The Bedroom

January 27, 2008 at 3:43 am 1 comment

Yves Bonnefoy


The mirror and the river in flood, this morning,
Called to each other across the room, two lights
Appear and merge in the obscurity
Of furniture, within the unsealed room.

We were two realms of sleep, communicating
Through their courses of stone, where the untroubled
Water of a dream dispelled itself,
Forever recomposed, forever broken.

The pure hand slept beside the unquiet hand.
A body shifted slightly in its dream.
Far off, upon a table’s blacker water,
Glittering, the red dress lay asleep.

[translated from the French by Emily Grosholz]

The original:

Le miroir et le fleuve en crue, ce matin,
S’appelaient a travers la chambre, deux lumieres
Se trouvent et s’unissent dans l’obscur
Des meubles de la chambre descellee.

Et nous etions deux pays de sommeil
Communiquant par leurs marches de pierre
Ou se perdait l’eau non trouble d’un reve,
Toujours se reformant, toujours brise.

La main pure dormait pres de la main soucieuse.
Un corps un peu parfois dans son reve bougeait.
Et loin, sur l’eau plus noire d’une table,
La robe rouge eclairante dormait.

I know, I know, I’ve been away for ages. But I’m back, and to make it up to you here’s a gorgeous short piece by French poet Yves Bonnefoy. I love this poem because of the surreal, dreamlike quality of its imagery, and because of the incredible skill with which Bonnefoy sets off a sequence of reflection and counter-reflection, of images toujours se reformant, toujours brise, capturing between the flood and the mirror, between the pure hand and the unquiet hand, the restlessness of sleep disturbed by dreams, and yet rendering a poem of such luminous richness that the very words seem to shimmer with light.



Entry filed under: Emily Grosholz, Falstaff, French, Yves Bonnefoy.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. hoon  |  January 29, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    For those who take to noting of such things,
    the poem’s translation is iambic all,
    and also the original appears,
    even though the French aren’t known for this;
    or so I have been given to believe.
    I think the up and down syllabic rocking,
    makes of the poem a kind of cradle song.


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