May 05, 2010

‘ “Poetry Ought to Have a Practical Purpose” ’, a poem by Paul Eluard.

Portrait of Paul Eluard by Salvador Dali

For My Exacting Friends

If I tell you that the sun in the woods
Is like a belly carried away in a bed
You believe me you approve of my desires

If I tell you that the crystal of rainy days
Echoes forever in the laziness of love’s ecstasies
You believe me you draw out the duration of your loving

If I tell you that in the branches of my bed
A bird is nesting that never says yes
You believe me you share my distress

If I tell you that at the bottom of some stream
A river’s key turns like an overture to verdure
You believe me still more you can follow

But if I sing to you of my whole long highway with no detours
And my enormous countryside like a footpath unending
You give up on me you depart for the wilds

For you only wander aimlessly without recognizing that men
Have the need to hope and struggle
To explain the world and to change it

With one step of my heart I shall lead you
I’ve lived without power for a long time it’s the way I live now
But I’m amazed to hear you say that I speak to you just to delight you
When I would free you to unite you
As much as with algae and the reeds of the dawn
As with our other brothers creating their own daylight

Translated by Michael Benedikt

Taken from The Poetry of Surrealism: An Anthology, ed. Michael Benedikt (Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown and Co., 1974).


Paul Eluard (1895 – 1952)
Key interests: purity, spontaneity, intensity, the isolation of man, the irrational, things defined by the mind that sees them, the ability to transmute everything into everything else, paradox, the telescoping of images.

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