Jan de Hartog: If only I could believe the rhyme: "There is an old belief...."
George Herbert: Who would have thought my shrivel'd heart could have recovered greennesse?... now in age I bud again.

Lamartine: Man has no harbor, Time has no shore

Adrift_by_mazrim_taim_flickr  
The Lake

So then, forever pushed toward new shores like this,
swept away into eternal night without return
on the ocean of the ages-- can we never
cast anchor for a single day?

O lake! the year is scarcely over,
and near the beloved waters that she should have seen again,
look! I've come alone to sit on this stone
where you saw her sitting!

Bourget_by_wonderfulday_flickr_3

You groaned the same way then under these deep rocks;
you broke the same way on their torn flanks;
the wind threw the foam from your waves the same way
on her adored feet.

One evening, do you remember? We were floating in silence;
on the waves, beneath the sky, there was nothing to hear but
the distant sound of oarsmen beating in rhythm
against your harmonious waves.

Suddenly unearthly accents
came echoing from the enchanted shore:
the water listened, and the voice that I love
let fall these words:

"O time, suspend your flight! and you, happy hours,
suspend your race:
let us savor the fleet delights
of our fairest days!

"Enough unhappy people here beg you--
rush, rush for them;
take their days and the cares that devour them--
forget the happy people.

"But I ask in vain for a few more moments,
time escapes me and flees;
I say to this night: Be slower; and dawn
comes to melt the night.

"Let us love then, let us love! let us revel in
the flying hour-- hurry!
Man has no harbor, Time has no shore;
it flows, and we pass!"

Bourget_thomaspollin_flickr_4

Envious Time, can it be that these euphoric moments,
when love pours out long surges of happiness for us,
fly away from us at the same speed
as the unhappy days?

What! Can't we at least hold on to the traces?
What! gone forever? What! completely lost?
The same Time that gave them, the same Time that erased them,
will never give them back to us?

Eternity, nothingness, Past, dark chasms,
what do you do with the days you engulf?
Speak: will you give us back that sublime ecstasy
that you snatch from us?

O lake! silent rocks! caves! dark forest!
you whom Time spares or can make young again,
beautiful Nature-- keep, keep from that night
at least the memory!

Hautecombe_2_by_barnux_flickr

May it be in your rest, may it be in your storms,
beautiful lake, and in the look of your smiling shoreline,
and in these black pines, and in these wild rocks
leaning over your waters.

May it be in the soft wind that shivers and passes,
in the sounds of the lake water lapping your banks,
in the silver-browed star that whitens your surface
with its soft clearness.

May the wind that groans, the reed that sighs,
may the soft scent of your fragrant air,
may everything that is heard, seen or breathed
all say: They loved!

      --Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) fell in love with Julie Charles, a married woman, after rescuing her from drowning in the Lake of Bourget, in the foothills of the Alps. He fell in love with her, but she died soon afterwards. Returning to the lake in 1817, he wrote this poem, his most famous.

Le Lac


Ainsi, toujours poussés vers de nouveaux rivages,
dans la nuit éternelle emportés sans retour,
ne pourrons-nous jamais sur l’océan des âges
jeter l’ancre un seul jour?

Ô lac! l’année à peine a fini sa carrière,
et près des flots chéris qu’elle devait revoir,
regarde! je viens seul m’asseoir sur cette pierre
où tu la vis s’asseoir!

Tu mugissais ainsi sous ces roches profondes;
ainsi tu te brisais sur leurs flancs déchirés;
ainsi le vent jetait l’écume de tes ondes
sur ses pieds adorés.

Un soir, t’en souvient-il? nous voguions en silence;
on n’entendait au loin, sur l’onde et sous les cieux,
que le bruit des rameurs qui frappaient en cadence
tes flots harmonieux.

Tout à coup des accents inconnus à la terre
du rivage charmé frappèrent les échos:
le flot fut attentif, et la voix qui m’est chère
laissa tomber ces mots:

« Ô temps, suspends ton vol! et vous, heures propices
suspendez votre cours:
laissez-nous savourer les rapides délices
des plus beaux de nos jours!

« Assez de malheureux ici-bas vous implorent,
coulez, coulez pour eux;
prenez avec leurs jours les soins qui les dévorent,
oubliez les heureux.

« Mais je demande en vain quelques moments encore,
le temps m’échappe et fuit;
je dis à cette nuit: Sois plus lente ; et l’aurore
va dissiper la nuit.

"Aimons donc, aimons donc ! de l’heure fugitive,
hâtons-nous, jouissons!
L’homme n’a point de port, le temps n’a point de rive ;
il coule, et nous passons!"

Temps jaloux, se peut-il que ces moments d’ivresse,
où l’amour à longs flots nous verse le bonheur,
s’envolent loin de nous de la même vitesse
que les jours de malheur?

Eh quoi! n’en pourrons-nous fixer au moins la trace?
Quoi! passés pour jamais? quoi ! tout entiers perdus?
Ce temps qui les donna, ce temps qui les efface,
ne nous les rendra plus?

Éternité, néant, passé, sombres abîmes,
que faites-vous des jours que vous engloutissez?
Parlez : nous rendrez-vous ces extases sublimes
que vous nous ravissez?

Ô lac! rochers muets! grottes! forêt obscure!
Vous, que le temps épargne ou qu’il peut rajeunir,
gardez de cette nuit, gardez, belle nature,
au moins le souvenir!

Qu’il soit dans ton repos, qu’il soit dans tes orages,
beau lac, et dans l’aspect de tes riants coteaux,
et dans ces noirs sapins, et dans ces rocs sauvages
qui pendent sur tes eaux.

Qu’il soit dans le zéphyr qui frémit et qui passe,
dans les bruits de tes bords par tes bords répétés,
dans l’astre au front d’argent qui blanchit ta surface
de ses molles clartés.

Que le vent qui gémit, le roseau qui soupire
que les parfums légers de ton air embaumé,
que tout ce qu’on entend, l’on voit ou l’on respire,
tout dise: Ils ont aimé!

Comments

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Do you have an email address to which I can send comments?
I have several suggestions which will not fit into this box.

Hi David,

If you go to the "About" page you will find my email.

What a beautiful translation! It preserves all the beauty, form, and even grammatical devices in the original poem!

This poem is so amazing. Wonderful!

is it possible that this poem will be translated in Dutch?

Man has no harbor, Time has no shore... What an amazing poem!!!!!!

So well translated!! You have captured the essence of the poem so well.

At the age of thirteen, as a student at the "St.Joseph" French College for girls in Sofia, Bulgaria, I fell in love with this poem. I am 81 years old now, and it is still part of me, in the "abridged" form I concocted in my youth. With your permission:-
Ainsi toujours pousses vers de nouveaux rivages
Dans la nuit eternelle emportes san retour,
Ne pourrons-nous jamais sur L'ocean des ages
Jeter l'ancre un seul jour?
O temps, suspends ton vol et vous heurs propices, suspendez votre cours
L'homme n'a point de port, le temps n'a point de rive;
Il coule, et nous passons...

Edith

The older I get, the more I love this poem! I'm with you on that.

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