When the boy's head, full of raw torment, Longs for hazy dreams to swarm in white, Two charming older sisters come to his bed With slender fingers and silvery nails. They sit him at a casement window, thrown Open on a mass of flowers basking in blue air, And run the fine, intimidating witchcraft Of their fingers through his dew-dank hair. He listens to their diffident, sing-song breath, Smelling of elongated honey off the rose, Broken now and then by a hiss: saliva sucked Back from the lip, or a longing to be kissed. He hears their dark eyelashes start in the sweet- Smelling silence and, through his grey listlessness, The crackle of small lice dying, beneath The imperious nails of their soft, electric fingers. The wine of Torpor wells up in him then — Near on trance, a harmonica-sigh — And in their slow caress he feels The endless ebb and flow of a desire to cry.
I. No one's serious at seventeen. —On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need —You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade. Lindens smell fine on fine June nights! Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes; The wind brings sounds—the town is near— And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . . II. —Over there, framed by a branch You can see a little patch of dark blue Stung by a sinister star that fades With faint quiverings, so small and white. . . June nights! Seventeen!—Drink it in. Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . . The mind wanders, you feel a kiss On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . . III. The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels —And when a young girl walks alluringly Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow Of her father's starched collar. . . Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping, She turns on a dime, eyes wide, Finding you too sweet to resist. . . —And cavatinas die on your lips. IV. You're in love. Off the market till August. You're in love.—Your sonnets make Her laugh. Your friends are gone, you're bad news. —Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .! That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés; You order beer or lemonade. . . —No one's serious at seventeen When lindens line the promenade.
29 September 1870