Sometimes we have borrowed
The art and voice of your poets
So that the silence of the woods,
Which makes a home for beasts,
Approaches you, and keeping
At a distance the rumbling motion
Of out-of-tune machines,
Surrounds you with a forest
Of words where our leaves
And your words might assemble again.
For these cadences of your verses
Balance themselves like our branches,
Filling also the universe
With a deep breath of silence.
And in the enigma of the sounds of trees
We recognize ourselves
By an impulse which, streams
From the dark root towards the sky,
Like the word that prophesies
From the confidential heart.
But the silence, fading
With the disarming space,
No longer leaves you
With ears just for the din.
Its constant iron grip
Holds sky, cities, heads
In a circle of hell.
Your songs for the slaughter of a pig
Express the last exaltation
Of a world without woods and prophets.
From that time, without shame or regrets,
Pouring out your gas and detergents,
Your rubbish and your manure,
You follow your convulsive ways
While a feeble hum,
With our breath that dies,
Passes over this indifference.
We are left with the invincible pride
Of dying how we have lived,
In integrity and silence.
Already the elms, the cypresses;
Soon the beech trees, the plantains:
Here are the peaked minarets
Or else the livid watermarks
On the rose-coloured page of evening
Whose rays love to rain down
Across their gilded branches;
Henceforth this cancerous wood
Imprints on the sky the dark
Decree weighing on our edges.
When all our great united bodies
Will have become skeletal,
With the fawn horsehair of nests
Hanging empty at porticos
Like skulls of the tortured,
Will you go, almost asphyxiated,
To worry, with useless prayers
At the prosperous clumps of mistletoe,
Our frontage that attracts, weakened
And corrupted, the flow of rivers?
It will be too late. spring
Without birds, without flowers, without moss;
Summer, along the floating paths,
Without plays of light, of soft shadows;
And autumn, our splendor,
Drab scrap iron in the prowling wind,
Under its destructive breath—
Eternal winter will extend
Over our shoulders, like a sheet
Of dirty mundane snow.
Then we will enter oblivion
Like the monsters of caverns
And the echo which already
Weakens the fables. Faded rings
On the map will circle
Our ruins. The Red Riding Hood,
The Wolf, the Ogre and the Doe,
Without refuge in our thickets
And in your perverse hearts,
Will get lost across fallow lands.
Alone perhaps one day,
Beyond steel cities under their bubble,
And from the long wild roaring
Of sports cars, a sleepwalker,
Encountering at the end of his foot
A blackened slab of paper
Made from our most tender flesh,
Will pull it from the ashes, and
The last song of the forest
Will arise from these ashes.
Different from you who read
Your meaning through a book,
In the carbonized pages
He will see signs come back to life again,
What you call phrases, words,
Become flowers or branches again,
And at the root of his amnesia
He’ll perceive our breath
Without knowing it, and the great parlour
Of birds, of poetry.
Unless with the help of the wind
And of these crazy incendiaries,
Who are your intermediates,
We have pulled well beforehand
Our roots from the soil
And, on your murderous races
Your odes, your laws, your doctors,
And your untamable morgue,
Have thrown our formidable weight
And purifying fires.
Jacques Réda, Dernier chant des forêts
Translated by John Cobley