MAL DU DEPART
Always the perfect, unworthy lover
of the endless voyage and azure ocean,
I shall die one evening, like any other,
without having crossed the dim horizon.
For Madras, Singapore, Algeria, Sfax,
the proud ships will still be setting sail,
but I shall bend over a chart-covered desk
and look in the ledger, and make out a bill.
I’ll give up talking about long journeys,
My friends will think I’ve forgotten at last;
my mother will be delighted: she’ll say
“A young man’s fancy, but now it’s passed.”
But one night my soul will rise up before me,
and ask, like some grim executioner, “Why?”
This unworthy trembling hand will take arms
and fearlessly strike where the blame must lie.
And I, who longed to be buried one day
in some deep sea of the distant Indies
shall come to a dull and common death;
shall go to a grave like the graves of so many.