Beach of Dreams by Henri Chabrol

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for several years I used to go regularly to a house overlooking the Etang du Berre, a lake communicating with the sea in the South of France not far from Aix-en-Provençe. This house, called Villa Jeanne, belonged to a long-standing friend of mine, Mlle Marthe Bauzan, now deceased and I have given a thumbnail sketch of the house and situation in the booklet Far Cries (available from the author).


                                        Villa Jeanne


twisted pines, waves pounding the tiny beach,

Wind from the sea, restless, unceasing,

Gabled house half-hidden with dark green shutters

And long terrace edged by a stone balustrade,

Gulls returning home at nightfall

In long V’s stretching across the sky.



            Not far away from this house was a shuttered, seemingly abandonedsmaller house, not much more than a fisherman’s cabane, right alongside the water which had in the past served as a sort of week-end retreat for a local schoolteacher, Henri Chabrol, and his wife. They had been friends of Mlle Bauzan but were long since dead. Knowing that I was in some sort a writer, Mlle Bauzan showed me a small book of poems written by this Henri Chabrol, entitled Calanques. I have not been able to trace this book (which was perhaps privately printed) and all I have of it is the following poem which impressed me so much that I copied it out longhand, and have only fairly recently come across it in my papers.

            It is not, perhaps, an absolutely first-rate poem but it records very well what was clearly a seminal experience for the author, and which struck a chord with me. I thought the least I could do was to try to salvage this piece from oblivion, hence my translation into English followed by the original.



Beach of Dreams


once only I held her

even her name will remain forever unknown

the girl with the mandrake flowers in her hair

who like an Aphrodite I saw from afar emerging from the sea

planting herself on the sand like a clay figurine on marble

upright and gazing back at the sea

the sea that was mirrored in her eyes and in the sway of her thighs

and we remained with our backs to the dunes talking

like brother and sister

our words keeping pace with the sun

skirting round our souls that marvelled at this meeting

what I said giving food to her while I drank in the music of hers

at length came the hour when we saw our shadows lengthening

                                                                 in front of us side by side

and then we entered into each other more fully and easily

                                                                           than into ourselves

as if we knew every contour of our bodies

the very colour and grain of our skin

the recesses of our eyes in which we saw our own image

the fleshy pulp of our lips

and when we mounted to the summit of our desire

palpitating united body and soul

beyond all shameful pretences  and simulated ardours

we gave ourselves to each other  taking ourselves one from the other

and we ate our love like a ripe fruit

without slinking towards it by stratagems and dishonesties

satiated by this lightning flash from eternity saved for ever from

bitterness and disgust

this happiness which was a fruit melting within our tears

which were yet tears of joy

and then the woman with the mandrake flowers in her hair left

doing nothing to bind the freedom of this instant

to the chain of days stretching out before me like her footsteps on the sand.






Celle que je n’ai prise qu’une fois

je ne saurai jamais son nom

la femme aux fleurs de mandragore —

comme une aphrodite je l’ai vue au loin se lever de la mer

et sur la plage se poser pareille à une statuette d’argile sur le marbre

droite et regardant la mer

qu’elle captivait en ses prunelles et dans la vague de ses hanches

Et nous sommes restés adosses aux dunes fraternelle­ment et nos paroles accompagnaient le soleil et faisaient le tour de nos âmes émerveillées de leur rencontre

et je la nourrissais des miennes et je buvais le chant des siennes

et quand vint l’heure où nous vîmes nos ombres cou­chées devant nous côte à  côte

voici que nous étions entrés l’un en l’autre mieux qu’en nous-mêmes

comme nous connaissions la courbe de nos corps et

la couleur et le grain de notre peau et les retraites

de ces yeux d’où sortait notre propre image

et la pulpe de nos 1evres.

Et quand nous fûmes montés à la cime du désir où

palpitaient unies notre chair et notre âme

par delà les hontes du caprice et des ardeurs chari­tables

nous nous sommes donnés nous nous sommes pris l’un à l’autre

nous avons mangé notre amour comme un fruit mûr

sans nous glisser vers lui par les détours et les bassesses

et nous infliger l’insulte du triomphe et de la défaite

rassasiés par cet éclair d’éternité pour une fois sauvés de l’amertume et du  dégoût,

le bonheur comme un fruit qui fond parmi nos pleurs qui sont encore du                                                                                                     bonheur. 

Et puis la femme aux fleurs de mandragore s’en est ‘a11ée

et n’a rien fait pour attacher la liberté de cet instant

à la chaine des jours que ses pas étendaient devant moi sur le sable.



Poème d’Henri CHABROL


Extrait du recueil de poèmes intitulé : CALANQUES


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