To Gustave Kahn
One night when it was red In a sea-green port, flowering musk and spray, The old battered sunset Dragged its senile agony down in the shacks, And its blood oozed Tragically, through the dead windows' hearts. -One night when it was red ... Muffled voices swelled Along the waves, upon the tide, And souls cried, distant and blue, At the doleful tolling of the bells ... A grave was dug. Who knows? Someone out there along the shore ... Among the pale tapers ... The simple tapers cried and smiled Like children who come To the graveyard at night Among the black tombs blooming with primulas, Red roses, and bluets; And they dreamed, out there, down in the shacks ... -One night when it was brown ... And they dreamed of the women who died Out there, they know not where, who knew how to smile, At night, when the sailors came home From the sea and the storms. And the old men said, mumbling their prayers: "They passed at nightfall yesterday, They passed bearing on their heads urns Filled with the blood of dead twilights. They passed proudly, Out there, by the fountains. They were white and nearly naked, Their dresses open, with tears and jewels of the night Upon their sweet breasts. Oh! they were beautiful, ardent and pale, Like the distant days of youth." And the old men fell silent, In the tolling of the bells that faded in the sky, Dreaming of the pale lips of those dead Who once sang in darkened doorways, Of their honeyed lips, of their exhaled souls That slipped off one night like ardent sails Into the sea of golden twilights. And among the old men a dark voice wept: "My son, do you remember the broken pane We found, beside her bed, the night she died?" And the sailors sitting in their doorways, Shivering, made the sign of the cross. Their eyes turned to the open sea One night when it was black ... Out there, down in the shacks, Their eyes tossed like weary boats Seeking the azure and the space ... Like old boats inhaling the vast Sky and the sea ... Boats a bit mad who don't want To die in the seaweed of the shore, Boats in love with the waves and the stars. -One night when it was black ... Cruelly the weathercocks Drilled the darkened golds of the night silence, And in the distance the trumpeting winds Mocked the loud rattle Of the smoky hovels and their skeleton sounds And their infinite tears and their dog barks Battling the black swell. -One night when it was black ... Wildly, The winds sang like horns Over the funnel of the ports: "Turn, turn away, weary old eyes, Turn away from the reefs, far from the treacherous sands ... Turn toward infinity, exhausted souls, dying boats, Eyes without hope! ... You who suffer from living and so slowly dying, Eyes thirsting for infinity and space, Turn toward the horizon of glowing waves, O boats tossing in the black eddy, Grieving eyes, dying boats! ... You who blazed in olden days Hoisting your golden sails Over the royal purple of the dawn, Turn, turn to sea, turn toward infinity!" The winds swollen with gold and night Rattled wildly like horns And died forever in space. Then the delicate bells spoke sweet words, Echoing low the winds' bitter song From their withered lips of dying beguines: "Turn, turn toward infinity, exhausted souls!" But the night was weary ... The night muffled them softly, in the shadows ... And their bronze lips, drunk with evening and with sadness, Quivered forever under the hands of the night ... "Turn, turn toward infinity!" The Conquest of the Stars Epic Poem (1902) I The Oracle-Song of the Waves "Hey-ho! Hey-ho! Hey-hey! O ancient Waves, O Veterans of the Sovereign Sea, rise up, mighty warriors with venerable beards of foam! Rise up! Rise up, brothers! Sharpen your rapiers for the great battle. Don your heavy golden armor, encrusted with emeralds devoured by moss and rust! Hey-ho! Hey-hey! Stridionla Stridionla Stridionlaire! We are tired of sleeping deep in blue caves, embedded in the rocks like giant gems. We are tired of nibbling breakwaters and munching fleets at sea. The time has come to conquer space and to launch the attack on the Stars. They laugh! See them? That's the challenge, brothers! Soon, tomorrow, perhaps tonight, The Sea, the scourging Sea, will come to shout her heavy commands echoed by the thunder's roar! Hey-ho! Hey-hoo! Sharpen your rapiers! Let our golden armor shine! ... Stridionla Stridionla Stridionlaire!" Who is singing so dolefully beneath the towering cliffs? A huge gulf opens at my feet, a steaming funnel of sea-green shade. Waves with flaccid paunches twist their hips of tar and sticky pitch. They raise their mountainous shoulders, embossed with intermittent gleams, unrolling muscled arms of greenish roots. In slow gurgling voices, the Waves sing the oracle-hymn of celestial wars, amid the scraping and the stridence of the swords, "Hey ho! Hey-hey! Stridionla! Stridionlaire!" Off and on the Waves fall exhausted, crashing against the monstrous rocks with a sound like bells; the Waves fall with the weight of hippopotamuses, with howling and hooting and the violent pounding of picks and hammers. "Stridionla Heyho! Stridionla Stridionla Heyhooo! Rise up! Sharpen your rapiers!" Out at sea, the solitude's Despair lies heavy on the waters thick with ash and foam, like a vast ravaged cemetery with crumbling verdant tombs; and the sea succumbs, stagnant and pale, in the yellow recess of the dawn. The dawn is worn out! The Dawn is still drunk with the poison kiss of the Stars! "Stridionla! Stridionla Stridionlaire!" In the distance the headlands sleep abreast, in the humid torpor and