The Forerunners (Romain Rolland)/I

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The Forerunners (Romain Rolland) by Romain Rolland, translated by Eden and Cedar Paul
I. Ara Pacis

I

ARA PACIS

DE profundis clamans, out of the abyss of all the hates,
To thee, Divine Peace, will I lift up my song.
The din of the armies shall not drown it.
Imperturbable, I behold the rising flood incarnadine,
Which bears the beauteous body of mutilated Europe,
And I hear the raging wind which stirs the souls of men.
Though I stand alone, I shall be faithful to thee.
I shall not take my place at the sacrilegious communion of blood.
I shall not eat my share of the Son of Man.
I am brother to all, and I love you all,
Men, ephemerals who rob yourselves of your one brief day.
Above the laurels of glory and above the oaks,
May there spring from my heart upon the Holy Mount,
The olive tree, with the sunlight in its boughs, where the cicadas sing.

*

* *

Sublime Peace who boldest,
Beneath thy sovran sway,

The turmoil of the world,
And who, from out the hurtling of the waves,
Makest the rhythm of the seas;
Cathedral established
Upon the perfect balance of opposing forces;
Dazzling rose-window,
Where the blood of the sun
Gushes forth in diapered sheaves of flame
Which the harmonising eye of the artist has bound together;
Like to a huge bird
Which soars in the zenith,
Sheltering the plain beneath its wings,
Thy flight embraces,
Beyond what is, that which has been and will be.
Thou art sister to joy and sister to sorrow,
Youngest and wisest of sisters;
Thou boldest them both by the hand.
Thus art thou like a limpid channel linking two rivers,
A channel wherein the skies are mirrored betwixt two rows of pale poplars.
Thou art the divine messenger,
Passing to and fro like the swallow
From bank to bank,
Uniting them.
To some saying,
"Weep not, joy will come again";
To others,
"Be not over-confident, happiness is fleeting."
Thy shapely arms tenderly enfold
Thy froward children,
And thou smilest, gazing on them
As they bite thy swelling breast.

Thou joinest the hands and the hearts
Of those who, while seeking one another, flee one another;
And thou subjectest to the yoke the unruly bulls,
So that instead of wasting
In fights the passion which makes their flanks to smoke,
Thou turnest this passion to account for ploughing in the womb of the land
The furrow long and deep where the seed will germinate.
Thou art the faithful helpmate
Who welcomest the weary wrestlers on their return.
Victors or vanquished, they have an equal share of thy love.
For the prize of battle
Is not a strip of land
Which one day the fat of the victor
Will nourish, mingled with that of his foe.
The prize is, to have been the tool of Destiny,
And not to have bent in her hand.
O my Peace who smilest, thy soft eyes filled with tears,
Summer rainbow, sunny evening,
Who, with thy golden fingers,
Fondlest the besprinkled fields,
Carest for the fallen fruits,
And healest the wounds
Of the trees which the wind and the hail have bruised;
Shed on us thy healing balm, and lull our sorrows to sleep!
They will pass, and we also.
Thou alone endurest for ever.
Brothers, let us unite ; and you, too, forces within me,
Which clash one upon another in my riven heart!
Join hands and dance along!
We move forward calmly and without haste,
For Time is not our quarry.
Time is on our side.
With the osiers of the ages my Peace weaves her nest.

* * *

I am like the cricket who chirps in the fields.
A storm bursts, rain falls in torrents, drowning
The furrows and the chirping.
But as soon as the flurry is over,
The little musician, undaunted, resumes his song.
In like manner, having heard, in the smoking east, on the devastated earth,
The thunderous charge of the Four Horsemen,
Whose gallop rings still from the distance,
I uplift my head and resume my song,
Puny, but obstinate.


Written August 15 to 25, 1914.[1]
and 25, 1915; "Les Tablettes," Geneva, July, 1917.
  1. Except the last two stanzas, which were composed in the autumn of the same year.