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The French Golden Lines Posted by on Jul 20, 2012 in Culture, Vocabulary

Considered by some as le père spirituel (the spiritual father) of Victor Hugo, French writer Gérard de Nerval is known to have been in the company of a rather “unusual” pet, always taking him wherever he went: It was un homard (a lobster) he called “Thibault”!

In this poem, Gérard de Nerval refers to “les vers dorés” or Golden Verses” of the Greek Master philosopher Pythagoras, known in French as “Pythagore”, and famous entre autres choses (among other things) for le théorème de Pythagore (The Pythagorean theorem) which you probably remember from when you were a kid

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VERS DORÉS

Eh quoi ! tout est sensible !

Pythagore.

Homme, libre penseur ! te crois-tu seul pensant Dans ce monde où la vie éclate en toute chose ? Des forces que tu tiens ta liberté dispose, Mais de tous tes conseils l’univers est absent.

Respecte dans la bête un esprit agissant : Chaque fleur est une âme à la Nature éclose ; Un mystère d’amour dans le métal repose ; « Tout est sensible ! » Et tout sur ton être est puissant.

Crains, dans le mur aveugle, un regard qui t’épie : À la matière même un verbe est attaché… Ne le fais pas servir à quelque usage impie !

Souvent dans l’être obscur habite un Dieu caché ; Et comme un œil naissant couvert par ses paupières, Un pur esprit s’accroît sous l’écorce des pierres !

* * *

GOLDEN LINES

 

Well, then! All is sentient!

Pythagoras

 

Free-thinker, Man, do you think you alone

Think, while life explodes everywhere?

Your freedom employs the powers you own,

But world is absent from all your affairs.

 

Respect an active spirit in the creature:

Each flower is a soul open to Nature;

In metal a mystery of love is sleeping;

‘All is sentient!’ Has power over your being.

 

Fear the gaze in the blind wall that watches:

There is a verb attached to matter itself…

Do not let it serve some impious purpose!

 

Often a hidden god inhabits obscure being;

And like an eye, born, covered by its eyelids,

Pure spirit grows beneath the surface of stones!

 

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