L’inquiétude, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore


What’s this that upsets me? For what do I wait?
in the town, too much grief; out of it, too much leisure.
What passes for modern pleasure
Can’t save me from how every hour seems to grate.

Once there was friendship, the charms of a book
filled without effort each peaceful spare hour.
Oh what is the object of this vague desire?
I ignore it, but worry then makes me go look.
If my happiness wasn’t with gaiety bound,
then nor am I finding it resting with sadness,
but if I fear weeping the same way as madness,
then where is enjoyment found?

And you who might give me the thing that I’m needing,
have you truly decided to leave me forever?
Speak to me, Reason, uncertain, misleading,
will you now let the power of love take me over?
Alas, there’s the name that I tremble to hear!
But the fear it inspires feels so gentle and true.
Reason, you have no more secrets to share,
and I think this name’s told me more of them than you!

Les Séparés, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

When We’re Apart

Don’t write—I’m upset and I wish I could die.
The summers without you are nights full of gloom.
I have folded my arms that can’t touch you close by
and to knock on my heart is to knock on a tomb.
Don’t write!

Don’t write—let us learn how to die while apart.
Ask God…or yourself…only this: did I love?
From the depths of your silence to hear your true heart
is to hear, without reaching, the heavens above.
Don’t write!

Don’t write, for I fear you, my memory’s cursed me;
it’s imprisoned your voice, which still calls out my name.
Don’t hold out fresh water to one who is thirsty.
A piece of fond writing can surely inflame.
Don’t write!

Don’t write the words I’ve not dared read for a while.
It feels like your voice spreads them over my heart
and I watch them burn off as they bypass your smile,
and it seems like a kiss brands them onto my heart.
Don’t write!