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Paul Éluard

Clock of Secret Weddings
Memories and the Present


Clock of Secret Weddings

Translated from the French by Lisa Lubasch


On the side of evil:


Why must I always fall asleep

Why must the night devour me


I am unable to go without a halo

It hurts to be without a crown


But when I sleep soft chimes sound

My indolence hangs on their rope


I dream of the heart of my dead youth.




Then time gives birth to a new order

Order of fall with twisted foliage


I am born I die I open and close the door

I am at the heart of what dies from blooming


I do not know how to leave from where I start off

Nor how to see any part of my sad future


I decorate my sheets with my twisted scowl.



On the side of good:


Over the delicate sky enormous clouds

Broke the flow of monotonous dreams


And when the flaming storm made a face

I was breathing darkness I was taking form


I conceived the earth that I worship

I was like everything that I name


I fortified the forgiving earth.




A thousand songs of grapes and apples

Bedecked all words with fruit


A thousand voyages of animals and men

Sought out the day on the earth without limits


Night kissed the lips of dawn

The flowers were opening under the frantic light


I was radiance I was weakness and strength.




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Memories and the Present

Translated from the French by Lisa Lubasch


On the side of evil:


I dreamt and I confess I dream much too much

For my own good because my dreams are dead ends


You were naked and beautiful and I felt compassion

You kissed me I had pity on my nocturnal self


I thought that nothing could light the way for me.




And time is responsible for everything

This time behind before during after past

My heart as it sleeps knows nothing of duration.




My justice on earth but even so you had only

A very light springtime to offer me to survive


As though we were two puffs of green

Setting free every bird from their sky-blue lips


We were never able to foresee anything except the sun.




There is no end to destruction

There is no end to my lamentation

You are dead this word has destroyed everything for me


Let negativity reign nothingness grows

Dark winter and the ancient snow of the grave.



On the side of good:


What I love embodies my desire to live

I took her in the present she stays in the present

Her soft nakedness scatters the light


Pure air passes more purely from her mouth to her eyes

She sees everything for me and I choose for her

The leaf at the heart of the tree and the clear spring


She is the tree and the leaf and makes the water overflow

We are born one for the other together at each dawn

And our laughter rubs out the desert of the sky.




We both know well that evil threatens us

But we are confident in the powers of love

She is my intention of living without regret

Of living without suffering of living without dying


I am luminous for she is filled with light

I love her through everything I know all the paths

For finding her again my lamb and my fleece

My sister and my strength my bond of blood


There is only one life therefore she is perfect.




Tenderness of the storm when it melts into the rain

And may the grain take hold beneath the sun and in the ground

The long night fades death greets life

The rainbow lives on blood under our skin


We are witnesses there have always been

Simple witnesses like us to testify for the good

We vow with our hands outstretched

That everything is ended that everything will begin


Without anything resembling what has been.




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Born Eugène Grindel, Paul Éluard grew up in a lower-middle-class family in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. His father was a bookkeeper, whose wife helped out with finances by dressmaking. Sent to a Swiss sanatorium at the age of 16 for tuberculosis, Éluard became interested in poetry. When he returned to France, he joined the army and was badly injured by gas. His first major book, Le devoir et l’inquiétude, was published in 1917.

     In the years following, he was briefly involved with the Dada Movement, but soon—with Louis Aragon and André Breton—helped to found Surrealism. In 1942, having broken with the Surrealists in the late 1930s, Éluard joined the Communist Party. During World War II, he served in the French army and in the Communist Resistance. After the war he continued to be active in the international communist movement, and traveled extensively to Britain, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, and Russia. He was refused a visa to enter the United States. Throughout his life, Éluard perceived poetry as an action capable of arousing awareness in his readers, and recognized it as a powerful force in the struggle of political, social, and sexual liberation.

      Published in 1949, A Moral Lesson explores evil and good as slightly unpredictable forces which at times might be perceived as indistinguishable. Yet Éluard explores the two with a determined effort to transform evil into good. “Through our perseverance, we will render pain and error harmless.” This poetic dialogue stands as a magnificent testament to Éluard’s poetry and his life. The book will published in English by Green Integer in 2006.


English language translation ©2006 by Lisa Lubasch and Green Integer.


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