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Robert Desnos

Dove in the Arch

Cursed!
be the father of the bride
of the blacksmith who forged the iron for the axe
with which the woodsman hacked down the oak
from which the bed was carved
in which was conceived the great-grandfather
of the man who was driving the carriage
in which your mother met your father.

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Fairy Tale

Many times upon a time
There was a man who loved a woman.
Many times upon a time
There was a woman who loved a man.
Many times upon a time
There was a man and there was a woman
Who did not love the ones who loved them.

Once upon a time
Perhaps only once
A man and a woman who loved each other.

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The Zebra

The Zebra, horse of twilight,
Lifts its hoof, and shuts its eyes
Sets its backbone resonating
With joyful neighs and cries.

From its stable it emerges
To bright suns of Barbary,
And on the prairie grazes
The herbs of sorcery.

But on its coat the prison scars
Remain, the shadows of the bars.

poem by Robert Desnos from Storysongs (Chantefables) (1945)Report problemRelated quotes
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The Ant

A sixty feet long ant
With a hat on its head,
That doesn’t exist, that doesn’t exist.

An ant pulling a cart
Full of penguins and ducks
That doesn’t exist, that doesn’t exist.

An ant speaking French,
Speaking Latin and Javanese,
That doesn’t exist, that doesn’t exist.

Hey! Why not?

poem by Robert Desnos from Storysongs (Chantefables) (1945), translated by Dan CostinaşReport problemRelated quotes
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The Ring of Stars

In order to make a star with five branches
Where six would have been the same
A circle must first be drawn
In order to make a star with five branches ...

A ring!

One did not take so many precuations
In order to make a tree from many branches
Trees that hide the stars
Trees!
You, full of nests and song birds
Covered with branches and leaves
That you lift as far as the stars!

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Under Cover of Night

To slip into your shadow under cover of night.
To follow your footsteps, your shadow at the window.
That shadow at the window is you and no one else;
it's you.
Do not open that window behind whose curtains you're moving.
Shut your eyes.
I'd like to shut them with my lips.
But the window opens and the breeze, the breeze
which strangely balances flame and flag surrounds my escape
with its cloak.
The window opens: it's not you.
I knew it all along.

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Epitaph

I lived in those times. For a thousand years
I have been dead. Not fallen, but hunted;
When all human decency was imprisoned,
I was free amongst the masked slaves.

I lived in those times, yet I was free.
I watched the river, the earth, the sky,
Turning around me, keeping their balance,
The seasons provided their birds and their honey.

You who live, what have you made of your luck?
Do you regret the time when I struggled?
Have you cultivated for the common harvest?
Have you enriched the town I lived in?

Living men, think nothing of me. I am dead.
Nothing survives of my spirit or my body.

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Lying Down

To the right, the sky, to the left, the sea.
And before your eyes, the grass and its flowers.
A cloud, the road, follows its vertical way
Parallel to the plumb line of the horizon,
Parallel to the rider.
The horse races towards its imminent fall
And the other climbs interminably.
How simple and strange everything is.
Lying on my left side
I take no interest in the landscape
And I think only of things that are very vague,
Very vague and very pleasant,
Like the tired look you walk around with
Through this beautiful summer afternoon
To the right, to the left,
Here, there,
In the delirium of uselessness.

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Cascade

What sort of arrow split the sky and this rock?
It's quivering, spreading like a peacock's fan
Like the mist around the shaft and knot less feathers
Of a comet come to nest at midnight.

How blood surges from the gaping wound,
Lips already silencing murmur and cry.
One solemn finger holds back time, confusing
The witness of the eyes where the deed is written.

Silence? We still know the passwords.
Lost sentinels far from the watch fires
We smell the odor of honeysuckle and surf
Rising in the dark shadows.

Distance, let dawn leap the void at last,
And a single beam of light make a rainbow on the water
Its quiver full of reeds,
Sign of the return of archers and patriotic songs.

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Sky Song

The flower of the Alps told the seashell: "You're shining"
The seashell told the sea: "You echo"
The sea told the boat: "You're shuddering"
The boat told the fire: "You're glowing brightly"
The fire told me: "I glow less brightly than her eyes"
The boat told me: "I shudder less than your heart does when she appears"
The sea told me: "I echo less than her name does in your love-making"
The seashell told me: "I shine less brightly than the phosphorus of desire in your hollow dream"
The flower of the Alps told me: "She's beautiful"
I said: "She's beautiful, so beautiful, she moves me."

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