Homme! libre penseur – te crois-tu seul pensant

Gerard de Nerval, when he was not taking his pet lobster for a walk through the streets of 1830s Paris, wrote a number of striking and eccentric poems and prose pieces. In poetry, he seemed to favour the sonnet, and here is a great example in which he takes inspiration from the Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras.

 
VERS DORÉS

Eh quoi ! tout est sensible !
Pythagore.

Homme, libre penseur ! te crois-tu seul pensant
Dans ce monde où la vie éclate en toute chose ?
Des forces que tu tiens ta liberté dispose,
Mais de tous tes conseils l’univers est absent.
Respecte dans la bête un esprit agissant :
Chaque fleur est une âme à la Nature éclose ;
Un mystère d’amour dans le métal repose ;
« Tout est sensible ! » Et tout sur ton être est puissant.
Crains, dans le mur aveugle, un regard qui t’épie :
À la matière même un verbe est attaché…
Ne le fais pas servir à quelque usage impie !
Souvent dans l’être obscur habite un Dieu caché ;
Et comme un œil naissant couvert par ses paupières,
Un pur esprit s’accroît sous l’écorce des pierres !
* * *
From <http://blogs.transparent.com/french/french-poem-les-vers-dores-the-golden-lines/&gt;

 

Following Pythagoras, the poem takes to task the arrogant self-centredness of that portion of mankind which places humanity at the centre of the universe and doesn’t all realise that all sentient and even inanimate elements may have consciousness and their own relationship with the totality of Nature.

After the first line, which mocks the attitude of man, the poem lists examples of other places where a life force exists, independent of man’s consciousness and will, almost everywhere in the universe. As such, it is a celebration of life in all its forms.

In this poem, we can also admire some of the characteristic elements of Nerval’s poetry – the capital letters, exclamation marks, suspension dots, words in quotation, which typify his extravagant, exclamatory style. There are other poems where these features are much more pronounced, but they do play a part in this poem.

 
The Poetry Dude

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