The Belgian-French poet, Michaux, wrote this poem about his violin. The imagery and associations are surprising, unexpected, beginning with the first line where the instrument is described as a giraffe-violin. Does that mean anything specifically? Maybe not, but it takes the reader outside his experience and leads us to focus on the words, their choice and juxtaposition, rather than any objective meaning. Its like looking at a painting to admire the shapes and the brush strokes rather than having to make sense of the overall scene.
Le Grand Violon , poème d’Henri Michaux
LE GRAND VIOLON
Mon violon est un grand violon-girafe ;
j’en joue à l’escalade,
bondissant dans ses râles,
au galop sur ses cordes sensibles et son ventre
affamé aux désirs épais,
que personne jamais ne satisfera,
sur son grand cœur de bois enchagriné,
que personne jamais ne comprendra.
Mon violon-girafe, par nature a la plainte basse
et importante, façon tunnel,
l’air accablé et bondé de soi, comme l’ont les gros poissons gloutons des hautes profondeurs,
mais avec, au bout, un air de tête et d’espoir
d’envolée, de flèche, qui ne cèdera jamais.
Rageur, m’engouffrant dans ses plaintes, dans
un amas de tonnerres nasillards,
j’en emporte comme par surprise
tout à coup de tels accents de panique ou de bébé
blessé, perçants, déchirants,
que moi-même, ensuite, je me retourne sur lui,
inquiet, pris de remords, de désespoir,
et de je ne sais quoi, qui nous unit, tragique, et
Although the poet describes himself playing the violin, it is almost as if the violin itself is in charge – it cannot be understood, satisfied or dominated by any mere person.
In the middle of the poem, the violin seems to change its character from a giraffe to a deep-sea fish twisting and turning, perhaps on the end of a line. Is “hautes profondeurs” a paradox – high depths – or does it actually work as stated, I’m not sure.
The sense that the violin is in charge is reinforced in the final lines, which describe the unexpected sounds emerging from the violin, which the poet himself then plays back, almost involuntarily. The final paradox is that the violin and the violinist are bound together but separate, perhaps like the poet and his poem?
The Poetry Dude