Lyra Celtica

MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY BRETON

O Breiz-Izel, O Kaera bro !
Koat enn hi c' hreiz, mor enx he gro!

MEDIAEVAL BRETON (331)

The Poor Clerk.
(Ar C'Hloarek Paour.)

My wooden shoes I've lost them, my naked feet I've torn
A-following my sweeting through field and brake of thorn;
The rain may beat, and fall the sleet, and ice chill to the bone,
But they 're no stay to hold away the lover from his own.

My sweeting is no older than I that love her so
She's scarce seventeen, her face is fair, her cheeks like roses glow.
In her eyes there is a fire, sweetest speech her lips doth part;
Her love it is a prison where I've locked up my heart.

Oh, to what shall I liken her, that a wrong it shall not be?
To the pretty little white rose, that is called Rose-Marie?
The pearl of girls; the lily when among the flowers it grows,
The lily newly opened, among flowers about to close.

When I came to thee a-wooing, my sweet, my gentle May,
I was as is the nightingale upon the hawthorn spray:
When he would sleep the thorns they keep a-pricking in his breast,
That he flies up perforce and sings upon the tree's tall crest.

I am as is the nightingale, or as a soul must be
That in the purgatory fires lies longing to be free,
Waiting the blesséd time when I unto your house shall come,
All with the marriage-messenger* bearing his branch of broom.

Ah, me! my stars are froward: 'gainst nature is my state;
Since in this world I came I've dreed a dark and dismal fate:
I have nor living kin nor friends, mother nor father dear,
There is no Christian on earth to wish me happy here.

There lives no one hath had to bear so much of grief and shame
For your sweet sake as I have, since in this world I came;
And therefore on my bended knees, in God's dear name I sue,
Have pity on your own poor clerk, that loveth only you!
______________________________________
*The bazvalan, the bearer of the rod of broom.

            The Cross by the Way.
                (Kroaz ann Hent.)

Sweet in the green-wood a birdie sings,
Golden-yellow its two bright wings,
Red its heartikin, blue its crest :
Oh, but it sings with the sweetest breast!

Early, early it 'lighted down
On the edge of my ingle-stone,
As I prayed my morning prayer,--
"Tell me thy errand, birdie fair."

Then sung it as many sweet things to me
As there are roses on the rose-tree:
"Take a sweetheart, lad, an' you may;
To gladden your heart both night and day."

Past the cross by the way as I went,
Monday, I saw her fair as a Saint:
Sunday, I will go to mass,
There on the green I 'II see her pass.

Water poured in a beaker clear,
Dimmer shows than the eyes of my dear;
Pearls themselves are not more bright
Than her little teeth, pure and white.

Then her hands and her cheek of snow,
Whiter than milk in a black pail, show.
Yes, if you could my sweetheart see,
She would charm the heart from thee.

Had I as many crowns at my beck,
As hath the Marquis of Poncalec;
Had I a gold-mine at my door,- -
Wanting my sweetheart, I were poor.

If on my door-sill up should come
Golden flowers for furze and broom,
Till my court were with gold piled high,
Little I 'd reck, but she were by.

Doves must have their close warm nest,
Corpses must have the tomb for rest;
Souls to Paradise must depart,
And I, my love, must to thy heart.

Every Monday at dawn of day
I'll on my knees to the cross by the way;
At the new cross by the way I 'II bend,
In thy honour, my gentle friend!

LATER BRETON (335)

            The Secrets of the Clerk.

Each night, each night, as on my bed I lie,
I do not sleep, but turn myself and cry.

I do not sleep, but turn myself and weep,
When I think of her I love so deep.

Each day I seek the Wood of Love so dear,
In hopes to see you at its streamlet clear.

When I see you come through the forest grove,
On its leaves I write the secret of my love.

--But a fragile trust are the forest leaves,
To hold the secrets close which their page receives.

When comes the storm of rain, and gusty air,
Your secrets close are scattered everywhere.

'Twere safer far, young clerk, on my heart to write.
Graven deep they'd rest, and never take their flight.

MODERN BRETON

                Love Song.

In the white cabin at the foot of the mountain,
Is my sweet, my love:

Is my love, is my desire,
And all my happiness.

Before the night must I see her
Or my little heart will break.

My little heart will not break,
For my lovely dear I have seen.

Fifty nights I have been
At the threshold of her door; she did not know it.

The rain and the wind whipped me,
Until my garments dripped.

Nothing came to console me
Except the sound of breathing from her bed.

Except the sound of breathing from her bed,
Which came through the little hole of the key.

