“The Art of Poetry [an excerpt]” by Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636 – 1711)


The Art of Poetry [an excerpt]

Gently make haste, of Labour not afraid;
A hundred times consider what you’ve said:
Polish, repolish, every Colour lay,
And sometimes add; but oft’ner take away.
‘Tis not enough, when swarming Faults are writ,
That here and there are scattered Sparks of Wit;
Each Object must be fix’d in the due place,
And diff’ring parts have Corresponding Grace:
‘Till, by a curious Art dispos’d, we find
One perfect whole, of all the pieces join’d.
Keep your subject close, in all you say;
Nor for a sounding Sentence ever stray.

“Mirèio” by Frédéric Mistral (1830 – 1914)


CANTO I.

Lotus Farm.

ISING the love of a Provençal maid;
How through the wheat-fields of La Crau she strayed,
Following the fate that drew her to the sea.
Unknown beyond remote La Crau was she;
And I, who tell the rustic tale of her,
Would fain be Homer’s humble follower.
What though youth’s aureóle was her only crown?
And never gold she wore nor damask gown?
I’ll build her up a throne out of my song,
And hail her queen in our despisèd tongue.
Mine be the simple speech that ye all know,
Shepherds and farmer-folk of lone La Crau.
God of my country, who didst have Thy birth
Among poor shepherds when Thou wast on earth,
Breathe fire into my song! Thou knowest, my God,
How, when the lusty summer is abroad,
And figs turn ripe in sun and dew, comes he,—
Brute, greedy man,—and quite despoils the tree.
Yet on that ravaged tree thou savest oft
Some little branch inviolate aloft,
Tender and airy up against the blue,
Which the rude spoiler cannot win unto:
Only the birds shall come and banquet there,
When, at St. Magdalene’s, the fruit is fair.
Methinks I see yon airy little bough:
It mocks me with its freshness even now;
The light breeze lifts it, and it waves on high
Fruitage and foliage that cannot die.
Help me, dear God, on our Provençal speech,
To soar until the birds’ own home I reach!
Click here to read the entire poem at Project Gutenburg.

“The Head” by Blaise Cendrars (1916 – 1961)


"The Head"

by Blaise Cendrars

The guillotine is the masterpiece of plastic art 
Its click 
Creates perpetual motion 
Everyone knows about Christopher Columbus’ egg 
Which was a flat egg, a fixed egg, the egg of an inventor 
Archipenko’s sculpture is the first ovoidal egg 
Held in intense equilibrium 
Like an immobile top 
On its animated point 
Speed 
It throws off 
Multicolored waves 
Color zones 
And turns in depth 
Nude. 
New. 
Total.