Always, sailor, you will cherish the sea

Programming / Poetry

It’s been a long time since I’ve tackled poetry head-on for Altair.
But as I have – mentally – taken to the sea again – I am reminded of those authors who have sung of the sea, its beauties, its dangers, its irresistible attraction for those who have let themselves be taken in by the sorcery of the waves and the winds.

The first of the poets – the greatest – the most epic – obviously, is Homer.
But Homer deserves a full share and traveling in the wake of Odysseus is not so simple.

Here are two French poets who sang the sea – and especially this kind of madness that it puts in your soul, like a love that no one can get rid of and with each movement to free you, this love tightens your heart more.

My favorite is Baudelaire – and here is a translation I think I can trust :

Always, unfettered man, you will cherish the sea!
The sea your mirror, you look into your mind
In its eternal billows surging without end
And its gulfs are bitter, so must your spirit be.

You plunge with joy into this image of your own:
You hug it with your eyes and arms; your heart
Forgets for a time its noisy beat, becomes a part
Of a greater, more savage and less tameable moan.

In your own ways, you both are brooding and discreet:
Man, no one has mapped your chasm’s hidden floor,
Oh sea, no one knows your inmost riches, for
Your jealousy hides secrets none can repeat.

As the uncounted swarm of centuries gathers
You two have fought without pity or remorse, both
From sheer love of the slaughter and of death,
Oh, eternal wrestlers, oh, relentless brothers!

L’homme et la Mer, Charles Baudelaire, translation by Ruthven Todd

Hugo Pratt – The Ballad of the Salt Sea

Here is the original text, in French – wonderful – of course :

Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer !
La mer est ton miroir ; tu contemples ton âme
Dans le déroulement infini de sa lame,
Et ton esprit n’est pas un gouffre moins amer.

Tu te plais à plonger au sein de ton image ;
Tu l’embrasses des yeux et des bras, et ton coeur
Se distrait quelquefois de sa propre rumeur
Au bruit de cette plainte indomptable et sauvage.

Vous êtes tous les deux ténébreux et discrets :
Homme, nul n’a sondé le fond de tes abîmes ;
Ô mer, nul ne connaît tes richesses intimes,
Tant vous êtes jaloux de garder vos secrets !

Et cependant voilà des siècles innombrables
Que vous vous combattez sans pitié ni remord,
Tellement vous aimez le carnage et la mort,
Ô lutteurs éternels, ô frères implacables !

Yes – I know – it is not a pretty sea of which Baudelaire speaks – it is not a pretty human either – but it’s so difficult to be a free man – a man with a free soul, it requires so much courage – that one has to face the sea to test this courage. And then, an author, an artist, is not there to tell us the truth: he is there to make us think about what he thinks about, and even after his death we can still discuss it with him – and that is what is magnificent.

The other great French author and lover of the sea is, of course, Victor Hugo. I’m quite happy to have found this version spoken in English – and since it’s English spoken slowly enough for me to understand, I found it amazing:

Thimothy Adès – Storm at Sea : Victor Hugo

As for presenting poetry on a stage – well, now it has become so easy that I still don’t understand why it doesn’t exist more.
If – I know: “they” “someone” thinks that people won’t come.
I’ll take the bet.
And I’m sure I’ll win – just look at the number of poetry sites that exist, the number of contests, the number of authors who exhibit their work – to know that poetry is still very much loved.
But of course, you have to listen to people to know that.

Valparaiso – old song of French sailors, embarked for the sperm whale fishing, direction: Valparaiso.
Hardi les gars – Courage guys

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Featured Image : Corto Maltese – by Hugo Pratt

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