For a long time I boasted that I was master of all possible landscapes-- and I thought the great figures of modern painting and poetry were laughable.
What I liked were: absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, bright-colored prints, old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books full of misspellings, the kind of novels our grandmothers read, fairy tales, little children's books, old operas, silly old songs, the naïve rhythms of country rimes.
I dreamed of Crusades, voyages of discovery that nobody had heard of, republics without histories, religious wars stamped out, revolutions in morals, movements of races and continents; I used to believe in every kind of magic.
I invented colors for the vowels! A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green. I made rules for the form and movement of every consonant, and I boasted of inventing, with rhythms from within me, a kind of poetry that all the senses, sooner or later, would recognize. And I alone would be its translator.
I began it as an investigation. I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.
The worn-out ideas of old-fashioned poetry played an important part in my alchemy of the word.
Far from flocks, from birds and country girls, What did I drink within that leafy screen Surrounded by tender hazlenut trees In the warm green mist of afternoon? What could I drink from this young Oise --Toungeless trees, flowerless grass, dark skies-- Drink from these yellow gourds, far from the hut I loved? Some golden draught that made me sweat. I would have made a doubtful sign for an inn. Later, toward evening, the sky filled with clouds... Water from the woods runs out on virgin sands, And heavenly winds cast ice thick on the ponds; Then I saw gold, and wept, but could not drink. * * * At four in the morning, in summertime, Love's drowsiness still lasts... The bushes blow away the odor Of the night's feast. Beyond the bright Hesperides, Within the western workshop of the Sun, Carpenters scramble-- in shirtsleeves-- Work is begun. And in desolate, moss-grown isles They raise their precious panels Where the city Will paint a hollow sky. For these charming dabblers in the arts Who labor for a King in Babylon, Venus! Leave for a moment Lovers' haloed hearts... O Queen of Shepherds! Carry the purest eau-de-vie To these workmen while they rest And take their bath at noonday, in the sea.
I got used to elementary hallucination: I could very precisely see a mosque instead of a factory, a drum corps of angels, horse carts on the highways of the sky, a drawing room at the bottom of a lake; monsters and mysteries. A vaudeville's title filled me with awe.
And so I explained my magical sophistries by turning words into visions!
At last, I began to consider my mind's disorder a sacred thing. I lay about idle, consumed by an oppressive fever: I envied the bliss of animals-- caterpillars, who portray the innocence of a second childhood; moles, the slumber of virginity!
My mind turned sour. I said farewell to the world in poems something like ballads:
I loved the desert, burnt orchards, tired old shops, warm drinks. I dragged myself through stinking alleys, and with my eyes closed I offered myself to the sun, the god of fire.
A SONG FROM THE HIGHEST TOWER Let it come, let it come, The season we can love! I have waited so long That at length I forget, And leave unto heaven My fear and regret; A sick thirst Darkens my veins. Let it come, let it come, the season we can love! So the green field To oblivion falls, Overgrown, flowering, With incense and weeds. And the cruel noise Of dirty flies. Let it come, let it come, the season we can love!
"General: If on your ruined ramparts one cannon still remains, shell us with clods of dried-up earth. Shatter the mirrors of expensive shops! And the drawing rooms! Make the city swallow its dust! Turn gargoyles to rust. Stuff boudoirs with rubies' fiery powder...."
Oh, the little fly! Drunk at the urinal of a country inn, in love with rotting weeds; a ray of light dissolves him!
Finally, O reason, O happiness, I cleared from the sky the blue which is darkness, and I lived as a golden spark of this light, Nature. In my delight, I made my face look as comic and as wild as I could:
I only find within my bones A taste for eating earth and stones. When I feed, I feed on air, Rocks and coals and iron ore. My hunger, turn. Hunger, feed: A field of bran. Gather as you can the bright Poison weed. Eat the rocks a beggar breaks, The stones of ancient churches' walls, Pebbles, children of the flood, Loaves left lying in the mud. * * * Beneath the bush a wolf will howl, Spitting bright feathers From his feast of fowl: Like him, I devour myself. Waiting to be gathered Fruits and grasses spend their hours; The spider spinning in the hedge Eats only flowers. Let me sleep! Let me boil On the altars of Solomon; Let me soak the rusty soil And flow into Kendron.
I became a fabulous opera. I saw that everyone in the world was doomed to happiness. Action isn't life; it's merely a way of ruining a kind of strength, a means of destroying nerves. Morality is water on the brain.
It is recovered. What? Eternity. In the whirling light Of the sun in the sea. O my eternal soul, Hold fast to desire In spite of the night And the day on fire. You must set yourself free From the striving of Man And the applause of the World! You must fly as you can... No hope, forever; No _orietur._ Science and patience, The torment is sure. The fire within you, Soft silken embers, Is our whole duty-- But no one remembers. It is recovered. What? Eternity. In the whirling light Of the sun in the sea.
It seemed to me that everyone should have had several other lives as well. This gentleman doesn't know what he's doing; he's an angel. That family is a litter of puppy dogs. With some men, I often talked out loud with a moment from one of their other lives-- that's how I happened to love a pig.
Not a single one of the brilliant arguments of madness-- the madness that gets locked up-- did I forget; I could go through them all again, I've got the system down by heart.
It affected my health. Terror loomed ahead. I would fall again and again into a heavy sleep, which lasted several days at a time, and when I woke up, my sorrowful dreams continued. I was ripe for fatal harvest, and my weakness led me down dangerous roads to the edge of the world, to the Cimmerian shore, the haven of whirlwinds and darkness.
I had to travel, to dissipate the enchantments that crowded my brain. On the sea, which I loved as if it were to wash away my impurity, I watched the compassionate cross arise. I had been damned by the rainbow. Felicity was my doom, my gnawing remorse, my worm. My life would forever be too large to devote to strength and to beauty.
Felicity! The deadly sweetness of its sting would wake me at cockcrow-- ad matutinum, at the Christus venit-- in the somberest of cities.
All that is over. Today, I know how to celebrate beauty.
O seasons, O chateaus! Where is the flawless soul? I learned the magic of Felicity. It enchants us all. To Felicity, sing life and praise Whenever Gaul's cock crows. Now all desire has gone-- It has made my life its own. That spell has caught heart and soul And scattered every trial. O seasons, O chateaus! And, oh, the day it disappears Will be the day I die. O seasons, O chateaus!