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Translated from the French by Geoffrey Gardener
Published: Fri Oct 15 1976
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas

Translated from the French by Geoffrey Gardener

In a world closed and clear
Without oceans or streams
A cutter hunts the sea
With a prow that hardly
Can stand the air’s soft stroke.
She drifts beyond her fear
Of staying immobile
Without her brittle sails
Swelling at all with joy.
Her gunwales are not washed
By the unreal salt sea
And the friendly dolphins
Imagined sluggishly
Do not perform for her.

All along the bulwarks
Her frozen crewmen wait
For the sea to appear,
For an auspicious hour.
If these sailors were watched
Up close and one by one
One would see year to year,
More than if they were stone,
That none of their faces
Ever ages a day.

But an identical
Ship sails the Pacific
With similar sailors,
But the live, come and go,
And each is at his task.
One climbs up the foremast,
Another to the bridge,
Sights stars through the sextant.
And here real dolphins play
Under the Captain’s eyes
Amid the salt sea foam
That is itself and sings.

See what's inside AGNI 5 and 6

Jules Supervielle was a French poet, dramatist, and short story writer born in Uruguay. His Selected Poems and Reflections on the Art of Poetry was published posthumously by Sun in 1986. (updated 6/2010)

Geoffrey Gardener’s poems and translations have appeared in Bleb, AGNI, Cottonwood Review, _New Letter_s, Skywriting, and APR. (1975)


AGNI has published the following translations:

Untitled by Jules Supervielle
Crews by Jules Supervielle
The Morning of the World by Jules Supervielle


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