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Bierville elegies

Carles Riba


For Joan and Elizabeth

Love was so sad the shady muddy bank
of dormant memories, so lonely in the night
of nightingales –ah sweetest true thing, true,
absolute song, above the dawn which breaks it– so pale it was
in the deep circle of lime-trees –translucent with spring,
but only at the top– that the sea haunts our mind,
to make the star, if it were there, more pure,
and Time urged us on, and thought, elated
over the wandering foam, would beget numberless birds
in its wake. Oh white, joyful riders of its wind!
Until a greener island beyond the islands captive us,
green as if all that’s within the earth were sweet
and obstinate impulse to rise and be light with light against dark
triumphant there wave after wave, in the uncertain
space –and in the eyes and in the soul: oh more intense
gentleness before a more secret West;
oh lyric song rising to the abrupt edge of dream,
voice and world ending together over the inhuman void!
I’m in the old park again; alongside my verses waters
glide monotonously like destiny confined.
I no longer remember it as seen, but as foreseen,
a richer and purer change from the joy of the sea,
the last cluster of the night course. But even
more innocently so many images and of such
ah! unthought-of sense have altered for me and are contained
in the warmth of the two young lovers
who at the heart of the immense smoky city opened to us
their paradise full of light, voluptuousness and risk.
And I delight in knowing that, of the happy ones, the gods only
take pleasure in those who, like the gods, have desired
underneath their bed of love the unstable wave and, drinking
their laughter, the winds that have measured the great channel.

RIBA, Carles. Bierville elegies. [Elegies de Bierville]. Oxford: The Dolphin Book, 1995, p. 15-17.
Translated by Joan Gili
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