The Hospital

THE hospital!
The hospital on the banks of the canal,
The hospital, and the month of July!
They are lighting a fire in the ward,
While the Atlantic steamers are whistling on the canal!

(Do not go near the windows!)
Here are the emigrants loitering through a palace,
And I see a yacht in the tempest!
And herds of cattle on all the ships!

(It is better to keep the windows fastened,
Then we are all but safe from the outside world!)
One thinks of a forcing-frame placed upon a snow-drift,
Or a woman being churched on a day of thunder;
One catches a glimpse of plants scattered upon a blanket,
And a conflagration on a sunny day,
And I pass through a forest full of wounded men. . . .

O, here at last is the moonlight!

A fountain is playing in the middle of the ward!
And a troop of little girls has opened the door!
And lo, a glimpse of lambs in an isle of meadows!
And beautiful plants on a glacier!
And lilies in a hall of marble!
There is a banquet in a virgin forest,
And the vegetation of the tropics in a cavern of ice!

Listen! They are opening the locks,
And the ocean steamers are churning the waters of the canal!

But see, the Sister of Charity is making up the fire!

All the lovely green rushes of the banks are in flames
And a boat full of wounded men is tossing in the moonlight!
All the king's daughters are out in a boat in the storm!
And the princesses are dying in a field of hemlock!

Oh, do not unfasten the windows!
Listen--the ocean steamers are still hooting on the horizon!

They are poisoning some one in a garden!
They are holding a splendid festival in the houses of the enemy!
There are deer in a beleaguered city!
And a menagerie in a garden of lilies!
And the jungle of the tropics in the depths of a coal-mine!
A flock of sheep is crossing an iron bridge!
And the lambs have come from the meadows and are mournfully entering the ward!

Now the Sister of Charity is lighting the lamps;
Now she is bringing the patients their supper,
She has closed the windows upon the canal,
And all the doors to the light of the moon!

Translated by Bernard Miall
(Contributed by ivan on Saturday, February 5th, 2011)
See All Poetry


Belgian Literature

European Literature