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Paul Valéry

Man's great misfortune is that he has no organ, no kind of eyelid or brake, to mask or block a thought, or all thought, when he wants to.

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Our judgments judge us, and nothing reveals us, exposes our weaknesses, more ingeniously than the attitude of pronouncing upon our fellows.

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To write regular verses destroys an infinite number of fine possibilities, but at the same time it suggests a multitude of distant and totally unexpected thoughts.

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The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us.

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La politique est l'art d'empcher les gens de se mler de ce qui les regarde. (Politics is the art of preventing people from sticking their noses in things that are properly their business.

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A work is never completed except by some accident such as weariness, satisfaction, the need to deliver, or death: for, in relation to who or what is making it, it can only be one stage in a series of inner transformations.

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...in song the words tend to lose their significance, do often lose it, while at the other extreme, in current prose it is the musical value that tends to disappear - so that verse stands symmetrically, as it were, between song, on the one hand, and prose on the other - and is thus admirably and delicately balanced between the sensual and the intellectual power of language.

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The Steps

Your steps, children of my silence,
Holily, slowly placed,
Towards the bed of my vigilance
Proceed dumb and frozen.

Nobody pure, divine shade,
That they are soft, your steps selected!
Gods!… all the gifts which I guess
Come to me on these naked feet!

If, of your advanced lips,
You prepare to alleviate it,
An inhabitant of my thoughts
The food of a kiss,

Does not hasten this tender act,
To be soft and not to be not?
Because I lived to await you,
And my heart was only your steps.

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Les pas

Tes pas, enfants de mon silence,
Saintement, lentement placés,
Vers le lit de ma vigilance
Procèdent muets et glacés.

Personne pure, ombre divine,
Qu'ils sont doux, tes pas retenus !
Dieux !... tous les dons que je devine
Viennent à moi sur ces pieds nus !

Si, de tes lèvres avancées,
Tu prépares pour l'apaiser,
A l'habitant de mes pensées
La nourriture d'un baiser,

Ne hâte pas cet acte tendre,
Douceur d'être et de n'être pas,
Car j'ai vécu de vous attendre,
Et mon coeur n'était que vos pas.

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The Graveyard By The Sea

This quiet roof, where dove-sails saunter by,
Between the pines, the tombs, throbs visibly.
Impartial noon patterns the sea in flame --
That sea forever starting and re-starting.
When thought has had its hour, oh how rewarding
Are the long vistas of celestial calm!
What grace of light, what pure toil goes to form
The manifold diamond of the elusive foam!
What peace I feel begotten at that source!
When sunlight rests upon a profound sea,
Time's air is sparkling, dream is certainty --
Pure artifice both of an eternal Cause.

Sure treasure, simple shrine to intelligence,
Palpable calm, visible reticence,
Proud-lidded water, Eye wherein there wells
Under a film of fire such depth of sleep --
O silence! . . . Mansion in my soul, you slope
Of gold, roof of a myriad golden tiles.

[...] Read more

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Paul Valéry
Paul Valéry