Bjorn, a strange cœnobite,
On the plateau of a bare rock,
Inhabits, out of the world and time,
The tower of a fortress demolished.

At his door the modern spirit
In vain lifts up the weighty knocker.
Bjorn bolts his postern shut
And his castle keeps tight-locked.

When every eye is toward the dawn
Bjorn, perched upon his dungeon,
Gazes still the horizon upon
At the place of the setting sun.

Retrospective soul, he lodges
In his fortress in the past,
The pendulum of his grandfather clock
Some centuries ago worked last.

Underneath his ogives feudal
He wanders, waking up the echoes,
And his steps, the flagstones moot all,
Seem to be followed by even steps.

He sees no laymen nor any presters,
Nor gentlemen, nor men of town,
But the portraits of his ancestors
Talk with him again and now.

And certain nights, to lend him spice,
Finding dinner alone a bore there,
Bjorn, a funerary caprice,
Asks to supper all his forebears.

The phantoms, when tolls the midnight bell,
Arrive in armor pie-a-cap,
Bjorn, who shivers in spite of himself,
Salutes by lifting high his hanap.

To seat itself, each panoply
With its kneejoint makes an angle,
Whose articulation yields
Grating like an old doorbolt.

And all of a piece, the suit of armor,
Gauche casket of a body not there,
Making a dull and hollow murmur,
Falls twixt the arms of an easy chair.

Landgraves, rhinegraves, also burgraves,
Come from heaven or from hell,
They are all there, silent and grave,
Stiff convives of hardened steel!

In the dark, a wild beam plays
On a monster, wyvern, two-necked eagle,
From the heraldic bestiary
Upon their crests by many blows mangled.

From the snout of beats deformed
Raising up their nails arrogant,
Spring forth varied plumes enormous,
Lambrequins extravagant,

But the open helmets are void
As the timbre on coats of arms;
Only two flames that are livid
Gleam within like strange alarms.

Every bit of scrap iron sits
In the hall of the old manor,
And, on the wall, a shadow flits
Giving each guest a page of honor.

The liquors in the fire of candles
Are purplish with a tint that’s suspect,
Each course within its red sauce spangled
Takes on a singularmost aspect.

Now and again a corslet sparkles,
A morion shines for just a moment,
A piece that’s come unhinged quite tumbles
Down upon the tablecloth groaning.

One listens to the beating wings
Of bats that are invisible,
And along the wainscoting
Flags of infidel nations tremble.

With the most fantastical movements
Curling their phalanges of bronze
Gauntlets pour into the helmets
Glassfuls of the Rhineland’s wines,

Or with a dagger’s edge, they cut
On golden plates a wild boar...
While vague noises pass from out
The organs of the corridor.

With a voice that still is hoarse
From the dampness of the tomb,
Max hums, playful drunkenness,
A lied, in thirteen hundred, new.

Albrecht, having wine that’s fierce,
Quarrels with his quondam cousins,
Whom he pounds on, humped and beastly,
As he did the Saracens.

Overheated, Fritz unhelms,
Where no skull was ever sunk,
Never thinking his unmasked self
Looks just like a headless trunk.

Quickly now they roll pell-mell
Beneath the table, among the crocks,
Head below, showing the sole
Of their shoes curvate with hooks.

It’s a hideous battlefield
Where an armet hits a pot,
Where the dead by each cut yield
No blood but each course in a vomit.

And Bjorn, his fist upon his thigh,
Contemplates them, drawn and haggard,
Whileas, through the Swiss stained glass,
Sunup casts its blue regard.

The troupe, whom a sunbeam crosses,
Grows pale like a torch at noon,
And the drunkenmost back tosses
The stirrup cup before the tomb.

The cock crows, the specters fly
And with a lofty air replete,
On the marble pillow lay
Their heads still aching from the feast!

About Theophile Gautier

Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier (August 30, 1811 – October 23, 1872) was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and literary critic. While Gautier was an ardent defender of Romanticism, his work is difficult to classify and remains a point of reference for many subsequent literary traditions such as Parnassianism, Symbolism, Decadence and Modernism. He was widely esteemed by writers as diverse as Balzac, Baudelaire, the Goncourt brothers, Flaubert and Oscar Wilde. Towards the end of 1830, Gautier began to frequent meetings of Le Petit Cénacle, a group of artists who met in the studio of Jehan Du Seigneur. The group... Read more...

Poet of the day

Born in 1714 in Halesowen (now Worcestershire) England living at the family home 'The Leasowes'. Halesowen, which, up to the early years of the 18th century was in part of Shropshire. He was educated at Solihull Grammar School, where he met and became firm friends with the future poet Richard...

Poem of the day

Jeg saae kun tilbage. Mig Livets Lyst bortklang;
Da toned mig i Sjælen saa trøstelig en Sang;
See frem, men ei tilbage! Hvad Hjertet attraaer,
Maaskee dog engang under Solen du naaer.

Lad Bølger bortrulle! lad Løvet flagre hen!
Rask bruser dog Strømmen, frisk Skoven staaer...