face,
That Romeo kisses thinking of Juliet,
Is taken by your mane, O punishment-lion!

You are only subdued at the hour when death, lion-tamer,
Pulls the human soul in scraps from between your teeth,
Takes you into your dark and secular forest,
And shows you with a finger your cage, the tomb.


° August Tenth:

"This is the Tribunal Extraordinaire; which, in a few months, . . . shall be entitled Tribunal Revolutionnaire, . . . with a . . . Jury of such as Citizen Leroi, who has surnamed himself Dix-Aout, 'Leroi the Tenth of August,' it will become the wonder of the world. Herein has Sansculottism fashioned for itself a Sword of Sharpness: a weapon magical; tempered in the Stygian hell-waters; to the edge of it all armour, and defence of strength or of cunning shall be soft; it shall mow down Lives and Brazen-gates; and the waving of it shed terror through the souls of men."

--- Carlyle, Thomas, The French Revolution

° Bernard de Montfaucon, center of his contemporaries' scholarship and the "Bernardins". B. 1655, Soultage (Aude/Carcassone); d. 1741, St. Germain-des- Prés, Paris. Benedictine monk, fluent in Greek, Hebrew, Chaldean, Syriac, Coptics, and numismatics. Editor of patristic writings ("Collectio nova patrum et scriptorum graecorum"): the works of St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysotom (thirteen years in the making, from 300 MSS), Origen, Philo Juadaeus' "De vita contemplativa", "La vérité de l'histoire de Judith", etc. Father of Greek palaeography (the science of authenticating Greek texts), and a major founder of the science of bibliography, with his catalogue of all the Greek MSS in Europe. Father of archaeology, with his 1719 "L'Antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures" (1,120 plates, original edition of 1800 copies sold out within two months, despite its enormous bulk) ; began a complete history of France. Tried to prove that the Therapeutae mentioned in Philo were Christians. Collected the notes of his companion, Dom Paul Briois, who perished during their travels.


continue on to Cedj >>