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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.


The Little Abbey of Carennac

By François Fénélon (1651–1715)

Anonymous translation

HERE, in God’s house of the open dome,

Vigil is kept by the pilgrim-breeze;

Here, from its sun-illumined tome,

Labor intones its litanies.

For discipline, here is the chastening rain;

For burden, the fruit of the bending tree;

The thorn of the rose for a pleasant pain;

And palm for a costless victory.

O, if my vow but bound to these,

’T were long ere this laggard step grew slack.

O that the wilful world would please

To leave me my flocks, my birds and bees,

My ivied stall and my hours of ease,

And my little abbey of Carennac!

Far from the city’s guarded gate,

Free from the crush of its silken crowds,

I see the sun in his purple state,

And the changing face of the courtier-clouds.

My thoughts are mine when my task is sped;

My head aches not, and my heart is full;

And the laurels that cumber my careless tread

Are the only ones that I choose to pull.

Away from my friends, I love them best;

Away from my books, no lore I lack:

Here, no longer a flying guest,

With wavering foot that finds no rest,

Truth comes home to this lonely breast

In this little abbey of Carennac.

Thus, half hid from the smile of Spring

Under the bough of a blossomed tree,

My single wish is the grace to sing

The praise of a spot where a bard should be.

Sounding clear as the forest call,

Wakening man in the monarch’s breast,

Many-voiced as the waters fall,—

Speaking to every soul’s unrest,

My song should seize with a minstrel sway

Yon green twin-isles and their busy bac,

The hamlet white and the convent gray,

And the lodge for the wanderer on his way,

And thus to my France in my little lay

Give my little abbey of Carennac.

To journey again o’er the hard highway;

To enter a garrulous, troublous train;

Uncalled to come, and unbid obey:

To feign it pleasure, and feel it pain.

To float,—a straw on an idle stream;

To glitter,—a mote by the sunbeam sought;

To walk,—a shade in a waking dream;

To strive for nothings where all is naught.

An iron tongue to summon away,

And a rope of sand to hold me back,

Are the call to go, and the will to stay,—

Clamorous Duty and still Delay:

O gilded gloom! O green and gay

Of my little abbey of Carennac!

Fields that teem with the fruits of peace,

Let your reapers reap and your binders bind!

I cannot flee for a fond caprice

You stony spot to my hand assigned.

To me are numbered the seeds that grow;

Not mine the loss of the perished grain,

If working I watch for the time to sow,

And waiting pray for the sun and rain.

My day to God and the king I lend:

The wish of my heart will bring me back

A few last, lightsome hours to spend,

And to pass with my lifelong looked-for friend,

Through a quiet night and a perfect end,

From my little abbey of Carennac.