Three pairs of shoes I have worn out,
Her thought I do not know.

The fourth pair I have begun to wear,
Her thought I do not know.

Five pairs, alas, in good count,
Her thought I do not know.

--If it is my thought you wish to know,
It is not I who will make a mystery of it.

There are three roads on each side of my house,
Choose one among them.

Choose whichever you like among them,
Provided it will take you far from here.

--More is worth love, since it pleases me,
Than wealth with which I do not know what to do.

Wealth comes, and wealth it goes away,
Wealth serves for nothing.

Wealth passes like the yellow pears:
Love endures for ever.

More is worth a handful of love
Than an oven full of gold and silver.

HERVÉ-NOËL LE BRETON (338)

            Hymn to Sleep.

Keeper of the keys of Heaven,
Lingering near the starry Seven!
Guardian of the gates of Hell,
Hushed beneath thy drowsy spell!
    Fold thy wings and come to me,
    Sleep! thou soul's euthanasy.

When the pilgrim of strange lore
Haunts thy pale phantasmal shore,
Dreams and absolution grant,
Priestess thou and hierophant!
    Fold thy wings and come to me,
    Sleep! thou soul's euthanasy.

Builder of eternal towers!
Weaver of enchanted bowers!
Thou dost forge the fighter's arms,
Thee the lover woos for charms:
    Fold thy wings and come to me,
    Sleep! thou soul's euthanasy.

Thou dost soothe the virgin's fears,
Thou dost staunch the widow's tears,
Smooth the wrinkled brows of Care,
Still the cries of wild Despair:
    Fold thy wings and come to me,
    Sleep! thou soul's euthanasy.

Healer of the sores of shame!
Cleanser of the unholy flame!
Thou dost breathe beatitude
On the evil and the good:
    Fold thy wings and come to me,
    Sleep! thou soul's euthanasy.

When the cup that Pleasure sips
Turns to wormwood on the lips;
When Remorse, with venomed mesh,
Frets and tears the writhing flesh :
    Fold thy wings and come to me,
    Sleep! thou soul's euthanasy.

Queller of the storms of Fate!
Quencher of the fires of Hate!
In thy peaceful bosom furled
Lies the turmoil of the world:
    Fold thy wings and come to me,
    Sleep! thou soul's euthanasy.

Calm as noon's abysmal blue,
Soundless as the falling dew,
Soft as snow with fleecy plumes,
Sweet as curling incense-fumes:
    Fold thy wings and come to me,
    Sleep! thou soul's euthanasy.

Keeper of the keys of Heaven!
(Cease your vigil, starry Seven)
Guardian of the gates of Hell!
(Loosen not the drowséd spell)
    Fold thy wings and come to me,
    Sleep! thou soul's euthanasy.

                    The Burden of Lost Souls.

This was our sin. When Hope, with wings enchanted
                    And shining aureole,
Hung on the blossomed steps of Youth and haunted
                    The chancel of the soul;

When we whose lips haply had blown the bugle
                    That cheers the wavering line,
And solaced those to whom the world was frugal
                    Of Love, the food divine;

Whose bands had strength to strike men's chains asunder
                    And heal the poor man's wrong,
Whose breath was blended with the chords that thunder
                    Along the aisles of song;

Whose eyes had seen and hailed the Light of Ages,
                    In cloudiest heavens a star,
Whose ears had heard, on ringing wheels, the stages
                    Of Freedom's trophied car:--

We turned, rebellious children, to the clamour
                    And tumult of the world ;
We gave our souls in fee for Circe's glamour
                    And white limbs lightly whirled;

We drank deep draughts of Moloch's unclean liquor
                    Even to the dregs of shame,
And blinded by the golden lights that flicker
                    From Mammon's altar-flame

We burned strange incense, bowed before his idol
                    Whose eucharist is fire,
And on the neck of passion loosed the bridle
                    Of fierce and wild desire.--

Till now in our own hearts the ashy embers
                    Of Love lie smouldering,
And scarce our Autumn chill and bare remembers
                    The glory of the Spring ;

While faith, that in the mire was fain to wallow,
                    Returns at last to find
The cold fanes desolate, the niches hollow,
                    The windows dim and blind,

And, strown with ruins round, the shattered relic
                    Of unregardful youth,
Where shapes of beauty once, with tongues angelic,
                    Whispered the runes of Truth.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE-ADAM (342)

                    Confession.

Since I have lost the words, the flower
    Of youth and the fresh April breeze . . .
Give me thy lips; their perfumed dower
    Shall be the whisper of the trees!

