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The Spike [: or, Victoria University College Review 1957]

Arthur Barker

page 61

Arthur Barker

The Giantess

From the French of Charles Baudelaire
Time was when Nature, monstrously enraptured,
Brought giant children forth: O would that I
Had then by some young giantess been captured,
Before her feet in feline bliss to lie!

I would have watched her body and her mind
Flower and strengthen in her awful play;
And through her eyes' cool mists would have divined
How dark the flame that in her bosom lay;

Traversed at leisure all her splendid form,
Around her knees' enormous curve have crept;
And when she lay, on sultry summer morn,
Weary, across the land, I would have slept

At ease beneath the shadow of her breasts
As at a mountain's foot a hamlet rests.


Fragment II

You are rather beautiful

I might have said very beautiful
that some would have taxed me with exaggeration
including yourself too i expect
in your heart
if not with your lips
which would remain silent
like a flower

page 62

Yes you are rather silent

I might have said very silent
that about the peace which you carry within you
i should not wish to exaggerate
for you often speak
of humble necessary things
of work or food or pleasure
but about important things
unspeakable things
you are properly silent
with a silence more eloquent
and more welcome
than any imperfect human speech
So if in your presence i appear reserved
it is because i would not break
that very desirable peace
the sort of peace
in which alone important silent matters
can proceed undisturbed
like balance
silent because gravitation is soundless
or respect
which is also like gravitation a state of quiet tension
or understanding
which can be better known from its own particular stress
than from any spate of words
by which we might seek to explain it


Fragment 14

Accept, I beg of you, an offering of myself,
Not as I am,
But as I could conceivably be in the mind's eye,
For without leave I have taken such a gift of you

Neither can tell
What merchandise the other gets
In this unpremeditated interchange.
For each remains a mystery
To the other as to the self.

page 63

Time and place stream between us,
Even when we are together,
For the time of one is not the time of another,
And no intimacy can effect a congruence of souls.

Yet do not let us be too sad in this,
Or, if we must be so,
Let it be rather in the knowledge of those others,
Whose total sorrow we should not have guessed
Had part of it not first become our own.


Fragment 15

The poem that falls apart,
Fragment of fragments,
Typifies inescapably
The sundering of a fragmentary life.

Try as I will, I cannot make them whole,
The poem or the life,
Nor find an ether to annihilate
The interstellar spaces of the mind.

Perhaps one day it will happen;
But the world will not notice,
And only you and I shall know
The marvel that has caught us unawares.


Fragment 15

Le poème qui se dèfait
Fragment en fragments,
Symbolise inÉluctablement
Les fragments d'une vie inintÉgrale.

Je n'arrive pas à les cicatriser,
Ni le poeme ni la vie;
Je ne trouve pas l'Éther qui supprime
Les distances interstellaires de l'âme.

page 64

Un jour peut-être ça se fera,
Mais personne n'en tiendra compte,
Sauf toi et moi,
De cette merveille inattendue.


Fragment 18

The facts which I would communicate
In writing you these halting words
Fade speechless on my lips;

But the letters will be incandescent with meaning
In spite of the indirectness of the words:

Which may perhaps typify the obliquity of existence,
Whose intention is imperfectly shown
Although the fragments glow exquisitely bright.