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Friday, July 20, 2012

Leconte de Lisle: Aux Modernes

Leconte de Lisle, alors bibliothécaire du Sénat et qui devait faire peur aux enfants, 1877
[Leconte de Lisle, then librarian of the Senate, supposed to scare children]
no copyright infringement intended

Vous vivez lâchement, sans rêve, sans dessein,
Plus vieux, plus décrépits que la terre inféconde,
Châtrés dès le berceau par le siècle assassin
De toute passion vigoureuse et profonde.

Votre cervelle est vide autant que votre sein,
Et vous avez souillé ce misérable monde
D’un sang si corrompu, d’un souffle si malsain,
Que la mort germe seule en cette boue immonde.

Hommes, tueurs de Dieux, les temps ne sont pas loin
Où, sur un grand tas d’or vautrés dans quelque coin,
Ayant rongé le sol nourricier jusqu’aux roches

Ne sachant faire rien ni des jours ni des nuits,
Noyés dans le néant des suprêmes ennuis,
Vous mourrez bêtement en emplissant vos poches.

I wish I have lived my life in Paris, and for me the end of the 1940's is a moment I am linked when it comes to the city on the Seine. I was three years old when I left Paris, and it was in 1948. I came back for a week in 1999, and I was looking for the signs of the epoch of my distant childhood. I looked for them everywhere, the kiosks on the streets, the escalators in the subway stations, and many others. There were signs I was suddenly rediscovering, long time hidden in deep zones of my memory. Or maybe I was imagining I was rediscovering anything, maybe there were actually signs inscribed in me in the Bucharest of the beginning of the fifties.

I know that for a sensible person happening to come to Paris in 1948, when I was leaving, the moment to look for would have been the 1920's, the times of the Lost Generation, all those Hemingways, and Fitzgeralds. and Porters, and Picassos, and Bunuels.

And for them, the time to dream of would have been the 1880's, the Parnassians, and the Impressionists, and the Post-Impressionists, and so many others.

And for a Parnassian, as Leconte de Lisle was? I remember a splendid phrase that I read in a book that's so dear to me. It's a History of the National Theatre from Bucharest, and of course references to Paris come there many times. And the phrase is flowing, it was a time when the French universe dreamed to be like the Spanish.

(Leconte de Lisle)

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