La genèse polynésienne

Charles Marie René Leconte de Lisle
(1818 - 1894)

La genèse polynésienne

Dans le Vide éternel interrompant son rêve,
L’Être unique, le grand Taaroa se lève.
Il se lève, et regarde: il est seul, rien ne luit.
Il pousse un cri sauvage au milieu de la nuit:
Rien ne répond. Le temps, à peine né, s’écoule;
Il n’entend que sa voix. Elle va, monte, roule,
Plonge dans l’ombre noire et s’enfonce au travers.
Alors, Taaroa se change en  univers:
Car il est la clarté, la chaleur et le germe;
Il est le haut sommet, il est la base ferme,
L’oeuf primitif que Pô, la grande Nuit, couva;
Le monde est la coquille où vit Taaroa.
Il dit: – Pôles, rochers, sables, mers pleines d’îles,
Soyez ! Échappez-vous des ombres immobiles! –
Il les saisit, les presse et les pousse à s’unir;
Mais la matière est froide et n’y peut parvenir:
Tout gît muet encore au fond du gouffre énorme;
Tout reste sourd, aveugle, immuable et sans forme.
L’Être unique, aussitôt, cette source des Dieux,
Roule dans sa main droite et lance les sept cieux.
L’étincelle première a jailli dans la brume,
Et l’étendue immense au même instant s’allume;
Tout se meut, le ciel tourne, et, dans son large lit,
L’inépuisable mer s’épanche et le remplit:
L’univers est parfait du sommet à la base,
Et devant son travail le Dieu reste en extase.

The Polynesian Genesis

Void Eternal he shook from its deep reverie,
Rose Taaroa the Great, singular, strong and free.
All alone he arose, and he peers in the dark.
He emits savage screams, but the night will not hark,
Won’t respond, and the time, barely born, quickly flows;
Just his voice can be heard, as it rises and rolls,
As it dips in the shadows and pierces across.
Now Taaroa the Great turns into universe.
For he is now the light, and the heat, and the seed;
He is the lofty summit and base of the deed.
He’s the primeval egg laid by Po, the great Night;
The whole world, a big shell, is Taaroa’s by right.
He commands: poles and rocks, sands and isles in the sea,
Make escape from the shadows and dare to be!
And he seizes them, squeezes them, bids them to merge;
But the matter is cold and in vain does he urge:
All at rest in the depths of a giant ravine;
All as formless and blind, as it ever has been.
Then the Singular Being, the source of divine,
Seven skies throws aloft high blue vault to align
And the first streaking spark blazed a trace through the fog
Bringing light to the monstrous expanse of the bog.
The whole world starts to stir, the high firmament turns,
And the bottomless sea fills its wide bed and churns.
This brave new world is perfect from bottom to top,
And ecstatic before it, the God wills to stop.

The poem and the painting

There are claims that the poem by Leconte de Lisle is somehow related to the famous painting by Paul Gauguin, at the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts), Boston. I don’t know about that. The poet died before the painting was created, and Gauguin worked from his immediate impressions while living in Tahiti. But some kinship is certainly there.

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?D’où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous?

Another world creation art piece
Andres Institute Sculpture Park, Brookline, NH