Sunday, March 13, 2011

Le Lac

This poem reminds me strongly of the cottage my family goes to, in particular because it is a place I went to as a child and as a teenager, but is somewhere I've only briefly returned to as an adult. Where does the time go?

The Lake
by Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869)

And thus forever pushed to a newer shore,
In the darkness eternal carried ne'er to return,
Will we ever in the ocean of the ages
Cast anchor for one day more?

Oh lake! The year has scarcely ended
Than near the cherished waves she was to revisit,
Behold, on this stone I came alone to linger
Where you have seen her sit.

As you roared beneath these deep rocks,
Smashed your waters against their torn sides,
So the wind threw the foams of your billows
Onto her feet beloved.

One night, remember? As we cruised along silently,
One heard from afar on the waves under these skies,
Only the noises of rowers who struck in rhythm
Your harmonious waters.

Suddenly of the tones unknown to the earth
Of the charmed shore struck your echoes;
The waves grew attentive, and the voice to me dear
Thus spoke these very words:

"Oh time, suspend your flight! and you, blessed hours,
Delay your course!
Let us savor the fleeting delights
Of the happiest days of ours.

"Enough unhappy souls in this world implore you:
Flow on, and for them flow on;
Remove the days with the cares which consume them
And spare the happy ones.

"But in vain I ask for a few moments more,
Time evades me, and takes flight.
I say to this night, "Tarry." But the dawn
Will dissipate the night.

"So let us love, let us love; and the transient hour
Let's enjoy in a hurry;
Man has no harbor, time no shores;
It flows, we fade merely!"

Jealous time, can it be that these drunken moments
When love fills us with bliss to overflow
Fly from us at the same speed
As do our days of woe?

Alas, could we at least freeze their traces?
Why, gone forevermore? Why, lost forevermore?
This time that gave them, this time that kills them,
To yield them nevermore?

Eternity, void, past, gloomy abyss,
What have you done with the days you buried?
Speak; will you surrender the sublime ecstasies
From us you had ravished?

Oh lake, mute stones, grottoes, forests obscure!
You that time spares and rejuvenates,
Will you keep of this night, fair nature,
At least its memory pure?

Let it abide in your repose or your storms,
Beautiful lake, in the face of your smiling hills,
And in these dark firs, and these wild rocks
Which hang o'er your waters still!

Let it be in the zephyr that shudders in passing,
In the sounds of your shores and by them repeated,
In the silver-faced star that whitens your expanse
With its softened brightness!

Let the wind that groans and the reeds that sigh
The gentle perfume of your balmy air,
Let all that is heard or seen or breathed
All say: "In love they were."

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