(1) Orphée [spoken]
Admire the remarkable power
And the nobility of the line:
This is the voice that came from light
Which Hermes Trismegistus cites in his Pymander.
(2) La Tortue (The Tortoise)
The magical Thrace – delight!
My sure fingers strum the lyre.
Animals troop past to the sound
Of my tortoise, of my songs.
(3) Le Cheval (The Horse)
My hard, formal dreams will know just how to ride you,
My destiny in a gold chariot will be your handsome driver,
Who will take for reins, drawn in tight frenzy,
My verses, paragons of all poetry.
(4) La Chèvre du Thibet (The Tibetan Goat)
The fleece of this goat and even
The golden one that Jason labored for
Are worth nothing when compared
To the hair that I’m in love with.
(5) Le Serpent (The Snake)
You set yourself against beauty,
And what women have been
Victims of your cruelty!
Eve, Eurydice, Cleopatra.
I myself know three or four others.
(6) Le Chat (The Cat)
I want to have in my house:
A sensible woman.
A cat moving among the books,
Friends in every season.
Without which I can’t live.
(7) Le Lion (The Lion)
Oh lion, unhappy image
Of kings pitifully fallen
Now you’re born only in cages
In Hamburg, among the Germans.
(8) Le Lièvre (The Hare)
Don’t be timid and lewd
Like the buck and the lover.
But may your brain be always
The doe that conceives while pregnant.
(9) Le Lapin (The Rabbit)
I know another kind of rabbit
I wish I could take alive.
Her warren’s amide the thyme
Of the valleys in the land of Tender.
(10) Le Dromadaire (The Dromedary)
With his four dromedaries
Dom Pedro de Alfarrobeira
Roamed the world and like it.
He did what I’d do
If I had four dromedaries.
(11) La Souris (The Mouse)
Beautiful days, mice of time.
You gnaw away my life bit by bit.
My god! I’m going to be twenty-eight-
a wasted life, as I wanted it.
(12) L’ Éléphant (The Elephant)
An elephant has his ivory,
So I have my mouth precious goods.
Purple death!… I buy my glory
At the price of melodious words.
(13) Orphée [spoken]
Look at this wretched herd
With its thousand feet, its hundred eyes:
Rotifers, mites, insects,
And microbes more wonderful
Than the seven wonders of the world
And Rosamund’s palace!
(14) Le Chenille (The Caterpillar)
Labor leads to riches,
Poor poets, let’s go to it!
The caterpillar, by his diligence,
Becomes the rich butterfly.
(15) La Mouche (The Fly)
Our flies know songs
Taught to them in Norway
By ganique flies which are
Deities of the snow.
(16) La Puce (The Flea)
Fleas, friends, even lovers —
How cruel are those who love us!
All our blood is spilled for them.
It’s the beloved who are wretched.
(17) La Sauterelle (The Grasshopper)
Here’s the fine grasshopper,
John the Baptist’s food.
May my poetry be like it,
A treat for the best people.
(18) Orphée [spoken]
May your heart be the bait and heaven the pond!
For, sinner, what fish of fresh water or ocean
In form or in flavor can equal
The beautiful, divine fish that is JESUS, my Savior!
(19) Le Dauphin (The Dolphin)
Dolphins, you romp in the sea.
But the waves are always bitter.
Yes, my joy breaks through at times.
But life is as hard as ever.
(20) Le Poulpe (The Octopus)
Flinging his ink towards the heavens,
Sucking the blood from all he loves
And finding it delicious,
The inhuman monster is myself.
(21) La Méduse (The Jellyfish)
Jellyfish, unfortunate heads
Of violet hair.
You take your pleasure in tempests
And I take mine there, too.
(22) L’Écrevisse (The Crayfish)
Uncertainly, o my delight,
You and I we get away
As crayfish do,
(23) La Carpe (The Carp)
In your pools, in your ponds,
Carp, you live such a long time!
Does death pass over you,
Fish of despondency?
(24) Orphée [spoken]
The female halcyon,
Eros, the flying Sirens,
Know deadly songs —
Don’t listen to these doomed birds,
But to the angels of paradise.
(25) Les Sirènes (The Sirens)
How should I know, Sirens, where your tedium comes from
When you moan in the night from far-off shores?
Sea, like you, I’m full of scheming voices
And my singing ships are called my years.
(26) La Colombe (The Dove)
Dove, the love and the spirit
That engendered Jesus Christ,
Like you I love a Mary,
(27) La Paon (The Peacock)
When he spreads his tail this bird,
Whose plumage trails on the ground.
Seems more beautiful than ever
But reveals his rear end.
(28) Le Hibou (The Owl)
My poor heart is an owl
They nail up, take down, nail up again.
It’s run out of blood, of zeal.
All those who love me I commend.
Yes. I’ll go into the shadowy earth,
Oh, certain death, so let it be!
Deadly Latin, frightful words,
Ibis, bird of the banks of the Nile.
(30) La Boeuf (The Ox)
This cherubim recites the praise
Of paradise, where, close to the angels,
We’ll live again, my dear friends,
When the good Lord allows.
Translations by Lauren Shakely