Prayer to the Nameless

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Prayer to the Nameless[1]

     In your devastated temple, before your forbidden altar, here I am bending my knees in homage, O Divine!, stretching out my hands to call for help, O Venerable!, lifting up my heart as an offering, my whole being filled with ardent fervor, throbbing with ultimate hope, O Protector!

The barbarians passed by here—all the barbarians! They made your mutilated image disappear, snatched away your symbols, pillaged what recalled your influence, your good deeds… and our pious worship. The sacred wood was snatched away by the maddened horde, the sacred birds, with their throats’ cut, sang their final languid song with a death rattle.

And your name was banned, Eternal! It could never again be pronounced except in a whisper between scattered servants, your believers reduced to silence—all those who would keep invincible faith in the secret of their soul. But every voice that tried to whisper it was stifled. Whoever tried to follow your path was despised, struck down with anathema… you became the “enemy”, O Charitable!

A few, however, ventured this far. These flowers that time has dried were brought by women; these slabs of broken text bear witness to the perseverance of some writers; these inscriptions on the walls, clumsy and naïve, say that simple people, at the height of suffering, could not be denied by you, O Comforter!

The marble was broken, the walls cracked under the pounding arms, the doors smashed in and through the fissured dome the waters of heaven fell… And you never looked so majestic and desirable as in this degradation, this distress, this poverty. They gave you, Goddess, the appeal of ostracism, the irresistible allure that persecution bestows. The last flame has not yet burned on your altar. The shadows daring to come to you down hard roads are no longer so stealthy. The mystery of the night is no longer crossed by secret passages. Antigone[2] raises her veil in the nascent dawn to disobey men—and obey the gods!

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Listen, Serenity, to the hymn of a heart that gives its most precious days to you, its blazing summers, its autumns full of splendor. Because it costs dearly to serve you, it allows me to proudly claim my title to disgrace.

I have celebrated you the best I could. And it seems to me today that my words were poor, my efforts frail, my praises weak—seeing that we did not save you, O So Precious! It is only now that we can know what you are, what you are worth, what you represent for mortals in the play of their destinies.

Nothing is without you! The stones of Decalion[3] would not change into humans. The touch of your bare feet made the ground sprout in abundance, prosperity and joy…

Wherever you go, the harvest grows, turns golden, remains whole, without a stalk twisted and without a seed lost… the sacred bread!

Wherever you smile, the vines bend under the weight of grapes, amber colored, scarlet colored, where the daily drops are caught—wine, the comfort of man!

Wherever you sing, the bowers dare to mate, from port to starboard shaking their rosy freight.

Wherever you reign, there is the song of hammers, productive activity, art flourishing, thought soaring, the good fight for the coming of better times, the struggle for truth, the march toward more justice!

They did not know you, Immortal, in that they knew you without understanding, they lived under your reed scepter without appreciating its lightness, without admiring enough your true face, magnanimous and magnificent.

They know now… They know that you are the flavor of fruits, the scent of flowers, the taste of wheat, the bloom of roses, the gold of the sun and the gentleness of night—since nothing of all this would exist without you.

You carry in yourself all the good: the calm of sleep, the security of love, the solidity of home. Outside of you is nothing but insecurity, absence, grief, ruin and death…

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And you are beautiful, oh so beautiful, more than words can say, so white, so pure, so full of gentleness. In you are summed up the mother, sister, spouse, daughter, seeing that by your very presence you ensure the happiness of all tenderness. The smallest, the most innocent sense that your aegis covers them; toward you the baby bird stretches out its beak—it doesn’t see it is under your wings—and the little lamb rubs against your linen robe.

O Goddess, thanks to you the barn is full and the stable stocked, the attic overflows and the cellar is packed. You who take pleasure in marriage bells and baptisms. Divinity of farmers, artisans, lovers and mothers, for those who work, those who love, may you be favorable.

It won’t last forever, your dark exile… They hear, far off in the distant, like a soft, silky flight. Even the stones of the half-destroyed temple are moving and vibrating. Here I am standing—all ears… Is it you who are approaching me? Will you come down soon from the heavenly depths to appear, luminous, to all those who are waiting for you and hoping for you, O Liberator!

 

[1] Journal du Peuple, 1 January 1917, a homage to peace.

[2] Daughter of Oedipus who defied Creon, ruler of Thebes, to bury her brother Polynices.

[3] Son of Prometheus who repopulated the Earth with his wife Pyrrha after a great flood by throwing stones behind his shoulder to form people.

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