To the plane-tree

You incline, great Plane-tree, and offer yourself nude,

As a young Scythian white,

But your candor’s held, and your feet are glued

By the strength of the site.


Shadow most resounding in whom the very azure

That sweeps you off finds ease,

The black mother binds those natal feet and pure

On which the mire weighs.


From your wandering crown the winds would never part;

The earth tender and mazed,

O Plane-tree, never at all will let with a journey’s start

Your shadow be amazed!


That crown shall not have access but to luminous degrees

Where sap brings it up;

Grow you may, candor, but not break the ties

Of the eternal stop!


Intuit round about you other beings tied

By the venerable hydra;

Your kith are here in numbers, from poplars to the pines,

From maples to the ilex,


Which, seized on by the dead, their feet as it were asquirm

In mixed ashes found,

Sense fleeing them the flowers. and their wingèd sperm

The lightsome way go down.


The puremost shake, the charm, and that beech-tree plied

Of young women four,

Never cease to beat upon an ever shutfast sky,

Clothed in vain with oars.


They live in separation, they weep confounded at it

In a single dearth,

And their silver limbs are but vainly split

At their gentle birth.


When the spirit slowly they breathe out at night

Unto Venus climbs,

The virgin must in darkness, silent, sit downright,

Ashamed as one in flames.


Surprise is hers somehow, and a sort of kinship

To that tender presage

That a present flesh turns toward the future

By a youthful visage...


But you, with arms more pure than arms of animals,

Which in gold you steep,

You who form by day the phantom of those ills

That dreaming come in sleep,


Towering profusion of leaves, proud distress

When tramontana angry

Sounds, atop the gold heap, the azure of young winter

On your harps, great Plane-tree,


Dare bemoan!... You must, o forest’s supple flesh,

Writhe you and unwrithe you,

Weep you without breaking, and give the winds that voice

They seek perplexed inside you!


Lash yourself!... Appear the most impatient martyr

Who himself he flays,

And dispute with the flame impotent for departure

Its returns to the torchblaze!


So that the hymn arise to birds unborn as yet,

And that the soul’s own core

Make tremble with vast hope a stout tree-trunk’s great foliage

Dreaming of the pyre,


You I’ve chosen, powerful personage of a park,

With your reeling drunken,

Because the sky works upon you, and presses you, o great arc,

To render it a tongue!


O how lovingly rivaling Dryads’ forces,

The only poet might

Stroke your polished body as he does of Horses

The ambitious thigh!...


—No, says the tree. It says: No! by the very sparkling

Of its head superb,

Which the tempest treats universally

As it does an herb!


Paul Valéry