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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This poem is taken from Poetry Nation 3 Number 3, 1974.

The Travelling Minstrel and The Pardon of Saint Anne - La Palud, August 27th, the day of the Pardon. (Translated by Val Warner.) Tristan Corbière
And
The Pardon Of Saint Anne (translated by Val Warner)

La Palud, August 27th, the day of the Pardon.


Hallowed are the beach's infertile levels
Where everything, like the sea, is harsh.
Holy is the primitive chapel
Of Saint-Anne-of-the-Marsh . . .

Of the Good-hearted Woman Saint Anne,
Great-aunt of the little Jesus,
With rotten wood in her cloth, fustian,
Rich . . . richer than Croesus!

The little Virgin is contiguous,
A fragile spindle, waiting for the Angelus;
In the corner, Joseph, holding his taper,
Nestles, as a saint no more held in honour . . .

. . . . . .

It's the Pardon. - Revels and mystery -
Lice in the trodden grass already . . .
- Saint Anne, for mothers-in-law a lotion!
For husbands consolation! . . .


From the parishes round about:
From Plougastel and Loc-Tudy,
They all come with tents to camp out,
Three nights, three days, - till Monday early.

The salt-marsh grunts three days, three nights,
According to the ancient rites,
- Seraphic choir and drunken versicles -
The SPIRITUAL CANTICLE.

Mother with hatchet blows made,
All heart of oak, hard and good;
Under the gold of your dress is laid
A free Breton's soul like wine in the wood!

- Green old woman with a face worn
Like a stone the torrent has borne,
By tears of love rived,
By tears of blood dried . . .

- You whose breasts were arid
And recovered strength, by having carried
The Virginity of Mary,
A male virginity!

- Lofty servant-mistress,
All mighty before the Almighty;
To the poor in society, without haughtiness,
Lady replete with a proper courtesy!

- Crutches for old women! For the blind
A stick! Arms for the new-born!
Mother of madam your child!
Kin to the forlorn!

- O Flower of the new maiden!
Fruit of the wife with the swollen womb!
For the widow an altar and haven . . .
And Lady-of-Mercy for the widowed groom!

- Arc of Joachim! Ancestor!
Copper medal that can't be read!
Holy mistletoe! A four-leafed clover!
Stem of Jesse! Mount Horeb!

- O you who covered the cinders,
And spun as hereabouts they do,
In the light growing dimmer,
Holding the CHILD against you;

- You, alone, were there sewing
His new swaddling-band at Bethlehem,
And there, to make his afflicting
Shroud at Jerusalem! . . .

Deep crosses are your wrinkles,
White as thread your hair . . .
- Keep our grandsons' cradles
From the sterile stare!

Aid their coming and keep in felicity
Those to be born and those arrived.
And pour, without letting God see,
Water from your eyes on the damned!

In their white shirts take up again
The children who are weakly . . .
Let the old an eternal Sunday regain
Instead of lingering interminably.

- As the Virgin's dragon-guardian,
Keep the crib under your eye.
Near you may Joseph the doorman
Keep the threshold spry!

Have pity on the unmarried mother,
On the child in the gutter . . .
If someone casts a stone at her head,
Let the stone be changed to bread!

- Lady kind by land and ocean,
Show us heaven and a mooring,
In war or in the weather's commotion . . .
O Beacon of a good dying!

Humble: at your fret there's no star,
Humble . . . and valiantly tutelar!
In the clouds your veil appears
Danger's halo, sear.

- To the lost whose life is boozy,
( - Saving your presence - through drink thrown away)
Show the church's belfry
And the homeward way.

Lend your flame, gentle and pure,
To the Christians here below . . .
Tour wise woman's cure
For the horned beasts also!

To our women and maidservants disclose
Work and fertility . . .
- Good-day to the souls of kinsfolk
Who are snug in eternity!

We shall put a border of wax,
Virgin and the colour of flax,
Around your chapel; and have the rite
Of your low mass said at first light.

- Keep our threshold
From the evil world and every spell . . .
At Easter we shall not withhold
A distaff and some wool as well.

If our bodies on earth are cess,
Tour grace is a bath of healthiness;
Sprinkle on us, in the cemetery,
Your good essence-of-sanctity.

- Here's your taper. -To next year!
(Two pounds, that dear)
. . . Respects to Madam the Virgin Mary,
Not forgetting the Trinity.



