Jersey sleeps in the tides, rumbling into infinity,
And in her smallness she has the two greatnesses;
An island, she has the ocean; a rock, she is the mountain.
To the south of Normandy, to the north of Brittany,
She is France for us, and in her bed of flowers
She is both smiles and sometimes tears.
For the third time I see the ripened apples.
Land of exile, devoured by waves whose murmurs are deaf,
Be blessèd, green isle, with your love of the deep tide!
This corner of earth where the soul melts into infinity,
If you were my land, you would be my desire.
Here, the serene fighter, shipwrecked from life,
He thinks, and beneath Gods eye, on this crimson reef,
He lets his soul be washed clean, just as the sun bleaches
The maids washing on the grass.
The rocks are fashioned with dreamy gazes;
In their caverns, just as in the crannies of a cider press,
The foam bubbles and gleams.
At nightfall the forest pitches sibylline notes into the wind;
The monstrous dolmen dreams on the hilltop,
The obscure night turning it into a ghostly sketch;
And from its mass the pallid moon brings forth Moloch.
The westerly wind sweeps across the beach,
In every rocky cranny where villages nest,
On the quivering old roofs of fishermens abodes,
Where the thatch is held in place by towropes,
Hanging down the walls with huge stones.
The wet nurse with bare breast, lowering her lids,
Sings to the child humming a sailors tune,
The boat on its return is pulled from the tide,
And the meadows are enchanted
O hail, holy land!
The thresholds of your houses laugh like a golden dawn.
O hail, lighthouses! Danger knows you well, my friends!
O hail, belfries where the martin comes to nest.
Poor altars sculpted by the sculptors of bows,
Lanes in whose woodland echoes the sound of wheels.
Gardens of pink laurel and blue hydrangea.
Ponds near the sea, wisdom near God!
The frigate is aloft on the horizon.
The tide blends with pebbles, polished like agate,
The vraic, fleece of the reefs flock.
And Venus adorns the pensive rocks,
Arriving in the shadows, at break of day,
Hearing the thrush call, Child Dawn at her hand.
O mists! Plémont, the steamer avoids you!
Ancient palace of Cybele fallen into the sea!
Mountain embraced by the liquid marbles of the ocean!
The calls of the oxen! Sweet slumber under the trees!
The island seems to pray like a monk;
From all sides, singing its unique song,
The abyss and the ocean dancing their ball.
A passing cloud weeps, and the tide at its height,
Whilst the sea at its feet lets a vessel be wrecked,
Retains some of the skys water for the little bird.
8th October 1854.
Written at Le Creux de la Touraille (Devils Hole)
Published in Les Quatre Vents de lesprit (1881)
Translated by Diane Enget © 2002