18 January 2007
Two De Profundis Poems
DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI
O my sole love, I pray thee pity me
From out this dark gulf where my poor heart lies,
A barren world hemmed in by leaden skies
Where horror flies at night, and blasphemy.
For half the year the sickly sun is seen,
The other half thick night lies on the land,
A country bleaker than the polar strand;
No beasts, no brooks, nor any shred of green.
There never was a horror which surpassed
This icy sun's cold cruelty, and this vast
Night like primaeval Chaos; would I were
Like the dumb brutes, who in a secret lair
Lie wrapt in stupid slumber for a space...
Time creeps at so burdensome a pace.
(translation by Sir John Squire)
You forests, like cathedrals, are my dread :
You roar like organs. Our curst hearts, like cells
Where death forever rattles on the bed,
Echo your de Profundis as it swells.
My spirit hates you, Ocean ! sees and loathes
Its tumults in your own. Of men defeated
The bitter laugh, that's full of sobs and oaths,
Is in your own tremendously repeated.
How you would please me, Night ! without your stars
Which speak a foreign dialect, that jars
On one who seeks the void, the black, the bare.
Yet even your darkest shade a canvas forms
Whereron my eye must multiply in swarms
Familiar looks of shapes no longer there.
(translation by Roy Campbell)