translated from the French by Geoffrey Gardener
Sounds were being born everywhere
But each one was still so quiet
That every ear believed it heard
The song of its own innocence.
Each thing was alive and watched itself.
All surroundings were a mirror
In front of which everything passed
Dreaming of the birth of its own age.
Palm trees coming across a shape
In which to swing their pure delight
Called to the birds in the distance
To show them their tooth-edged leaves.
A white horse caught sight of man
Approaching with hardly a sound
Earth spinning round him responding
To his astrological heart.
The horse flared out his nostrils
Then whinnied as if in mid-air
And ringed around with the unreal
Gave himself up to his gallop.
In the street, women and children,
Exactly like handsome clouds,
Assembled to look for their souls
And passed from shadow to sunlight.
With their songs a thousand roosters
Laid out the boundaries of the fields
But the waves on the ocean
Could not choose one of twenty shores.
That time was so rich in oarsmen,
In phosphorescent swimmers
That down on the speaking waters
The stars forgot their reflections.
Jules Supervielle was an important force in French poetry. He has not received his deserved recognition in this country due to spotty translations.
Geoffrey Gardener is busy rectifying this error. His poems and translations have appeared in Bleb, Cottonwood Review, New Letters, Skywriting, and APR. (Spring 1975)