Friday, October 23, 2020
L E A V E S O F H YP N O S
translated by Cid Corman
I think of that army of cowards with their appe-
tites for dictatorship that will perhaps be seen
again in power, in this forgetful country, by
those who will survive this time of damned al-
We are being torn apart between the avidity for
knowing and the despair of having known. The
goad will not renounce its sting and we our hope.
Act as primitive and forsee as a strategist.
To judge by the subsoil of the grass where a cou-
ple of crickets were singing last night, prenatal
life must have been very sweet.
Acquiescence kindles the face. Refusal gives it
The poem's line of flight. It should be within the
power of each to feel.
Imagination, my child.
Eternity is hardly longer than life.
I think of the woman I love. Her face is suddenly
masked. The void is in its turn sick.
Get intelligence going without the help of ord-
We are like those toads who in the austere night
of the marshes call without seeing each other,
bending to their love cry all the fatality of the
One need not love men to be of real help to them.
Only desire to improve that expression in their
eyes when it lights upon others more impover-
ished than themselves, to prolong by a second any
pleasant moment of their lives. After this move
and each root treated, their breathing would
become calmer. Above all don't deprive them al-
together of these painful paths, after whose effort
follows the evidence of truth through tears and
Horrible day! I was witness, some hundred meters
away, to the execution of B. I had only to press
the trigger of my Bren gun and he could have
been saved! We were on the heights overlooking
Cereste, arms enough to make the bushes creak
and at least equal in number to the SS. They un-
aware that we were there. To the eyes around me
everywhere begging for the signal to open fire I
answered no with my head . . . .The June sun
slipped a polar chill into my bones.
He fell as if he didn't make out his executioners
and so light it seemed to me, that the least breath
of wind could have lifted him from earth.
I didn't give the signal because this village had to
be spared at any price. What is a village? A village
like any other? Did he perhaps know at that ulti-
The time of enraged mountains and fantastic
Accumulate, then distribute. Of the mirror of the
universe be the part that is densest, most useful
and least apparent.
Keep with respect to others what you have pro-
mised yourself alone. That is your contract.
Sing your iridescent thirst.
The fruit is blind. It's the tree that sees.
The people of the meadows enchant me. Their
frail and venom-free beauty I don't grow tired of
reciting to myself. The vole, the mole, dark
children lost in the chimera of the grass, the slow-
worm, child of glass, the cricket as docile as any,
the grasshopper that clicks and counts its linen,
the butterfly that stimulates intoxication and an-
noys the flowers with is silent hiccups, the ants
sobered by the great green expanse, and immedi-
ately overhead the meteor swallows. . . .
Grassland, you are the day's encasement.
Since the kiss in the mountains, time is guided on
the golden summer of her hands and the ivy
Children accomplish this fond miracle of remain-
ing children and seeing through our eyes.
This is the hour when windows escape houses to
catch fire at the end of the world where our
world is going to dawn.
Are we doomed to being only the beginnings of
If life could only be a disappointed sleep. . . .
There are two ages for the poet: the age during
which poetry, in all regards, mistreats him, and
that when she lets herself be madly embraced.
But neither is wholly defined. And the second is
Plunge into the unknown which cuts deep. Com-
pel yourself to whirl about.
There's no more question of the shepherd being
guide. Or so the politician, this new general far-
mer, has decided.
Formerly at the moment I got into bed, the idea
of a death for the time being in the bosom of
sleep proved pacifying, today I go to sleep to live
All the virtue of the August sky, of our trusted
anguish, in the meteor's golden voice.
"My body was more immense than earth and of
it I knew only a very tiny part. I receive such
innumerable promises of felicity, from the bot-
tom of my soul, that I beg you to keep for us
alone your name."
In the depths of our darkness there is no one place
for Beauty. The whole place is for Beauty.
A war had begun which, though most of his country was
soon occupied, occupied Rene Char still more. . . .He was
about 36 then, and the poetic journal he kept of and at
that time comes to us under the auspices of his Resistance
code-name, HYPNOS, the Greek divinity of Sleep.
I read this now during the Covid pandemic and much of it aloud
to the one I love as we travel around, truck and book in lap, and
what are these tears in my eyes?
No book like it on earth.
Leaves of Hypnos
translated from the French by Cid Corman