René Char

Were We So Fragile?
April 13, 2012 Char René

Were We So Fragile?


What promises didn’t you deliver, beautiful Life!

It’s time, let’s have it!

If everything was fire at first, you should change or burn out;

Under my eyes the trout died well and rounded;

My worry, this present hidden hurt, can finally go.

I see it breathing for the first time.

The slim black butterfly rises before my legs, fluttering;

In my distances where neither sun nor night strays,

I hear a thousand songs clipping the claws of sleep.


Meadow offered to those who struggle,

Desire tensed the following flash of lightning,

The passionless body stops, falls

And returns to its buds,

On the air of great resentments.



Étions-nous si fragiles?
~René Char


Que ne pouvais-tu promettre sans t’en aller, ô belle Vie!

C’est le moment, il faut tenir!

Tu dois changer ou t’éteindre si tout fut feu d’abord;

Sous mes yeux le truite meurt droite et courbée;

Mon souci, ce present mal dissimulé, peut enfin courir hors de moi.

Je le devine respirant pour le première fois.

Le svelte papillon noir s’élève devant mes jambs, en voletant;

Dans mes lointains où n’erre ni soleil ni nuit,

J’entends mille airs de chanson rognant les griffes du sommeil.


Prairie offerte à ceux qui luttent,

Désir tendu l’éclair suivant,

Ce corps sans ardeur stoppe chute

Et retourne à ses bourgeons,

Sur l’air des grands ressentiments.


from René Char, Les Voisinages de Van Gogh, Oeuvres Complètes, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1995.



Translator: Stuart Kendall is the author of the critical biography Georges Bataille and The Ends of Art and Design. He edited and translated three books by Bataille, Guilty, The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge and The Cradle of Humanity: Prehistoric Art and Culture, along with works by René Char, Maurice Blanchot, Paul Eluard, Jean Baudrillard, and Guy Debord. His most recent book is a new version of the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh poems published by Contra Mundum.

René Char (1907–1988) was a French poet. After the publication of a book of his poems, he moved to Paris and joined the surrealists, along with Louis Aragon, André Breton, and René Crevel.