Strange, on this night, I recall
A vanished image. The beggar
Of my childhood, with hairy face, returns
His harsh look from another world.
He came at noon, and a growl
Of old animal announced him. (All
The house was open, and summer
Was coming in from the sea). The child
Walked with fear to the door and placed
A coin in his hand. The voice was
Rough, the eyes cold from hate,
And I felt very afraid as I approached,
All pity dispelled. Violently
Death circled round me with its shadow.
Only later, when I saw the grown-ups
Talk indifferently, already back,
Did my heart grow calm. I stayed
Near the window and, facing the sea,
Remembered gloomy stories.
Tonight, so much time gone by,
His terrible and mysterious presence
Keeps me from sleep. I suffered
No harm from that will, and
The man shall have died now, impoverished
As he lived. In those years, many
Other beggars stopped by the houses
Of the village. They all lie below, unavenged.
Oblivion finished them. Vague, broken,
Their shadows spring up; memory stirs
A cold, vast and lonely kingdom.
Powerful, now they give me back
The miserable alms: the pity
That, each day, man needs
To keep on living. And that fear
Wich I felt as a child troubles
My life now, its failure: an old man
Looked at me with innoncent eyes.
Translation by Louis M. Bourne