Le vent se lève!

Le vent se lève! –Il faut tenter de vivre!

luh vah sLEV! eel fo tah-taid VEE-vruh! Click below to hear this.*

The wind is rising!

Did you read yesterday’s post? If not, I suggest you go back and do it now. Or read it again, if you feel so inclined! Go ahead, I’ll wait. Let me know when you’re back.

Okay. In the first stanza of the poem, the speaker has been reading in a graveyard by the sea, and looks up to see the whitecaps on the glittering water. It is a calm day, and the sea appears as a “quiet roof” where doves are walking. His thoughts have been ponderous, the reading heavy, and he feels refreshed by his view of the water.

As the poem continues, the reader’s gaze turns in the other direction, towards the gravestones. He thinks about death, the end of life and movement, which brings him back to his reading.

He invokes Zeno, a Greek philosopher who argued that at any given moment, an arrow shot into the air is immobile, and therefore it never moves. So life can be, suggests the poet; we fall into stagnation and never move forward.

And then he shakes himself, turns back to the sea, feels the wind in his face and feels revived:

Le vent se lève! –Il faut tenter de vivre!

The wind is up! –We must try to live!

And this is one of my favorite lives in all of poetry. What I love about it is that it is not a counsel of perfection. We must try to live. I love the juxtaposition of the rising wind and the lean towards life. It reminds me of John Wesley’s admonition that we must always be striving for perfection. That doesn’t mean be perfect, but try: tenter de vivre.

There is a beautiful, well-thought-out analysis of this poem in the OrangeManor blog. Click on this link to read it. I hope you will read this poem over and over. It doesn’t give itself up easily, but it is powerful writing.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:

homewpcompublic_htmlwp-contentblogs-dir24a11520781files201201le_vent_se_leve.mp3

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