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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Aux Enfants Perdus

By Théodore de Banville (1823–1891)

Translation of Andrew Lang

I KNOW Cythera long is desolate;

I know the winds have stripped the garden green.

Alas, my friends! beneath the fierce sun’s weight

A barren reef lies where Love’s flowers have been,

Nor ever lover on that coast is seen!

So be it, for we seek a fabled shore,

To lull our vague desires with mystic lore,

To wander where Love’s labyrinths beguile;

There let us land, there dream for evermore,

“It may be we shall touch the happy isle.”

The sea may be our sepulchre. If Fate,

If tempests wreak their wrath on us, serene

We watch the bolt of Heaven, and scorn the hate

Of angry gods that smite us in their spleen.

Perchance the jealous mists are but the screen

That veils the fairy coast we would explore.

Come, though the sea be vexed, and breakers roar,

Come, for the breath of this old world is vile,

Haste we, and toil, and faint not at the oar;

“It may be we shall touch the happy isle.”

Gray serpents trail in temples desecrate

Where Cypris smiled, the golden maid, the queen,

And ruined is the palace of our state;

But happy loves flit round the mast, and keen

The shrill winds sings the silken cords between.

Heroes are we, with wearied hearts and sore,

Whose flower is faded and whose locks are hoar.

Haste, ye light skiffs, where myrtle thickets smile

Love’s panthers sleep ’mid roses, as of yore:

“It may be we shall touch the happy isle.”

Sad eyes! the blue sea laughs as heretofore.

Ah, singing birds, your happy music pour;

Ah, poets, leave the sordid earth awhile;

Flit to these ancient gods we still adore:

“It may be we shall touch the happy isle.”