Marcel Proust: For Madeleine Lemaire

What subtle orchard-thief has skulked about
To snip these luminous grapes my lips love so?
A chance breeze blows these candles, makes them billow,
And is just soft enough not to snuff them out.

But no, for a paintbrush you set aside the yarn
And spindle, and bested God: made endless spring;
And it was to the lily and the climbing
Rose you went for your colors, Madeleine.

Your beauty may be frail, not to endure,
Yet like flowers of one day lives nonetheless
Immortally: all the carnations, lilies,
Or lilacs you painted, Madeleine Lemaire.

But you—who will paint you, fair gardener
Who every spring brings forth so many flowers?

Mary Jo Salter

Mary Jo Salter

Mary Jo Salter is the author of eight books of poems, mostly recently The Surveyors (Knopf, 2017), and is a co-editor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry.She is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.
Mary Jo Salter

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Author: Mary Jo Salter

Mary Jo Salter is the author of eight books of poems, mostly recently The Surveyors (Knopf, 2017), and is a co-editor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry. She is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.