Charles Corm

poet and writer

Lebanon in Lebanon, December 25th 1932

Tonight, in our prisons, innocent men are being held. Their wives wait in terror; and their children, made martyrs by the other children, sleeping in anguish, beset by nightmares, only drink the bitterness of tears this Christmas. Charles Corm

I- Biography:

Charles Corm is a Lebanese author, writing in the French language. Born in Beirut in 1894 and dying there in 1963.
In 1919, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, he founded Al-Majjala Al-Phiniquiyya (The Phoenician Magazine), the first French magazine in Lebanon. He awakened the Lebanese sense of patriotism in Al-Jabal Al-Moulham (The Sacred Mountain) (1934) and revived the literary and artistic movement in his homeland. The books he published include: Fata Al-Jabal (The Mountaineer) (1938), Al-Fan Al-Phiniqi (Phoenician Art) (1938), and Sirr Al-Hobb (The Secret of Love) (1948). He also wrote Symphoniyat Al Nour (Symphony of Light) and A Look to the Indescribable (a paper on the painters of Lebanon), and Al-Hayat Al-Moussiqiyya (Musical Life), which is a series of critical impressions (1949). He contributed in many French, Lebanese, and Egyptian magazines. In 1935, he founded and chaired Al-Sadaqat Al-Loubnaniya (Lebanese Friendships), a symposium that aims at promoting cooperation between men of literature, art and science.

A patriot, a strong believer in his country and a great friend to France, Charles Corm took up a symbolic romantic path and his writings and thought were distinguished by elegance, talent and innovation.

Many of his poems are considered among the best representatives of Lebanese literature in the French language.

II- Extracts from 
‘The Sacred Mountain’ by Charles Corm (You can order the book online)

The Tale of Enthusiasm

The heart spoke:
A crippled man has come to free my maimed homeland!

The arm spoke:
With the one arm he has left
He brings my severed cities back into my embrace!

The brain spoke:
Beirut shall be the capital city of my thoughts!

The eyes spoke:
Here, in the light, is my Phoenician coastline!

The ears spoke:
Without shame, we shall hear the name of our homeland!

The mouth spoke:
I shall eat the bread of my ancestral fields!

The lungs spoke:
Our harbors shall breathe the fresh air from the open sea!

The feet spoke:
We shall march toward the future!

The bones spoke:
We may now rest in the newfound peace of our ancient graveyards.

The blood spoke:
I am overflowing
And I am climbing at last towards the summit of my soul!

The soul spoke:
I was merely immortal. He gave me life once more!

Then Lebanon the antique,
Like a cathedral
Whose statues had become sadly silent
Since the Middle Ages,
Suddenly awakens!

And the holy faces
Of the simply sculptures,
The candid paintings,
The glowing stained-glass windows,

Illuminating the gilding
Of their dimmed silhouettes
On the edge of the moldings
And the frames,

Come back to life in their alcoves
All along the ledges
And the entablatures.

To the gables
Shaking off their dust
And their meditation,

From the parvis to the chapels,
From the altar to the turrets,
Blushing, they sang to me,

Sang this innocent and solemn litany
Weeping and smiling:

The poet spoke:
The muse is back!

The gardener spoke:
The laurel tree is blooming again!

The shepherd boy spoke:
I shall have more than one lamb!

The poacher spoke:
I shall rob no more!

The woodcutter spoke:
I shall plant cedar trees!

The woodworker spoke:
I shall build altars!

The carpenter spoke:
I shall arm ships!

The emigrants spoke:
On wings we shall return home!

The sailor spoke:
The sea has no ripples anymore!

The porter spoke:
The time of burden is over!

The blacksmith spoke:
We shall build canons!

The shoemaker spoke:
Seven-league boots are not big enough!

The architect spoke:
How straight our roads shall be!

The tailor spoke:
I measured him by the number of his battles!

The smuggler spoke:
Borders exist no more!

The merchant spoke:
Business is good!

The beggar spoke:
So what if I have no bread!

The doctor spoke:
The only way to die now is from too much happiness!

The lawyer spoke:
Lo! All my clients have made peace!

The peasant spoke:
A freed land is heaven!

The servant spoke:
I am now a queen!

The princess spoke:
Of all the poor people, I shall be the servant!

The culprit spoke:
I shall sin no longer!

