Happy Birthday to French poet, writer and politician Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869)! Here is an image of a stamp depicting a statue of Lamartine in Mâcon, his birthplace, and a view of the esplanade in St-Laurent-sur-Saône, designed and engraved by Pierre Albuisson (1952- ), and issued by France on March 28, 2009, Scott No. 3631, Y&T No. 4349, plus a photo of the statue, and a translation of Alphonse de Lamartine's most well known poem, Le Lac
("The Lake"). Note: Lamartine fell in love with Julie Charles, a married woman, after rescuing her from drowning in the Lake Bourget, at the southernmost end of the Jura Mountains, but she died soon afterwards. Returning to the lake in 1817, Lamartine wrote this poem.
- nethryk The Lake
So then, forever pushed toward new shores like this,
swept away into eternal night without return
on the ocean of the ages-- can we never
cast anchor for a single day?
O lake! the year is scarcely over,
and near the beloved waters that she should have seen again,
look! I've come alone to sit on this stone
where you saw her sitting!
You groaned the same way then under these deep rocks;
you broke the same way on their torn flanks;
the wind threw the foam from your waves the same way
on her adored feet.
One evening, do you remember? We were floating in silence;
on the waves, beneath the sky, there was nothing to hear but
the distant sound of oarsmen beating in rhythm
against your harmonious waves.
Suddenly unearthly accents
came echoing from the enchanted shore:
the water listened, and the voice that I love
let fall these words:
"O time, suspend your flight! and you, happy hours,
suspend your race:
let us savor the fleet delights
of our fairest days!
"Enough unhappy people here beg you--
rush, rush for them;
take their days and the cares that devour them--
forget the happy people.
"But I ask in vain for a few more moments,
time escapes me and flees;
I say to this night: Be slower; and dawn
comes to melt the night.
"Let us love then, let us love! let us revel in
the flying hour-- hurry!
Man has no harbor, Time has no shore;
it flows, and we pass!"
Envious Time, can it be that these euphoric moments,
when love pours out long surges of happiness for us,
fly away from us at the same speed
as the unhappy days?
What! Can't we at least hold on to the traces?
What! gone forever? What! completely lost?
The same Time that gave them, the same Time that erased them,
will never give them back to us?
Eternity, nothingness, Past, dark chasms,
what do you do with the days you engulf?
Speak: will you give us back that sublime ecstasy
that you snatch from us?
O lake! silent rocks! caves! dark forest!
you whom Time spares or can make young again,
beautiful Nature-- keep, keep from that night
at least the memory!
May it be in your rest, may it be in your storms,
beautiful lake, and in the look of your smiling shoreline,
and in these black pines, and in these wild rocks
leaning over your waters.
May it be in the soft wind that shivers and passes,
in the sounds of the lake water lapping your banks,
in the silver-browed star that whitens your surface
with its soft clearness.
May the wind that groans, the reed that sighs,
may the soft scent of your fragrant air,
may everything that is heard, seen or breathed
all say: They loved!
- Alphonse de Lamartine