• Translation

Art by Théophile Gauthier


Yes, art comes far more thrilling

from forms that are averse

to drilling,

enamel, onyx, verse.


To Hell with false constrictions!

But to march straight as strait

please fashion,

o muse, a narrow gait.


Shame on the easy rhythm

just like a shoe that's loose

whose pattern

most feet refuse to choose!


Proud sculptor please relinquish

the clay that's moulded by

the finger

when elsewhere drifts the mind:


struggle with stern Carrara,

with Parian just as hard

if rarer,

of purest contours guard;


from Syracuse please borrow

its bronze where firmly it

shall hollow

that charming trait which struts;


with hands both fine and delicate

pursue in a rich vein

of agate

Apollo's profiled mane.


Sharp painter, flee the gouache,

and fix that colour grown

too nuanced

in the enameller's stove;


create the bluest sirens,

which writhe one hundred ways

their tailfins,

like monsters heralds blaize;


in their tripartite halo

the Virgin and her Son

impale too,

plus globe with cross above.


All passes. - Robust artworks

alone for Aye endure:

the torso

survives the city's cure.


And oh that austere medal

which a day-labourer draws

from death's soil

reveals an emperor.


The gods themselves will die out.

But sovereign lines of verse

will riot

longer than strongest brass.


So carve and file and chisel;

and let your dream that mocks

yet dazzle

in those resistant blocks!


Translation © John H.B. Martin

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