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That civilisation may not sink

Language: English

That civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand under his head.
  Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
  His mind moves upon silence.

That the topless towers be burnt
And men recall that face,
Move most gently if move you must
In this lonely place.
She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
That nobody looks; her feet
Practise a tinker shuffle
Picked up on a street.
  Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
  Her mind moves upon silence.

That girls at puberty may find
The first Adam in their thought,
Shut the door of the Pope's chapel,
Keep those children out.
There on that scaffolding reclines
Michael Angelo.
With no more sound than the mice make
His hand moves to and fro.
  Like a long-leggedfly upon the stream
  His mind moves upon silence.

Translation(s): FRE

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About the headline (FAQ)

First published in London Mercury, March 1939

Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , title 1: "L'Araignée d'eau", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Text added to the website: 2009-01-19.
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:03:04
Line count: 30
Word count: 164

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L'Araignée d'eau

Language: French (Français) after the English

Pour que la civilisation ne puisse pas sombrer,
Sa grande bataille perdue,
Fais taire le chien et attache le poney
À un piquet éloigné ;
Notre maître César est dans la tente
Où les cartes sont étalées,
Son œil fixé sur le néant,
Une main tenant sa tête.
(Comme une araignée d'eau sur le courant
Son esprit bouge dans le silence.)

Pour que ces tours sans sommets soient brûlées
Et que les hommes se souviennent de ce visage,
Bouge tout doucement, si tu dois bouger
Dans cet endroit solitaire.
Elle pense, un quart femme, trois quarts enfant,
Que personne ne regarde ; son pied
S'exerce à un pas de romanichels
Vu dans la rue.
(Comme une araignée d'eau sur le courant
Son esprit bouge dans le silence.)

Pour que les filles à la puberté puissent trouver
Le premier Adam de leurs pensées,
Ferme la porte de la chapelle du pape,
Garde ces enfants dehors.
Là sur cet échafaudage est couché
Avec pas plus de bruit que des souris
Sa main va et vient.
(Comme une araignée d'eau sur le courant
Son esprit bouge dans le silence.)

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  • Translation from English to French (Français) copyright © 2012 by Guy Laffaille, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.


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Based on
  • a text in English by William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939), "Long-legged fly"
      • This text was set to music by the following composer(s): George Benjamin, James Walter Wilson. Go to the text.


Text added to the website: 2012-07-09.
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:04:59
Line count: 30
Word count: 187