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The Bridge:

I. Le Pont
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

I had shadows before my eyes. The abyss
Which has neither shores nor summit
Was there, glum, immense, and nothing stirred.
I felt myself lost in mute infinity.
At the bottom, across the shade, impenetrable veil,
You could see God like a somber star.
I cried out: My soul! O my soul! One must
To cross this gulf where no edge appears,
To walk across this night to your God, one must
Build a giant bridge with millions of arches.
Who could ever do it? No one! Mourning! Terror!
Weep! - A white phantom came toward me
While I cast a frightened eye o'er the shadows.
It was the face of a virgin with a child's hands;
He was like a lily whose whiteness gives protection,
His hands, in joining, gave off light.
He showed me the abyss where all dust must fall,
So deep that an echo would never respond,
And said to me - "If you wish, I will build the bridge."
I raised my eyes to this pale unknown.
"What is your name?" I asked and he answered, "prayer."

Drawn from Contemplations, Au bord de l'infini
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002

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