On the Banks of the Marne by Anna de Noailles

Painting: Bords de la Marne by Camille Pissarro, 1866

The slow and yielding River Marne
slips past an open, spacious and exhausted land
where sleeping villages hatch from the grass
like stars appearing in the sky.

Here, nature has resumed her careless dreaming,
a white workhorse labours at the plough
while old folk wander through a mottled view of vines,
roses still bloom on an autumnal bush,
a greedy goat is tangled in a bramble patch,
the grapes have been gathered in, the hillside sleeps.

Nothing now bears witness to that inhuman business
except a mound that may hide the shape of a body.
This silent soil embraces all the heroes, broken
by fatigue and hunger, who, knowing they would never
see its end, gave their all in the Battle of the Marne.

The land has covered them. We do not know their names.
They have only the grass and the wind to talk to.
They have entered our dreams.

Beyond these hills and hollows, the muffled,
swooning sound of cannon-fire sinks into the ether.
Night begins to fall. The now infamous river,
forever heedless of what happened here,
soaks up the languor of twilight and falls asleep.

Dazed by the shock of fate, my eyes absorb
the indelible glory and calm possessed by things,
even when men are dead.

October 1916


Les bords de la Marne

La Marne, lente et molle, en glissant accompagne
Un paysage ouvert, éventé, spacieux.
On voit dans l’herbe éclore, ainsi qu’un astre aux cieux,
Les villages légers et dormants de Champagne.

La Nature a repris son rêve négligent,
Attaché à la herse un blanc cheval travaille.
Les vignobles jaspés ont des teintes d’écaille
A travers quo l’on voit rôder de vieilles gens.

Un automnal buisson porte encore quelques roses.
Une chèvre s’enlace au roncier qu’elle mord.
Les raisins sont cueillis, le coteau se repose,
Rien ne témoigne plus d’un surhumain effort
Qu’un tertre soulevé par la forme d’un corps.

– Dans ce sol, sans éclat et sans écho, s’incarnent
Les héros qui, rompus de fatigue et de faim,
Connaissant que jamais ils ne sauront la fin
De l’épique bataille à laquelle ils s’acharnent,
Ont livré hardiment les combats de la Marne.

La terre les recouvre. On ne sait pas leur nom.
Ils ont l’herbe et le vent avec lesquels ils causent.
Nous songeons.

Par delà les vallons et les monts
On entend le bruit sourd et pâmé du canon
S’écrouler dans l’éther entre deux longues pauses.
Et puis le soir descend. Le fleuve au grand renom,
A jamais ignorant de son apothéose,
S’emplit de la langueur du crépuscule, et dort.
Je regarde, les yeux hébétés par le sort,
La gloire indélébile et calme qu’ont les choses
         Alors que les hommes sont morts.

Octobre 1916


Painting: Bords de la Marne by Camille Pissarro, 1866

The Hollow (27)

This entry is part 27 of 48 in the series The Hollow


another ash I never noticed

lit up by the sun
its death let in


for so many years
I saw it as an eye

island in the stream


don’t call them Indian graves
these mounds
that once held roots


God or microbes
everywhere you look


Up, and to my accounts again, and stated them very clear and fair, and at noon dined at my lodgings with Mr. Hater and W. Hewer at table with me, I being come to an agreement yesterday with my landlady for 6l. per month, for so many rooms for myself, them, and my wife and mayde, when she shall come, and to pay besides for my dyett. After dinner I did give them my accounts and letters to write against I went to the Duke of Albemarle’s this evening, which I did; and among other things, spoke to him for my wife’s brother, Balty, to be of his guard, which he kindly answered that he should. My business of the Victualling goes on as I would have it; and now my head is full how to make some profit of it to myself or people. To that end, when I came home, I wrote a letter to Mr. Coventry, offering myself to be the Surveyor Generall, and am apt to think he will assist me in it, but I do not set my heart much on it, though it would be a good helpe. So back to my office, and there till past one before I could get all these letters and papers copied out, which vexed me, but so sent them away without hopes of saving the post, and so to my lodging to bed.

