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Valéry’s Graveyard

«Le Cimetière marin» - Translated, Described, and Peopled


Hugh P. McGrath and Michael Comenetz

Valéry’s Graveyard is in two parts. The first part presents the French text of Paul Valéry’s poem Le Cimetière marin (The Graveyard by the Sea) and a facing English translation, followed by a descriptive account of the poem that sets out its main structural and dynamic features and traces its narrative. The second part consists of nine short chapters on selected themes of the poem in their relation to the poet’s thought, including certain of his scientific concerns, and to literature ancient and modern.
Le Cimetière marin is one of the most celebrated works of poetry of the last hundred years, widely recognized as distinguished for beauty of form and wealth of meaning. On the basis of the French text and a translation that is at once accurate and poetical, this book provides an introduction to the poem, and thereby to the complex intellectual world of Valéry. It exhibits the depth and breadth both of the poem and of the poet’s thought.
A valuable resource for scholars, Valéry’s Graveyard is accessible to all serious readers. As it does not require a knowledge of French, the book is suitable for study in any course on modern literature.


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PART I: Translation and Description


PART I Translation and Description Le Cimetière marin  The Graveyard by the Sea Le Cimetière marin par Paul Valéry Μή, φίλα ψυχά, βίον ἀθάνατον σπεῦδε, τὰν δ’ ἔμπρακτον ἄντλει μαχανάν. Pindare, Pythiques, III [1] Ce toit tranquille, où marchent des colombes, Entre les pins palpite, entre les tombes; Midi le juste y compose de feux La mer, la mer, toujours recommencée! Ô récompense après une pensée Qu’un long regard sur le calme des dieux! [2] Quel pur travail de fins éclairs consume Maint diamant d’imperceptible écume, Et quelle paix semble se concevoir! Quand sur l’abîme un soleil se repose, Ouvrages purs d’une éternelle cause, Le Temps scintille et le Songe est savoir. [3] Stable trésor, temple simple à Minerve, Masse de calme, et visible réserve, Eau sourcilleuse, Œil qui gardes en toi Tant de sommeil sous un voile de flamme, Ô mon silence!… Édifice dans l’âme, Mais comble d’or aux mille tuiles, Toit! [4] Temple du Temps, qu’un seul soupir résume, À ce point pur je monte et m’accoutume, Tout entouré de mon regard marin; Et comme aux dieux mon offrande suprême, La scintillation sereine sème Sur l’altitude un dédain souverain.  © Éditions Gallimard, Paris, 1922 The Graveyard by the Sea by Paul Valéry Do not, dear soul, strive after deathless life, but use to the utmost the resources in your power. Pindar, Pythians, III [1] This peaceful roof, where white doves come and go, Quivers between the pines, between the tombs; There Noon the just composes with its...

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