Since I have lost the deep sea's sadness,
    Her sobs, her restless surge, her graves . . .
Breathe but a word; its grief or gladness
    Shall be the murmur of the waves!

Since in my soul a sombre blossom
    Broods, and the suns of yore take flight
O hide me in thy pallid bosom,
    And it shall be the calm of night!

            Discouragement.

Athwart the unclean ages whirled
    To solitary woods sublime,
Oh! had I first beheld this world
    Alone and free in Nature's prime!

When on its loveliness first seen
    Eve cast her pure blue eyes abroad
When all the earth was fresh and green,
    And simple Man believed in God!

When sacred accents, vibrating
    Beneath the naked sun and sky,
Rose from each new-created thing
    To hail the Lord of Life on high;

I would have learned and lived in hope
    And loved! For in those vanished days,
Faith wandered on the mountain-slope . . .
    But now the world has changed her ways:

Our feet, less free, less fugitive,
    Tread beaten tracks from shore to shore .
Alas! what is the life we live?
    --A dream of days that are no more!

LECONTE DE LISLE (344)

                The Black Panther.

Along the rosy cloud light steals and twinkles;
    The East is flecked with golden filigree:
Night from her loosened necklace slowly sprinkles
    Pearl-clusters on the sea.

Clasped on the bosom of the sparkling azure
    Soft skirts of flame trail like a flowing train,
And cast on emerald blades a bright emblazure,
    Like drops of fiery rain.

The dew shines, like a sheaf of splendour shaken,
    On cinnamon leaves and lychee's purple flesh;
Among the drowsed bamboos the wind's wings waken
    A myriad whisperings fresh.

From mounds and woods, from mossy tufts and flowers,
    In the warm air, with sudden tremours thrilled,
Fragrance bursts forth in sweet and subtile showers,
    With feverish rapture filled.

By virgin jungle-track and hidden hollow,
    Where in the morning sun smoke tangled weeds,
And where live streams their winding channels follow
    Through arches of green reeds,

Steals the black panther from her midnight prowling,
    With dawn turned to the lair in which her cubs
Among smooth shining bones, with hunger growling,
    Grovel beneath the shrubs.

Restless she slinks along, with arrowy flashes
    That scan the shadows of the drooping wood.
The bright, fresh-sprinkled crimsoned dew that dashes
    Her velvet skin is blood.

Behind she drags the relict of her quarry
    Torn from the stricken stag, a mangled spoil
That leaves a loathsome trail and sanguinary
    Along the moss-flowered soil.

Round her the tawny bees and light-winged dragons
    Flit fearless as she glides with supple flanks;
And clustering foliage from a thousand flagons
    Pours fragrance on the banks.

The python, through a scarlet cactus peering,
    Slowly above the bush lifts his flat head
And curious eyes, his scaly folds uprearing
    To watch her stealthy tread.

She glides in silence into the tall bracken,
    Then plunges lost beneath the lichened boughs:
Air burns in the vast light, earth's noises slacken,
    And wood and welkin drowse.

                    The Spring.

A live spring sparkles in the bosky gloom,
    Hidden from the noonday glare;
The green reeds bend above its banks and there
    Blue-bells and violets bloom.

No kids that batten on the bitter herb,
    On slopes of the near hill,
Nor shepherd's song, nor flute-note sweet and shrill,
    Its crystal source disturb.

Hard by, the dark oaks weave a peaceful screen
    Whose shade the wild-bee loves,
And nestled in dense leaves the murmuring doves
    Their ruffled plumage preen.

The lazy stags in mossy thickets browse
    And sniff the lingering dew;
Beneath cool leaves, that let the sunlight through,
    The languorous Sylvans drowse.

White Nais, near the sacred spring that drips,
    Closing her lids awhile,
Dreams as she slumbers, and a radiant smile
    Floats on her purple lips.

No eye, kindling with love's desire, has scanned
    Beneath those lucent veils
The nymph whose snowy limbs and hair that trails
    Gleam on the silvery sand.

None gazed on the soft cheek, suffused with youth,
    The splendid bosom's swerve,
The ivory neck, the shoulder's delicate curve,
    White arms and innocent mouth.

But now the lecherous Faun, that haunts the grove,
    Spies from his leafy trench
Those supple flanks, kissed by the oozy drench
    As with a kiss of love;

Then laughs, as when the Satyr's wanton imps
    A wood-nymph's bower assail,
And, waking with the sound the virgin pale
    Flies like the lightning-glimpse.

