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Hills

Far above Paris one day

Aerial combat waged two planes

One was black the other red

Whereas in the zenith blazed

The everlasting solar aircraft

 

The one was all my youth

The other was the future

They fought it out in rage

As did against Lucifer

The Archangel with radiant wings

 

Like calculus unto the problem

Like the night against the day

Like everything I love attacked

By my love like the hurricane

That uproots complaining trees

 

But see what sweetness hereabouts

Paris like a young girl

Waking up languorously

Shaking her long hair

And singing her pretty song

 

Where has my youth fallen then

You see the future flaming

I speak today be it known

To announce unto the world

At last is born the art of foretelling

 

Certain men are as hills

Arising out of humanity

And seeing far into the future

Even better than what’s present

More clearly than if it were past

 

Ornament of time and roadways

Pass abide but do not stop

Let the serpents sibilate

In vain against the south wind

The Psylli and the wave are gone

 

Order of time if machines

Began at last to think

Upon the beach of precious stones

Golden waves would break

The foam would be a mother still

 

Less high the eagles go than man

Who is the joy of oceans

As he dissipates in air

The shadow and vertiginous spleen

That makes the mind and dream as one

 

Here is time for magicking

It comes again get ready for

Ten thousand wonderments

Born of nothing like a fable

You cannot have imagined these

 

Deepest depths of conscience

We’ll explore you tomorrow

Who knows what living beings

We’ll draw from those abysses

With whole universes

 

See the prophets arise

Like the blue hills over there

Knowing precise things

The way the wise think they know

And we shall be transported

 

Desire is the great force

Come here and let me kiss your brow

O slender as a flame

You contain the suffering of

And the ardor and the gleam

 

The age is coming for study

All that suffering is

It won’t be courage

Nor even renunciation

Nor everything we can do

 

We’ll search within man himself

As no-one ever has before

And scrutinize his will

And what the force is born of that

Machineless and uninstrumental

 

The helpful manes wander

Compenetrating amongst us

From the times that reunite us

Never finished never begun

Look at the ring on your finger

 

Time of deserts of crossroads

Time of squares and hills

I come here to do the rounds

Where a talisman plays its part

Dead and subtler even than life

 

I am detached at last

From all the things of nature

I can die but cannot sin

And what no-one’s ever touched

I have touched I have felt

 

And I have scrutinized what none

Could ever have imagined

And felt the weight of many times

Even life imponderable

I can die with a smile

 

Often enough I’ve soared so high

Farewell to every sort of thing

Strangenesses and phantom presences

And I would no more admire

This boy with sapping fear

 

Youthfulness farewell time’s jasmine

I’ve inhaled your fresh perfume

In Rome on flowered chariots

Laden with masks and garlands

And the bells of carnival

 

Farewell youthfulness white Christmas

When life was but a star

Whose reflection I contemplate

In the Mediterranean Sea

More nacreous than meteors

 

As downy as a nest of archangels

Or the garland of clouds

And more lustrous than halos

Emanations and splendors

Unique sweetness harmonies

 

I stop to look at

On the incandescent lawn

A serpent myself wandering

After the flute I’m playing

And the whip the others feel

 

There comes a time for suffering

There comes a time for kindness

Youthfulness farewell it’s time

To get to know the future

Without dying of the knowledge

 

It’s time for ardent grace

The will alone will work

Seven years of unbelievable tests

Man shall deify himself

More pure more quick and more wise

 

He shall discover other worlds

The mind languishes like flowers

Whence come sapid fruits

We shall see ripen

On the sunny hill

 

I tell you what is truly life

Only I can sing it so

My songs fall like seeds

Silence all of you there singing

Do not mix the wheat and chaff

 

A ship came into port one day

A great vessel all rigged out

But we found no-one aboard

But a woman vermilion and fair

There she was murdered

 

Another time I begged for alms

I was given only a flame

That burned me to my lips

And I could not render thanks

An inextinguishable torch

 

Where are you now my friend

Who’ve gone back in yourself so well

That only an abyss remains

Where I myself am flung

Even to the colorless depths

 

And I hear my steps return

Along the paths that none

Have taken I hear my steps

All the time passing there

Hasty or slow they come and go

 

Winter trimming your own beard

It’s snowing and I’m miserable

I’ve crossed the splendid heaven

Where life is music

The ground is too white for my eyes

 

Get used like me

To the wonderments I proclaim

The kindness that is going to reign

The suffering I have to endure

And you will know the future

 

Suffering and kindness

Will be what beauty’s made of

More perfect than was that one

That came from proportions

It’s snowing I’m on fire and tremble

 

Now I’m sitting at my table

Writing down what I went through

And what I sang there on high

A slender tree swayed in

The wind with flying hair

 

A top hat is there upon

A table piled with fruit

The gloves are lifeless near an apple

A lady twists her neck

Next to a gentleman dropping

 

The ball whirls on the bottom of time

I killed the handsome orchestra leader

And peel for my friends

An orange whose savor is

A marvelous piece of fireworks

 

All are dead the headwaiter

Pours them an irreal champagne

That foams like a snail

Or like a poet’s brain

Whilst a rose was singing

 

The slave holds a naked sword

Like unto sources and rivers

And each time it falls

A universe is gutted

Out from which come new worlds

 

The chauffeur holds the steering wheel

And each time on the road

He sounds the horn rounding a corner

Appears as far as the eye can see

A universe still virgin

 

And the third number is the lady

Going up in an elevator

Always going up and up

And the light unfurls

Transfiguring her with brightness

 

But these are little secrets

There are others more profound

That shall be revealed and soon

Making a hundred pieces of you

Always unique in thought

 

But weep weep and let us weep

And may the moon be full

Or may it be a crescent only

Ah! weep weep and let us weep

We’ve laughed so much in the sun

 

Golden arms are what bear life

Penetrate the gilded secret

All is but a rapid flame

Adorned by the adorable rose

And whence exquisite perfume arises

 

Guillaume Apollinaire

tr. C. Mulrooney