The flesh grows weary. And books, I’ve read them all.
Off, then, to where I glimpse through spray and squall
Strange birds delighting in their unknown skies!
No antique gardens mirrored in my eyes
Can stay my sea-changed spirit, nor the light
Of my abstracted lamp which shines (O Night!)
On the guardian whiteness of the empty sheet,
Nor the young wife who gives the babe her teat.
Come, ship whose masts now gently rock and sway,
Raise anchor for a stranger world! Away!
How strange that Boredom, all its hopes run dry,
Still dreams of handkerchiefs that wave goodbye!
Those gale-inviting masts might creak and bend
In seas where many a craft has met its end,
Dismasted, lost, with no green island near it…
But hear the sailors singing, O my spirit!
(Translated from the French by Richard Wilbur)
October 21, 1999