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Le bestiaire (ou Cortège d'Orphée)1

Durey (1919)

La tortue2

Du Thrace magique, ô délire!
Mes doigts sûrs font sonner la lyre.
Les animaux passent aux sons
De ma tortue de mes chansons.

Le cheval

Mes durs rêves formels sauront te chevaucher,3
Mon destin au char d'or sera ton beau cocher
Qui pour rênes tiendra tendus à frénésie,
Mes vers, les parangons de toute poésie.

La chèvre de Thibet

Les poils de cette chèvre et même
Ceux d'or pour qui prit tant de peine
Jason, ne valent rien aux prix4
Des cheveux dont je suis épris.

Le serpent

Tu t'acharnes sur la beauté.
Et quelles femmes ont été
Victimes de ta cruauté!
Eve, Eurydice, Cléopâtre;5
J'en connais encore trois ou quatre.

Le chat

Je souhaite dans ma maison:
Une femme ayant sa raison,
Un chat passant parmi les livres,
Des amis en toute saison
Sans lesquels je ne peux pas vivre.

Le lion

O lion, malheureuse image
Des rois chus lamentablement,
Tu ne nais maintenant qu'en cage
A Hambourg, chez les Allemands.

Le lièvre

Ne sois pas lascif et peureux
Comme le lièvre et l'amoureux.
Mais que toujours ton cerveau soit
La hase pleine qui conçoit.

Le lapin

Je connais un autre connain
Que tout vivant je voudrais prendre.
Sa garenne est parmi le thym
Des vallons du pays de Tendre.

Le dromadaire

Avec ces quatre dromadaires
Don Pedro d'Alfaroubeira6
Courut le monde et l'admira.
Il fit ce que je voudrais faire
Si j'avais quatre dromadaires.

La souris

Belles journées, souris du temps,
Vous rongez peu-à-peu ma vie.
Dieu! Je vais avoir vingt-huit ans,
Et mal vécus, à mon envie.

L'éléphant

Comme un éléphant son ivoire,
J'ai en bouche un bien précieux.
Pourpre mort!... J'achète ma gloire7
Au prix des mots mélodieux.

La chenille

Le travail mène à la richesse.
Pauvres poètes, travaillons!
La chenille en peinant sans cesse
Devient le riche papillon.

La mouche

Nos mouches savent des chansons
Que leur apprirent en Norvège
Les mouches ganiques qui sont8
Les divinités de la neige.

La puce

Puces, amis, amantes même,
Qu'ils sont cruels ceux qui nous aiment!
Tout notre sang coule pour eux.
Les bien-aimés sont malheureux.

La sauterelle

Voici la fine sauterelle,
La nourriture de Saint Jean.9
Puissent mes vers être comme elle,
Le régal des meilleures gens.

Le dauphin

Dauphins, vous jouez dans la mer,
Mais le flot est toujours amer.
Parfois, ma joie éclate-t-elle?
La vie est encore cruelle.

La poulpe

Jetant son encre vers les cieux,
Suçant le sang de ce qu'il aime
Et le trouvant délicieux,
Ce monstre inhumain, c'est moi-même.

La méduse

Méduses, malheureuses têtes
Aux chevelures violettes.
Vous vous plaisez dans les tempêtes
Et je m'y plais comme vous faites.

L'écrevisse

Incertitude, ô mes délices
Vous et mois nous nous en allons
Comme s'en vont les écrevisses,
A reculons, à reculons.

La carpe

Dans vos viviers, dans vos étangs,10
Carpes, que vous vivez longtemps!
Est-ce que la mort vous oublie,
Poissons de la mélancolie?

Les sirènes

Saché-je d'où provient, Sirènes, votre ennui
Quand vous vous lamentez, au large, dans la nuit?
Mer, je suis comme toi, plein de voix machinées
Et mes vaisseaux chantants se nomment les années.

La colombe

Colombe, l'amour et l'esprit
Qui engendrâtes Jésus Christ,
Comme vous j'aime une Marie.
Qu'avec elle je me marie.

Le paon

En faisant la roue, cet oiseau,
Dont le pennage traîne à terre,
Apparaît encore plus beau,
mais se découvre le derrière.

Le hibou

Mon pauvre cœur est un hibou11
Qu'on cloue, qu'on décloue, qu'on recloue.
De sang, d'ardeur il est à bout.
Tous ceux que j'aime, je les loue.

Ibis

Oui j'irai dans l'ombre terreuse.12
O mort certaine, ainsi soit-il!
Latin mortel, parole affreuse,
Ibis, oiseau des bords du Nil.

Le bœuf

Ce chérubin dit la louange13
Du paradis, où, près des anges
Nous revivrons mes chers amis,
Quand le bon Dieu l'aura permis.