. . . And the faithful, in only their shirts,
- Saint Anne, have pity! -
Three times go round the church
Dragging themselves on their knees;

And drink miraculous water where the scurvy
Jobs have washed the varioles
Of their infectious nudity . . .
- Go: thy Faith hath made thee whole! -

It's there that conventicles
Are held by the poor, brothers of Jesus.
- This isn't the court of miracles,
The holes are real: Vide latus!

On their stretchers for execution aren't they divine
Crowned with a ruddy halo, colour of wine,
These owners of injuries,
Under the sun living rubies! . . .

Barking, a man with rickets
Shakes a flabby stump,
Elbowing an epileptic
Who labours on a dump.

There, a man's trunk where an ulcer begins to grow,
Against a tree-trunk where grows the mistletoe;
Here, it's a mother and daughter who prance
Dancing St. Vitus's dance.

This other tends the abscess
Of her little child's sickness:
- The child owes that to his old father . . .
- And the tumour is a bread-winner!

There, it's the naturally retarded,
One by Gabriel visited,
In the ecstasy of innocence . . .
- The innocent is near God's presence! -

- Here, passer-by, look: everything must fade . . .
The idiot's eye is stayed.
For a state of grace is his case . . .
- And Eternity is Grace! -

Among the others, after vespers,
Who are sprinkled with holy water,
A corpse, alive with leprosy, flowers
- A memento of the crusaders' era.

Next all those that the French Kings
Used to cure by their fingers touching . . .
- But there are no more kings in France,
And their god defers his forbearance.

- Alms in their platters! . . .
Together, our ancestors have carried
These fleur-de-lis of scrofula
Which these chosen ones have inherited.

- Miserere for the revels and songs
Of the Kakous and Ankokrignets! . . .
Those stumps there are tongs,
Those crutches deal buffets.

Therefore, active folk, venture there,
As for your woolly heads, beware:
Beware the hooked fingers! beware the legs in unison
In kyrie-eleison!

. . . And you, young lady, out for the air
And to look on, retire . . .
Perhaps, beneath these rags and tears,
Rags of a body might transpire . . .

So they go hunting there on their domain!
Their coats of arms gaping are their skin:
- Droit de seigneur for their claws that strain! . . .
The Lord's right of way within! -

Heaps of ex-voto of meat gone rotten,
Charnel-houses of the elect for heaven,
In the Lord's house they're at home!
- Aren't these creatures his own . . .

They swarm in the cemetery:
You'd say the dead all at sea
Who've dragged from beneath the stones
Only limbs with badly set bones.

- Let's be quiet! . . . They're sanctified.
It's Adam's lapse that was penalised;
The finger from On-high on them has set a sign:
- Blessed be the right hand of the On-high!

From the great flock, scapegoats whose cargo
Is crimes from here below,
On them God purges his furies! . . .
- The shepherd of Saint Anne is obese. -

. . . . . .

But a note of thick breathing,
An echo in the wind, nugatory,
Comes beating on the confused bleating
Of this peripatetic purgatory.

Bellowing, the form is human,
Against the calvary leaning;
Like half - the better one - of a blind man:
She's one-eyed, and has no dog guiding.

It's a travelling minstrel
Who for a farthing will tell
Mary Magdalen's Historie,
Or of The Wandering Jew, or Abelard's story.

She heaves like a moan,
Like a hunger groan,
And, woefully like a day without bread,
Her tragic ballad, just as extended . . .

- It sings as it takes breath
A sad bird without feather or nest
Wandering where its instinct draws it:
Around these holy statues of granite . . .

It can also speak, unquestionably.
It can think as it can see:
Always in front of it the highway . . .
- And, when it's got two halfpence . . . it drinks
them away.

- A woman: you'd wonder, alas - her old clouts
Hang her, got up in a petticoat with string;
Her black tooth grips a pipe, gone out . . .
- Oh, life has its good things! -

Her name? . . . it's called Dearth.
It found it was born on the off chance.
It will be found dead on the earth . . .
Somewhere - the same circumstance.

- Poet, if you cross her track,
With her old soldier's knapsack:
It's our sister . . . give her - it's a festivity -
For her pipe, a little baccy! . . .

You will see in her hollow face,
As in wood, hollowing itself anew
A smile; and her scabby hand trace
A true sign of the cross for you.

This poem is taken from Poetry Nation 3 Number 3, 1974.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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