Issue 4: Charles Bernstein

The Introvert

                        after Wordsworth’s “The Hermit”

Suddenly, those fears

Your first and ever-dreaded foe! Suddenly

You turn from some imbecile prose

That rails and ricochets against chimeric life

With dictums ripped from surface

Scars by wanton brains, a moral pose

Thoughtlessly ill-fit to Orphic lyre

And with your beauteous breath you slowly

Refuse refuge, jolting yourself with jeers

That anxious years will bring an empty heart

And blinded thought.

Victor Hugo, Les Contemplations (1856)


Demain, dès l'aube, à l'heure où blanchit la campagne,

Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends.

J'irai par la forêt, j'irai par la montagne.

Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,

Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,

Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,

Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l'or du soir qui tombe,

Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,

Et quand j'arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe

Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

(3 Septembre 1847)

Tomorrow, dawn, when the countryside’s almost white

I’ll depart. You see, I know you’re waiting for me.

I will go by the mountains, I’ll go by the woods.

I can’t be faraway from you any more.

I will be walking with my eyes fixed on my thoughts,

Without looking around, without hearing a sound,

Alone and unknown, with back bent, with my hands crossed,

Sad, and the day for me will be like the night.

Then I won’t look at the golden evening, so grave

Nor at the faraway sails veering toward Harfleur

And when I do get there, I will put on your grave

A green holly bouquet and flowering heather.

Charles Bernstein is author of All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems (forthcoming Farrar, Straus & Giroux, March 2010),  Blind Witness: Three American Operas (Factory School, 2008); and Girly Man (University of Chicago Press, 2006), and My Way: Speeches and Poems (Chicago, 1999). He is Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. More info at

Copyright © 2010 by Charles Bernstein, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.