intense silence, their hairy heads abandoned on the smooth sea. Crouching reefs, on the watch, form knots of violet shadows, while little waves, quicker than cats, bat balls of foam with teasing paws. Below me in the smoking gulf, the metallic Waves swing back and forth, like great pothooks of hell. And it's their armor they're swinging, rhythmically, polishing it on the ridge of the black rocks. It's their scaly golden armor humming and their bronze brassards and greaves! Heyho! slowly, heyhoo! wondrously, the rapiers are sharpened and the chain mail shines. Muddy Waves rise, menacing, halfway out of the grayish spray. Their yellow diamond eyes flash in the mist, while other Waves, heavier, flabbier, trailing manes of drowsy seaweed, lift their leathery red faces and rear up, with a sudden twist. And there is their sticky, smoky body, their great centaur body, spangled with ringing coral and stones! Toward the light they brandish at arms' length their golden breastplates ocellated with gems, then in rhythm toss their exasperated savage heads, crying, "Stridionla! Stridionlaire!" In the deep cove smoky with spray, Warriors and Warrioresses revel in releasing the thunder of their brazen lungs, until tetanic rictus spread their vast disjointed jaws. When suddenly, on the arch of the horizon, beyond a mound of quivering clouds, the light unsheathes a halo of sparkling swords. The sun will leap onto the battlefield! Heyho! the metals heaped in the gulf begin to shake with a lightning fever, pell-mell, in the chaos of black smoke. Surely the Waves have heaped the porphyry stones that pave the deep; surely the lid of hell has been smashed in, for an army of fiends breaks loose in the bottom of the gulf and rises and rushes to the top, a tide of shimmering spears seethes, and the cove steams, voluminously, like a giant vat. Then in triumph the Sun strides over the horizon and stabs the vast sea with a slash of bright red gold. And there, almost at once, greenish clouds emerge in silhouette, striped with fire, rummaging through space with chimerical elephant trunks. Where are they going? Where are they going? The Wind goes off to graze its Cyclone herd. Far away, from the fantastic pastures of the sea, comes the sound of doleful lowing. "Heyho! Heyhooo! Stridionla! Stridionlaire!! The time has come to conquer the Stars! Brandish your rapiers like a sheaf of flames! We have hacked the moss of nights and the rust of dusks from our steel breastplates, now blazing like infernos. Our helmets are tipped with fire and our arms are taut like the straps of a catapult. Heyho! Heyhoo! Hurrah! Our great horses are ready. Look! ... their vehement crenellated backs are harnessed with azure and beryl. They switch their tails quietly, grazing in the grassy meadows of space, jingling their supple bits of light and their slaver of precious stones. Soon we will hitch them to giant wagons, to carry our cargo of missiles: all the petrified corpses piling up for centuries in the waters' depths. And with tragic jolts, from rut to rut, the wagons will bounce on their big solid wheels, carrying mounds of human phosphorous and gold that later the marshaled Cyclones will hurl at you, sneering, treacherous Stars! Yes, yes. At you the mighty Cyclones will hurl all the petrified corpses from the deep, the corpses of your cast-off lovers! Heyho! Heyhoo! Hurrah! ... For those are your missiles, O Sovereign Sea! The petrified corpses sleeping symmetrically in your depths! The Scholars have claimed that they swell and rot away. The Scholars have proved it! So what? Their science is vain! Look at their struggling Syllogisms, gangling, white-haired, in their pointed magician's hats that defy the skies! Look at their Syllogisms, whose old prolix bodies, shaped like Xs, easily open up and shut, like handy folding chairs that a pot-bellied porter tucks under his arm! The gangling Syllogisms dance in a ring around the sweet blue Truths, growing dizzy and closing their eyes! Ah! Ah! The slender Truths like little girls swoon with fright at a scholar's touch, and vanish like magic leaving their golden veils in their wild hands! Ah! Ah! Laugh, beautiful Waves! Laugh a vast adamantine laugh up to the stars! Let your dazzling laugh crack the domes of Silence! For, look, the impotent Syllogisms, white-haired, split in two, lick the trail of the intriguing Truths that pass ungraspable! I now believe in nothing but my great illuminating lighthouse Dream! I now believe in nothing but its giant golden eye, like an August moon, wandering through the deepness of the Nights! II The Reservoirs of Death Look! Noon bursts: a sumptuous Summer noon! I go slowly down into the flaming cove that burns like a sulfur spring; I press my face against your cool transparent cheeks, O Sea; I throw my body upon your breast throbbing aching under the weight of burning turquoise, and I explore the dizzying wells of your wondrous eyes. In your translucent waters I see a glorious greenish twilight deepening. A thousand cubits down, before me, bluish mountains form, their sharp peaks rippling as they fall away, mountains veiled with incandescent mists. And in this submerged twilight, a long chain of pyramidal mountains unfolds with the shadowy light. The distance clouds the farthest peaks, that appear on the blurred arch of the submarine horizon like blue cones tipped with smooth rose-colored flames. And the flexuous flames follow the waves' rise and fall, looking like wandering lights in the somnolence of a vast Summer night. Am I hallucinating? No! ... no! I throw