The poet enjoys the incomparable privilege that he can, at will, be either himself or another. Like those wandering spirits that seek a body, he enters, when he likes, into the person of any man. For him alone all is vacant, to his eyes, they are not worth the trouble of being visited.
The solitary and pensive pedestrian derives a singular exhiliration from this universal communion. That man who can easily wed the crowd knows a feverish enjoyment which will be eternally denied to the egoist, shut up like a trunk, and to the lazy man, imprisoned like a mollusk. The poet adopts as his own all the professions, all the joys and all the miseries with which circumstance confronts him. What men call love is very meager, very restricted and very feeble, compared to this ineffable orgy, to this holy prostitution of the soul that abandons itself entirely, poetry and charity included, to the unexpectant arrival, to the passing stranger.
It is good occasionally to bring home to the happy people of the world, were it only in order to humiliate for a moment their inane pride, that there is a happiness superior to theirs, vaster and more refined. The founder of colonies, the pastors of peoples, missionary priests exiled to the ends of the earth, doubtless know something of this mysterious drunkeness; and in the heart of the vast family which their genius has created for itself, they must laugh sometimes at those who pity them for their destiny that is so unquiet and for their life that is so chaste.'
Reprinted from Petits Poemes en Prose
Translated as Twenty Prose Poems by Michael Hamburger (22/3/24-6/07)