Nocturne in broad daylight

Jules Supervielle
Jules Supervielle

Jules Supervielle (1884-1960) was born into a French-Basque family living in Uruguay. Aged ten, he was sent to Paris, where he completed his education at the Sorbonne. For the rest of his life, he divided his time between Uruguay and France. He was friends with André Gide, Paul Valéry and Jacques Rivière, and in 1923, he met the Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, a crucial influence on his later work. The poem below is a fragment from La fable du monde, published in 1938. See also “I dream you from afar.”

Nocturne in broad daylight

The slowness around me
Casts its net over the furniture
Imprisoning the light
And familiar objects.
And Time, its legs crossed,
Looks me in the eye
And sometimes it stands up
To examine me a little closer,
Then it goes back to its place
Like a satisfied prince.
And here in my whole body
The Feeling of Life,
Red and white ants
Composing a human being.
And Space revolves around me
In which everyone finds their place
From the high stars
To those who observe them.
And every day that I endure
Under my shadowy thoughts
I live among these figures
Layered around me
Like between Pyramids.

Jules Supervielle

(translated by John Lyons)


Nocturne en plein jour

La Lenteur autour de moi
Met son filet sur les meubles
Emprisonnant la lumière
Et les objets familiers.
Et le Temps, jambes croisées,
Me regarde dans les yeux
Et quelquefois il se dresse
Pour me voir d’un peu plus près,
Puis il retourne à sa place
Comme un prince satisfait.
Et voici dans tout mon corps
Le Sentiment de la Vie,
Blanches et rouges fourmis
Composant un être humain.
Et l’Espace tourne autour de moi
Où chacun trouve sa place
Depuis les hautes étoiles
Jusqu’à ceux qui les regardent.
Et chaque jour que j’endure
Sous mes ombreuses pensées
Je vis parmi ces figures
Comme entre des Pyramides
Autour de moi étagées.

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