The nun spoke:
We are unneeded!

The little girl spoke:
I dreamt that he was sleeping and that I was kissing him!

The young girl spoke:
I am going to be married!

The elderly lady spoke:
Liberty is the fountain of youth!

The elderly gentleman spoke:
I shall die with no regrets!

The atheist spoke:
I believe in God so that he protects us all!

The song-writer spoke:
The songs of Lebanon,
Which were only tears, shall become joyful again.

The musician spoke:
The souls of Lebanon are a true symphony.

The artist spoke:
When I try to paint
My brush trembles and the colors pale!

The jeweler spoke:
I want to engrave my swords with gold.

The sculptor spoke:
The Venus of Milo!
The Victory of Samothrace!
Long live General Gouraud!

The young woman spoke:
On our beautiful suffering features,
The centuries-old imposition had ruined our complexions.
And our hearts were ravaged with pain
And often with dread.
We were touching;
But with all the suffering,
We became vile to see!
In our native air, now so pure, grace has returned!
Is back!
Hope and light!
Our smiles light up,
As do our horizons!
Fear dares not disfigure our beautiful eyes.
All our doors open up
Like wide louvers,
Snapping their shutters,
And all of our windows, to the innermost of our beings,
Give themselves over to life,
As in fervent prayer!
We shall no longer sleep next to the smothered hearth,
In the house of darkness and melancholy!
We were beautiful, and taciturn;
Becoming happy, we shall be pretty!

The young man spoke:
I shall be able to fall in love,
A woman shall be mine!
I want to have sons!
I want my grateful heart to multiply,
I want to fill up my thankful heart!

September 1, 1920

III- The Tale of Agony

Translated from the Lebanese
In memory of Patriarch Elias Hoayek
Who never lost hope in God or in Lebanon

Now amongst the death rattles
And the heart-rendering torment
The mountain spoke
In a sepulchral voice:

When I listen profoundly to myself,
When I hear this stranger
Who shudders in my entrails;

When for a moment I forget
The politics and the scoundrels
The grimacing eunuchs,

The women who were groping for me,
The lusting who jeered at me,
And all the practical people,
These paralytic shopkeepers
Who dull-like live;

When I see nothing more of the others,
When I no longer see good apostles,
Who feed and who wallow
Who bloom and who get fat
In dullness and villainy,
Who swagger in deception
And who lick themselves with their saliva,
Gargling in their stains,
And who honor themselves
And decorate themselves
With their vomit;

When I forget this wax paper album that stinks,
This catalogue of satiated arrogance,
This codex of factories,
Of banks, of kitchens,
Of salons, of latrines,
Of clubs and of sewers;

This inflexible bible of the streets and the mud,
This gospel, forgive me, Jesus!
This gospel of jackals and wolves
Camouflaged as sheep
And hyenas who pretend to be
Shepherds with gentle eyes;

This infamous apocalypse of money;
These annals of orgies;
This dictionary of cannibals,
Without a memory or remorse;

This book of gold
Of obliterated civil servants,
Of irreclaimable mercenaries
Of exasperated cannibals,
Of desperate carrion-beetles
And wily monkeys;

This breviary of our suffering,
This inventory of our progress,
This missal of death,

Where we crush paste, and ruthlessly stamp,
Like dried leaves,
The new faith
Of my youth,
My only joy
The flowers of my suffering,
And the fruit of hope,
In the worst torment;

When the accident stays away,
With the temporary, with the possible,
And leaves me be;
When I listen to myself,
When I listen to my blood,
When I only listen to myself,
Then, I hear:’

But from where do they come?
From which laws,
From which chaos,
From which indelible downfall,
From which bad tempers
From which dark inebriations?

I hear:

Tears falling on the roads,
And bare feet
Bleeding, drop by drop
Behind the hooves
Of the mules

Long shouts invisible in the heavy storms
And the calls of woman that are assassinated
Or who take their pleasure with bizarre beasts,
Or else who sing
With the angels;

Gnashing of teeth
Somber smiles,
Engulfed church bells
Atrocious litanies
Never-ending complaints
Continents drifting, in the gloom,

And the haggard laughter
Of a virgin
And her smothering
After the orgy and the feast,
When drowned in the ocean;

And I hear the drunkenness in the rotten skulls,
I hear the liveliness of full stomachs,
And the beatitude of repleted digestion.

