Are we then never to rest in port a single day,
Driven ever onward to unknown shores,
Till at last we are swept away into eternal night
Never to return?
O lake, another year has galloped to its close
And she meant to see your lovely waves again,
But look, I sit here alone on the same rock
Where you first saw her.
Then, too, you moaned beneath the plunging crags,
Then, too, you slammed against their shattered faces,
And just like this the wind scattered your foam
At her precious feet.
That evening – do you recall? Drifting in silence
Between water and sky, we could only hear
The rhythms of the rowers striking in unison
Your waves like a drum.
Suddenly, a new accent was heard on the earth,
Stunning the magic echoes of the shore:
The waves quieted, and the voice that I love
Spoke these syllables:
“O time! Interrupt your flight, and you, hours of happiness!
Interrupt your flow:
Permit us to savor the rapid delights of the best days
We will ever know!
Fly, fly for the unhappy multitude here on earth,
They implore you;
The hours you steal will blunt their hungry cares;
Forget the happy few.
It is useless to beg for a few seconds more,
Time eludes our fingers;
I tell the night: pass more slowly; and already
It no longer lingers.
Let us love, now, now, while we live; it is late,
Hurry, let us enjoy!
We have no haven; time has no destination;
It slips away, we die.”
Jealous time, is it true, the delirious hours of love
That we gulped down like happiness in a bottle,
Do they depart from us at the same velocity
As unhappy days?
But may we not at least preserve their trace?
What! they are gone for good? are they totally lost?
Time gives, time takes away; and nothing is
Ever coming back.
Eternity, nothingness, the past, abyssal depths,
What have you done with the days you have devoured?
Speak: will you give back to us the sublime joys
You stole like a kiss?
O lake! silent rocks! caverns! dark woods!
You who are spared by time, who are born anew,
Preserve that evening, beautiful nature, keep
Its memory alive!
Preserve it in your stillness and your storm,
Beautiful lake, and in the aspect of your smiling hills;
Let it imbue the black firs and savage peaks
That hang over you;
Let it dwell in the breeze that trembles in passing,
In the echoes from shore to shore repeating,
In the face of the silver orb that lights your water
With its soft pallor;
Let the crying of the wind, the sighing reeds,
The imperceptible perfumes of your embalmed air,
All we may hear, see, and smell, let it all declare:
They were once in love!
Alphonse de Lamartine (1820)