I hate myself for my diet
victualing as an offering

my heart on paper
exed out

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 19 October 1665.


Up, and after some pleasant discourse with my wife (though my head full of business) I out and left her to go home, and myself to the office, and thence by water to the Duke of Albemarle’s, and so back again and find my wife gone. So to my chamber at my lodgings, and to the making of my accounts up of Tangier, which I did with great difficulty, finding the difference between short and long reckonings where I have had occasion to mix my moneys, as I have of late done my Tangier treasure upon other occasions, and other moneys upon that. However, I was at it late and did it pretty perfectly, and so, after eating something, to bed, my mind eased of a great deal of figures and castings.

my head full of outback

I am with great difficulty finding
the difference between short and long

I have occasion
to mix my occasions

another me to cast

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 18 October 1665.

The Hollow (26)

This entry is part 26 of 48 in the series The Hollow


that gap between
crowns of adjacent trees
and what goes on underground


just one fling
on the way up

fox grape


Solomon’s seal

withered leaves curl around
the glossy black drupe


crustose lichen on a rock

its complex inner life

All or nothing

Do you save it, or do you
spend it; and do you spend it
all, or do you save some
for an indeterminate time
in a future you’re no longer
sure you’ll get to. Do you eat
the sugar, or do you practice
abstinence; do you wait
with extra patience or do you
sprint the final mile until
you drop just before the thin
ribbon marking the finish line;
do you take the silver candle-
sticks out of their wrapping
paper, the wedding plates,
the beaded coat. Do you have
any more time left, can you
plan a concert, write another
book, think of how you can
progress, do you finally want
to do the things you’ve always
wanted to do but didn’t.


Up, and all day long busy at the office, mighty busy, only stepped to my lodging and had a fowl for my dinner, and at night my wife and Mercer comes to me, which troubled me a little because I am to be mighty busy to-morrow all day seriously about my accounts. So late from my office to her, and supped, and so to bed.

on the only step
an owl

night comes to me
because I am late to her bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 17 October 1665.

The Hollow (25)

This entry is part 25 of 48 in the series The Hollow


this way or that

forest-dwelling goldenrod


not a mere patch
but a stand

the black cohosh


fairy bells
under their leaves


naked-flowered tick trefoil

“leaflets three” but only
the name itches

In retrograde

Some planet is supposed to be
in retrograde this month – Venus,
or Mercury, or any of the others.
Whatever it is, supposedly is causing
all kinds of mechanical failures:
cars unable to start in the morning,
the HVAC unit breaking down just as
temperatures plummet. Lovers
breaking up, parents divorcing,
children turning against siblings
who never before this time had any
differences. Whatever it is, it’s
in full swing. Best to sit it out,
let it work off all its bad
juju. Don’t feed it any more
precious energy. Hide your tears
of frustration. Dig in your heels
and wait for the tide to turn.