Riddles in the mouth, mysteries in the flanks,
I hear rumblings and pantings

And I hear the caresses of obese bellies,
And I hear the tenderness on smoldering navels;
And I hear the flattering, under the august buttocks,

I hear words of love and obscenities,
In the intentions;

I hear the angelus and the wickedness,
In the handshakes;

I hear in the promises
Poems, blasphemy,

Plague-ridden venom and iniquities,
In the acclamations;

I hear in the sermons,
Fermenting bitterness of the sinister goals
I hear in the treaties
Sumptuous salvos, hideous fanfare

Machine gunshots,
And knife stabs;

And I hear in the pacts
Under the arches of laurel trees,
Crimson scaffolds
Built by thousands;

I hear fear and dumbfoundedness
Strangling trust;
Wreathes of flowers

And grave diggers’ shovels
Burying innocence;
And loyalty sinking in the vaults

And I hear the white beak
Of a yellow chick through a white egg,
And I hear it,
Thin and trembling,
Go back inside;

I hear the heart breaking,
I hear the skin growing pale
And I hear the sweat
Of this choir boy,
Who in the shadow of a church,
From evening till morning,
Rips and sodomizes
A barbarous destiny;

And I hear increasing
To the point of perishing
On the terrorized man,
In the modest virgin

A bestiality
That even the wild boars, in the antique grottos, ignored.

I hear the iniquitous and sardonic sound

Of the gold that passes from hand to hand,
With which one buys
Friends, clients,
Pontiffs, poets
And with which one sells
His brother, his father, his mother and children;
With which one buys face paint and carpets,
Silk stockings, prostitutes,
With which one buys the judge and the jury,
Conscience and spirit,
And with which one sells his soul and his country
And all of mankind.

Tocsins in houses that are burning
Horizons retreating
Partitions jostling
Reign of the kingdom of debauchery
In the hurling hamlets
In the decomposed towns,
In the villages that gesticulate
And which flee in confusion

Outcries of a terrified people,
With staring eyes
Who understand nothing more
Crooked barking of dogs
Pools of blood;

Beheaded busts
Of which we hear jumping,
Whose heads we hear thumping
On all sides,
And whose heavy feet
All of a sudden are spirited away
In the moving trenches;

And I hear exploding
Disgusted throats
And Adam’s apples;

And I hear joined hands
Dumb prayers,
Eyes lost in the clouds,

And insults
And sneering;

And I hear crackling

The dried-out buds,
Like small lead shots;
I hear smoking, towards the crazed storm,
Peeled foliage,
Cursed boughs,
And the disheveled plumage
Of the destroyed nests

Toppled churches,
Smashed terraces,
Piled-up cadavers,
And broken crucifixes
On all the departed;

Fatal ebb
Of a sand bank
On this quicksand!

And I hear, under the marble,
The thousand arms of the dead,
In a supreme effort,

To hang on to the roots and shake the trees;

And I hear the forests
And the heaped up columns
Break away from the earth
And fly in the wind;

And then I hear the sound,
Very finely strident,
Like a voice from purgatory,
Which makes the seeping, oozing of a ray of light an illusion

In the black of night
And in Nothingness

And I hear in the fields,
The wheat on the sheaves
Which are ashamed to grow,
Which have no more patience,
Which have no more abundance,
Which have only silence
And sterility
And then I hear

I hear Time
On all these ruins,
Like the catch of a guillotine
Like a guilty verdict;

Like cataracts
Fine dust,
Like masses of shadows,
Like bare walls and like ruins,
In the heart of our acts;

Like a gaping river,
Like black torrents
That carry disasters
And the overflowings
Where old rags
Clash with
Fragments of stars
Giant tree trunks,
Vague forms
Jaws, ciboriums,
The blues of the sky, green algae,
Pure throats,
And blocks of diamonds;

And then I hear time,
On the dreary countryside,
Like a great settling
After the landslide, after the collapse
Of the most beautiful mountains
Where the highest feelings
Had taken refuge.

I hear time come
From above the stars
Like a boat at full sail;

Like dawn in the heart of God
Like a generous gift
Like an unexpected pardon
That lavishes and recreates
New beginnings;

Like a solstice
In the firmament,
That brings order and justice back
To Lebanon…