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The Library is on Fire

Translated by Mary Ann Caws

Through the mouth of this cannon, it is snowing. It was hell in our head. At the same moment, it’s springtime at the end of our fingers. It’s the stride once more allowed, the earth in love, the grasses exuberant.

The spirit also, like everything, has trembled.

The eagle is in the future.

Every act that involves the soul, even if it doesn’t know about it, will have as an epilogue repentance or chagrin. You have to consent to that.

How did writing come to me? Like bird’s down on my windowpane, in winter. Just then there rose in the heart a struggle of firebrands, which has, still now, not ended.

Silky towns of the daily gaze, placed between other towns, with the streets traced by us alone, under the wing of lightning, responding to our attention.

Everything in us ought to be just a joyous feast when something which we haven’t predicted, that we don’t shed any light on, which will speak right to our heart by its means alone, is achieved.

Let’s continue to plumb the depths, to speak in equal tones, in words grouped together, we shall finally silence all these dogs, having them mingle with the grass, surveying us with a foggy look, while the wind wipes them out.

Lightning lasts me.

There is only the one like me, the companion man or woman, who can wake me from my torpor, set off the poetry, hurl me against the limits of the old desert for me to triumph over it. No other. Neither sky nor privileged earth, now things which set you to trembling.

Torch, I only waltz with that one.

You can’t begin a poem without a bit of error about yourself and the world, without a straw of innocence at the first words.

In the poem, each word or almost should be used in its original meaning. Some of them detach themselves, have many meanings. Some are amnesiac. The constellation of the Solitary is stretched out.

Poetry will steal my death from me.

Why pulverized poem? Because at the end of its voyage towards the Country, after the pre-birth darkness and the earthly harshness, the finitude of the poem is light, a bringing of being to life.

The poet does not retain what he discovers; having transcribed it, he soon loses it. In that resides his novelty, his infinity and his peril.

My métier is a pointed one.

There is a malediction like no other. It twinkles in a kind of laziness, has a comely nature, composes its features in a reassuring fashion. But once passed the deception, what buoyancy, what a rapid rush to the end! Probably, for the shadow wherein it builds is malicious, the perfectly secret place, it will shy away from any appellation, will slide away always in time. It draws in the veil of the sky of some clairvoyant ones some rather frightening parabolas.

Books without motion. But books which insert themselves easily into our days, utter a lament, open the dances.

How to speak my freedom, my surprise, at the end of a thousand detours: there is no bottom, there is no ceiling.

Sometimes the silhouette of a young horse, of a distant child, comes forward as a scout toward my forehead and leaps the bar of my concern. Then under the trees the fountain speaks once more.

We wish to remain unknown to the curiosity of those who love us. We love them.

Light has an age. Night has none. But what was the instant of this integral source?

Not to have many deaths hanging and as if snowed up. Not to have but one, of good sand. And without resurrection.

Let’s stop near beings who can cut themselves off from their resources, although for them there exist few recesses, or none. The waiting prepares for them a dizzying insomnia. Upon them beauty places a hat of flowers.

Birds confiding your gracefulness, your perilous sleep to a cluster of reeds, once the cold has come, how like you we are!

I admire hands that fill things, and, to match up, to join, the finger refusing the dice.

I find sometimes that the current of our existence is difficult to seize, because we endure not only its capricious power, but the easy motion of the arms and legs which would have us go where we would be happy to, on the longed-for shore, toward the meeting of loves whose differences would enrich us, this motion remaining unaccomplished, rapidly declining into just an image, like perfume rolling up upon our thought.

Desire, desire which knows, we draw no advantage from our shadows except from some veritable sovereignties accompanied by invisible flames, invisible chains, which, coming to light, step after step, cause us to shine.

Beauty makes its sublime bed all alone, strangely builds its renown among persons, right by them, but off to one side.

Let’s sow the reeds and cultivate the vine on the hills, on the edge of the wounds of our spirit. Cruel fingers, hands full of precautions, this facetious place is propitious.

The one who invents, by contrast with the one who discovers, adds nothing to things, brings to beings only masks, compromises, a stew of iron.

Finally life entire, when I snatch the sweetness of your amorous truth from your deep!

Remain close to the cloud. Keep watch close to the tool. All sowing is detested.

Human benevolence on certain strident mornings. In the swarming of the delirious air, I rise, I close myself in, insect undevoured, followed and following.

Facing these waters, hard in their form, where all the flowers of the green mountain pass in bursting bouquets, the Hours espouse gods.

Fresh sun whose liana I am.



René Char

René Char (1907-88) is one of the most important modern French poets.


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