Death of the Wolf.

Posted on 29 March, 2014 by Patrick Estebe in General Security

Death of the wolf.

Written in French by Alfred de Vigny, (1797- 1863)

This poem is only meant to illustrate the post on “Surprise” where it is mentioned. The translations that are available appeared to have been made from to perspective of English writer, as if “pulled” from the French to the English translation. This meant that a few concepts were missed, therefore I tried to translate it myself, “pushing” it from the French instead. This means of course the English translation may not be as good as some would like. My apologies to the original author and to my readers for my shortcomings; this is an imperfect world in which I am truly endeavoring to do my best.

 

I

Dark clouds ran across the shiny moon1

Like smoke runs away from the fire.

The forests were dark all around.

We were striding silently on the wet grass,

Amid thick heather and other shrubs.

When, beneath some fir,

We discovered the marks of powerful claws

Made by the roaming wolves we tracked.

We listened, holding our breath, standing still.

Utter silence reigned over the forest and the prairie, only

The wind-vane cried out to the heavens, mourning;

For the wind, high above the ground,

Deigned only disturbing the solitary towers.

And the oaks below, sheltered by the rocks

Leaning on their elbows appeared to sleep.

There was not a noise, when, crouching

The older of the hunters

Observed the sand and lay on it,

He who had never been wrong,

Spoke softly and declared

That these fresh marks foretold the bearing and the powerful claws

Of two grey wolves and two cubs.

We all then prepared our daggers,

And, hiding the rifles’ gleam,

We went on, step by step, pushing away the branches.

Three stopped, and I, following their gaze,

Suddenly saw it: two flaming eyes,

Farther, I can see, four slender forms,

Dancing under the moon, amid the heather.

As do every day, loudly, before our eyes,

The hounds joyful that their master is back.

Their form was the same, and the dance was the same;

But the Wolf’s cubs played mutely,

Well aware that, close by and only half way asleep,

Lying within his walls was their foe; man.

The male wolf was up, farther, against a tree

His female rested, like the marble statue

The Romans worshiped, and whose flanks

Nursed the heroes Remus and Romulus.

The Wolf came forward and crouched, his legs tensed,

Burying in the sand his powerful claws.

He knew he had lost because he was surprised,

His retreat, all his paths cut off.

At once, he took in his burning maw,

The throat of the bravest dog.

He never loosened his iron jaws,

Despite our bullets cutting through his flesh,

And our sharp daggers like pliers

Plunging crisscrossed through his entrails.

Until the end, when the strangled dog,

Dead long before him, fell at his feet.

The Wolf then forsook it and looked at us.

Our daggers thrust to the hilt still in his flank,

Nailing him to the grass, drenched in his blood;

Our rifles surrounded him in a sinister crescent.

He kept looking at us, lying down,

Licking the blood around his mouth,

And, not caring to know how he died,

Closing his great eyes, expires without a cry.

 

II

 

I rested my head upon my empty gun,

Lost in thoughts, I could not find the will

To track his female and her two cubs, who all

Would have rather waited for him.

And I believe that be it not for her cubs the dark and beautiful widow

Would never have left him face the ordeal alone.

But her duty was to save her cubs,

Teach them to stoically suffer hunger,

To never accept the pact of the towns

Where man tames animals that hunt for him,

The first owner of the forest and the mountain

In exchange of shelter.

 

III

 

Alas, I thought, in spite of the great name of Man

How ashamed I am, defective as we are!

How to leave life and all its ill

You are the ones who know, sublime beasts!

Observing what we were on earth and what we leave behind

Only silence is dignified; anything else is weakness.

Ah! I heard you, feral traveler.

Your ultimate stare struck me in the heart!

Stating: “If you can, see that your soul,

Unwaveringly studying and meditating,

Until that ultimate point of stoic pride

I attained in spite of being born in the woods.

Wailing, crying, begging is for the cowards,

Carry on with energy the long and heavy burden,

That fate saw fit for you,

Then, as I did, suffer and die without a word.”

One Comment

  1. Cherokee Paul McDonald 10 October, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Patrick,
    The poem is lovely and powerful. The translation (once I found the rhythm and pacing of the lines) is well-done, and (in my opinion) captures the images and intent of the author.
    The images will tumble around in my mind for days to come.
    Cherokee

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