Guillaume Apollinaire

1These texts are taken from a sequence of thirty poems. The four that Durey did not set to music are about Orpheus, a Thracian poet of Greek legend who, with his lyre, could charm even inanimate objects. The animals are imagined processing, charmed by the poet's music. Apollinaire sees himself as Orpheus's successor, using the animals as vehicles to comment on men and their behaviour. He annotates some of the texts.
2Orpheus's lyre, given to him by Mercury, was made of the shall of a tortoise.
3Bellerophon was the first to mount Pegasus, the winged horse. Together they rode against the Chimæra, a monster. Apollinaire says thet there exist today mayn chimæræ against which to ride, which are the greatest enimies of poetry.
4Jason of the Argonauts, who sailed in quest of the Golden Fleece.
5Eurydice, wife of Orpheus. She died of a snake bite when fleeing from Aristæus.
6Don Pedro d'Alfaroubeira, Infanta of Protugal. One of his companions, Gomez de Santistevan, narrated in his "Historia del Infanta D. Pedro.." that he set off to visit the seven parts of the world with twelve companions and four dromedaries, returning home after three years and four months.
7Murex shells were used to extract a purple dye. They have a tail, perhaps resembling a small tusk
8>Magical flies of Lap legend. Some are invisible and kept in boxes by magicians to be released against robbers, against whom they sing magical words.
9St. John the Bapist in the desert.
10In the formal pools of the gardens of French Chateaux the carp grow big and old, rarely seeming to move in the still water.
11In French a solitary person can also be called an owl.
12Sacred bid in Egyptian legend because the arrival of the ibis heralded the flooding of the Nile. Orpheaus went into the underworld and tried to use his muical powers to release Eurydice from Hades. Having agrees, Pluto stipulate that, on his way out he should not look back to see if she was following. He failed when he was almost out.
13On of the faces of the cherubim is that of an ox (Ezekiel X 14).

The book of beasts (or Orpheus's procession)

 

The tortoise

From magical Thrace, oh ecstasy!
My steady fingers sound the lyre.
The animals pass by to the sounds
of my tortoise, of my songs.

The horse

My hard formal dreams will be able to sit astride you
my destiny with its golden chariot will be your handsome
coachman who, as reins, will hold phrenetically stretched
my verses, the paragons of all poetry.

The Tibetan goat

The hair of this goat, and even
that of gold for which Jason made such an effort,
is worth nothing when compared to the value
of the hair with which I am in love.

The serpent

You prey on beauty.
And what women have fallen
victim to your cruelty!
Eve, Eurydice, Cleopatra;
I know of another three or four.

The cat

I wish to have in my house:
a wife who has good sense,
a cat passing among the books,
friends in all seasons
without which I can not live.

The lion

O lion, sad picture
of the pitifully fallen kings,
you are now only ever born in cages
in Hamburg, kept by the Germans.

The hare

Don't be lascivious and fearful
like the hare and the lover.
But let your brain always be
the pregnant doe-hare which conceives.

The rabbit

I know of another cony
which quite alive I want to catch.
Its warren is among the thyme
of the valleys of the kingdom of Tenderness.

The dromedary

With his four dromedaries
Don Pedro of Alfaroubeira
wandered throughout the world and admired it.
He did what I would wish to do
if I had four dromedaries.

The mouse

Happy days, mouse of time,
bit by bit you gnaw my life away.
God! I shall shortly have lived twenty eight years.
and badly lived, for my desire.

The elephant

Like an elephant with his ivory,
I have a precious blessing in my mouth.
Dead purple-shells!... I buy my glory
at the cost of melodious words.

The caterpillar

Work leads to wealth.
Wretched poets, let us work on!
The caterpillar, by working incessantly,
becomes the rich butterfly.

The fly

Our flies know some songs
taught to them in Norway by
the ganic flies which are
the gods of the snow.

The flea

Fleas, friends, lovers even,
how cruel they are, those who love us!
All our blood flows for them.
Those who are much loved are wretched.

The grasshopper

Here is the fragile grasshopper,
the nourishment of Saint John.
May my verses be like it:
a treat for the very best people.

The dolphin

Dolphins, you play in the sea,
yet the waves are still bitter.
Does my joy ever burst out?
Life is still cruel.

The octopus

Throwing its ink towards the heavens,
Sucking the blood of that which it loves
and finding it delicious,
this inhuman monster, it is myself.

The jellyfish

Medusas, miserable heads
whose hair is violet.
You are happy in stormy weather
and I am happy then like you.

The crayfish

Uncertainty, o my delicacies
you and I, we move about
as crayfish move about,
backwards, backwards.

The carp

In your moats, in your ponds,
carp, how long you live!
Has death forgotten you,
fish of melancholy?

The sirens

Know I, Sirens, from whence your trouble comes
when you moan, across the open seas, by night?
Sea, I am like you, full of fabricated voices
and my singing ships are called the years.

The dove

Dove, the love and the spirit
which fathered Jesus Christ.
Like you, I love a Mary
Only with her shall I marry.

The peacock

By raising its fan, this bird
whose plumage trails on the ground,
seems still more beautiful,
but exposes his behind.

The owl

My poor heart is an owl
that is nailed, unnailed, renailed.
Of blood, of passion it is now drained.
All those that I love, I praise them.

Ibis

Yes I shall go into the earthy shade.
Oh certain death, so let it be!
Deadly latin, hideous speech,
Ibis, bird of the banks of the Nile.

The ox

This cherub is reciting the praise
of heaven where, near the angels,
we will live once more my dear friends,
once the good Lord has permitted it.

© translated by Christopher Goldsack

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