myself upon your breast, O sea, and kiss your cheeks to explore the depth of your eyes, while the Noons pour down their avalanche of crushed gold blocks upon my head. The terrible din of the horrified silence fills my heart and in my skull I feel the giant wagons of the light on iron wheels, digging their symmetrical tracks. When I raise my head, I wonder, beyond the still sea hills, at the vast gulfs gorged with blinding azure and quicklime, blowing globular whorls of golden voices out to sea. I hear you and I know you, O great bellicose and vengeful voices, bearing the din of caissons and the hum of joyful bells and the rustling of swords! Stridionla! Stridionla! Stridionlaire! Heyho! Heyhoo! Sharpen your rapiers! I hear you, O Waves, and my soul reels in the sparkling surge of your coats of foam! ... At sea, vehement cavalcades of Waves pass by, like countless swirls of crimson and gold, sweeping the immensity. So passes the Simoon, spurring its fury, from desert to desert, with its caracoling escort of whirling sands streaming with fire; so gallops the Simoon across the solid sea of sand, its barbaric idol's giant torso balanced on the flying backs of crazed onagers! At sea, squadrons of Waves pass by, in dazzling vehement cavalcades, and I think of the horizon of blazing sands, where the Simoon passes, driving fast and furious its diabolic onagers and zebras crested with flames that look, distorted in the distance by their speed, like horizontal pen strokes on the paleness of the sky. The sun has shot all its darts in a shower of gold at the huge cavalry of the Waves. The warriors have slipped their glittering swords down through the bars, loopholes, and battlements of the clouds, to block their path with a blazing portcullis! But the proud squadrons pass unconcerned, and the sun's darts fly in bloody bursts, and its swords, bent in two, simply sweep the Waves' supple backs, combing their manes. Ah! the lofty gods that haunt the Noons trample my skull and crush my heart with their bronze-shod feet, and I beg for mercy in your eyes, sweet Sovereign Sea! Am I mad? Am I hallucinating? No! no! ... And I plunge my gaze again into your depths ... At the bottom, the very bottom, the beautiful submerged evening has clarified its solitude. It is the anguished pureness of an eastern sky, forsaken by the light, and dying in absolute despair at the bottom of the sea. A pale evening fevered with desire, filled with a resigned, majestic bitterness, a magic evening, cool and deep, like a well of azure below a lip of clouds, well of tears and stars! Suddenly the immense chain of drowned mountains reveals its tragic essence. I see and understand: they are pyramids of stacked corpses, whose packed skulls form vast granular tiers. Their hair hangs down like seaweed over phosphorescent peaks. They look like pyramids of glowing, smoking shot. Millions of faces, turned toward the sky, bulging their hateful eyes at the zenith! Billions of eyes sharpened on the tips of the stars, eyes steeled with anger yet liquefied with infinite sorrows! Above me, over my buzzing head, through the Noons' impassioned furnace passes the triumphal procession of the Conquerors of the light. In the distance, concave bays, filled with the bluish ink of darkness, open their mouths, as if inhaling space. They are air holes venting a sound of swords and voices hooting,"Heyho! Heyhooo!" The scholars have claimed that corpses burn all their phosphorous and dissolve in sumptuous rot. No! The scholars are wrong, for, here, I see petrified bodies, bodies of steel, embers, and gold, harder than diamonds! They are the suicides, those whose courage failed under the weight of their heart, furnace of stars! They died from fanning in their blood the flame of the Ideal, the great engulfing flame of the Absolute! They died from believing the promises of the Stars. O Divine Astral crucibles! O venerable ingots of astral gold! Look! Look! their phosphorous hair spreads wide like comets! O almighty gods of Space, am I mad? Don't I see just a dim reflection of the Milky ways? No! no! My soul, trust in your dream, for Noon soars in the immensity! The Noons' great block bursts over my head in pieces of incandescent metal. I lean over the cheeks of the Sea and behold! the wonderful submerged twilight and its vindictive mountains! and the symmetrical corpses, and their living hair that, for centuries, has fanned their metallic faces. Through the greenish immensity, the submerged pyramids watch the zenith, with all their mad eyes. All those green faces track the stupid sky, the sorceress Night and its Stars of lust and Infinity!
It will come! It will come, the time for revenge, they muse darkly, when we will be seized in the Cyclones' huge arms and brandished by the engines of the Sea and hurled, fiercely hurled, at the ramparts where the Stars of sapphire dream! Our skulls, hardened by Desire, will click like castanets in the Waterspouts' hands, our clashing skulls will resound like frenzied drums on a carnival's harlequin stage! We will whet our unappeased eyes, one on the other, to the red burning of delirium! Listen! listen! ... the Waves sing louder: "Heyho! Heyhoo! Stridionla! Stridionlaire!" Tomorrow, perhaps tonight, the Scourging Sea will come to shout her heavy commands! Already the horizon is filled with the loud stamping of her whinnying herds.
Excerpted from Selected Poems and Related Proseby Luce Marinetti Copyright © 2002 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission.
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