Up about seven o’clock; and, after drinking, and I observing Mr. Povy’s being mightily mortifyed in his eating and drinking, and coaches and horses, he desiring to sell his best, and every thing else, his furniture of his house, he walked with me to Syon, and there I took water, in our way he discoursing of the wantonnesse of the Court, and how it minds nothing else, and I saying that that would leave the King shortly if he did not leave it, he told me “No,” for the King doth spend most of his time in feeling and kissing them naked all over their bodies in bed — and contents himself, without doing the other thing but as he finds himself inclined; but this lechery will never leave him.
Here I took boat (leaving him there) and down to the Tower, where I hear the Duke of Albemarle is, and I to Lumbard Streete, but can get no money. So upon the Exchange, which is very empty, God knows! and but mean people there. The newes for certain that the Dutch are come with their fleete before Margett, and some men were endeavouring to come on shore when the post come away, perhaps to steal some sheep. But, Lord! how Colvill talks of the businesse of publique revenue like a madman, and yet I doubt all true; that nobody minds it, but that the King and Kingdom must speedily be undone, and rails at my Lord about the prizes, but I think knows not my relation to him. Here I endeavoured to satisfy all I could, people about Bills of Exchange from Tangier, but it is only with good words, for money I have not, nor can get. God knows what will become of all the King’s matters in a little time, for he runs in debt every day, and nothing to pay them looked after. Thence I walked to the Tower; but, Lord! how empty the streets are and melancholy, so many poor sick people in the streets full of sores; and so many sad stories overheard as I walk, every body talking of this dead, and that man sick, and so many in this place, and so many in that. And they tell me that, in Westminster, there is never a physician and but one apothecary left, all being dead; but that there are great hopes of a great decrease this week: God send it!
At the Tower found my Lord Duke and Duchesse at dinner; so I sat down. And much good cheer, the Lieutenant and his lady, and several officers with the Duke. But, Lord! to hear the silly talk that was there, would make one mad; the Duke having none almost but fools about him. Much of their talke about the Dutch coming on shore, which they believe they may some of them have been and steal sheep, and speak all in reproach of them in whose hands the fleete is; but, Lord helpe him, there is something will hinder him and all the world in going to sea, which is want of victuals; for we have not wherewith to answer our service; and how much better it would have been if the Duke’s advice had been taken for the fleete to have gone presently out; but, God helpe the King! while no better counsels are given, and what is given no better taken. Thence after dinner receiving many commands from the Duke, I to our office on the Hill, and there did a little business and to Colvill’s again, and so took water at the Tower, and there met with Captain Cocke, and he down with me to Greenwich, I having received letters from my Lord Sandwich to-day, speaking very high about the prize goods, that he would have us to fear nobody, but be very confident in what we have done, and not to confess any fault or doubt of what he hath done; for the King hath allowed it, and do now confirm it, and sent orders, as he says, for nothing to be disturbed that his Lordshipp hath ordered therein as to the division of the goods to the fleete; which do comfort us, but my Lord writes to me that both he and I may hence learn by what we see in this business. But that which pleases me best is that Cocke tells me that he now understands that Fisher was set on in this business by the design of some of the Duke of Albemarle’s people, Warcupp and others, who lent him money to set him out in it, and he has spent high. Who now curse him for a rogue to take 100l. when he might have had as well 1,500l., and they are mightily fallen out about it. Which in due time shall be discovered, but that now that troubles me afresh is, after I am got to the office at Greenwich that some new troubles are come, and Captain Cocke’s house is beset before and behind with guards, and more, I do fear they may come to my office here to search for Cocke’s goods and find some small things of my clerk’s. So I assisted them in helping to remove their small trade, but by and by I am told that it is only the Custome House men who came to seize the things that did lie at Mr. Glanville’s, for which they did never yet see our Transire, nor did know of them till to-day. So that my fear is now over, for a transire is ready for them. Cocke did get a great many of his goods to London to-day. To the Still Yarde, which place, however, is now shut up of the plague; but I was there, and we now make no bones of it.
Much talke there is of the Chancellor’s speech and the King’s at the Parliament’s meeting, which are very well liked; and that we shall certainly, by their speeches, fall out with France at this time, together with the Dutch, which will find us work. Late at the office entering my Journall for 8 days past, the greatness of my business hindering me of late to put it down daily, but I have done it now very true and particularly, and hereafter will, I hope, be able to fall into my old way of doing it daily.
So to my lodging, and there had a good pullet to my supper, and so to bed, it being very cold again, God be thanked for it!

observing a horse
how it minds nothing

is naked and content
like a mad god

what will become of people
full of sad stories

everybody sick
and never a physician

which sea would help us fear
what we have done

which curse
might trouble us

so small and thin
our ear bones are

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 16 October 1665.