Even as the Naiad, haunting the clear stream,
    Slumbers in woods obscure,
Fly from the impious look and laugh impure
    O Beauty, the soul's dream!

LEO-KERMORVAN (348)

                    The Return of Taliesen.

On my lips the speech, in my ears the sound of the Armorican:
I hear the voice of Esus by the shores of the ocean,
And the songs which the great bard Ossian
                    Resings by the ancient dolmen.

Many times since this, my twelfth rebirth on earth,
Have I seen the mistletoe grow green on the Oak,
Seen the yellow crocus, the sunbright, and the vervein
                    Bloom again in the woodlands:

But never shall I see again the white-robed Druid of old
Seek the sacred mistletoe as one seeketh a treasure
Never more shall I see him cut the living plant
                    With his golden sickle.

Alas! the valiant chiefs with the flowing locks!
All sleep in the cairns, beneath the fresh green grass;
In vain my voice o'er the fields of the dead lamenting--
                    "Vengeance! Treason!

Be swift, Revenge, on the feet of the sorrows of Arvor!
Alas, dull echoes alone answer my wailing summons.
Treason, indeed, and Vengeance! for lo, in the hallowed NEmEdes
                    The wayside flaunt of the Cross!

Tarann no longer sends forth his terror of thunde!
Camul no longer laughs behind the strength of his arm!
TentatEs, rising in wrath, has not yet crumbled the earth;
                    Esus is deaf to our call!

Whither, O whither fled are ye, ye powerful, redoubtable gods;
And ye, ye famous Druids, the glory and terror of Armor?
Who has usurped, who has overwhelmed ye, unconquerable knights,
                    Warriors of the golden collar?

Thou, who harkenest, I have been in the place of the Ancients!
I, alone among mortals, thence have issued alive
Alas, the temple was deserted: I saw nought but some wind-haunted oaks
                    Swaying in the silence.

All is fugitive! pride, pleasure, the song, the dance,
Blithe joys of friendship, noble rivalries all:
The keen swift song of the swords, the whistling lances!
                    Dreams of a dreamer all! . . . But no,

A new dawn wakes and laughs on the breast of the darkness;
Earth has her sunshine still, the grave her Spring;
Many a time Dylan hath oared me afar in the death-barque,
                    Many a death-sleep mine, and long!

For long I have slept with the heavy sleep of the dead,
Ofttimes my fugitive body has passed into divers forms,
I have spread strong wings on the air, I have swum in dark waters,
                    I have crawled in the woods.

But, amid all these manifold changes, my soul
Remaineth ever the same: it is always, always "myself"!
And now I see well that this is the law of all that liveth,
                    Though none beholdeth the reason, none the end.

Still stand our lonely menhirs, and still the wayfarer shudders
As in the desolate dusk he passes these Stones of Silence!
Thou speakest, I understand! Thy Breton tongue
                    Is that of the ancient Kymry.

Lights steal through the hours of shadow flame-lit for unknown saints,
As, in the days of old, our torches flared on the night:
Ah, before ever these sacred lamps shone for your meek apostles,
                    They burned for Héol.

Blind without reason are we, thus changing the names of the gods:
Thus, mayhap, we think to destroy them, we who abandon their altars!
But, cold, calm, unsmiling before our laughter and curses,
                    The gods wait, immortal.

Yea, while the sacred fires still burn along the hill-tops,
Yea, while a single lichened menhir still looms from the brushwood,
Yea, whether they name thee Armorica, Brittany, Breiz-Izèl,
                    Thou art ever the same dear land!

Ah, soul of me ofttimes to thee, Land of mystery!
Ofttimes again shall I breathe in thy charméd air!
Sure, every weary singer knoweth the secret name ofthee,
                    Land of Heart's Desire!

Enduring thou art I For not the slow frost of the ages
Shall dim from thy past thy glory immortally graven!--
Granite thy soil, thy soul, loved nest of Celtic nations!--
                    Sings the lost Voice, Taliesin.

LOUIS TIERCELIN (351)

                    By Menec'hi Shore.

Sad the sea-moan that echoes through my dream;
And sad the auroral sky suffused with gold,
Sad the blue wave that croons along the shore--

O joy of Night in whose still calms I sleep!

Sadness of love, and O tired heart of man:
Sadness of hope, and all brave vows that be:
Sadness of joy itself, the joys we know!

Joy of Oblivion, is there bliss with thee?

Sad is the splendour, glory, the bright flame
And laughter of the soul, since underneath
Dreams and Desires veiled Mystery broods obscure. . .

O! Joy of Death, with thee the Vials of Peace!

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