Le Secret

By Thomas James Merton 1915–1968
Puisque je suis   
Imaginaire
La belle vie
M’est familière,

Et je m’en vais   
Sur un nuage   
Faire un serein   
Petit voyage.

Car le secret
Que je sais lire   
Si je disais
Vous ferait rire.

Mon coeur est nu   
Que rien ne cache
Et rien ne garde   
Qu’il ne lâche,

Rien il ne sait   
Rien il ne songe   
Il ne vous dira   
Nul mensonge.

Et mes deux yeux   
Sont mappemondes   
Tout je vois
Et rien ne gronde.

J’étais en Chine
Tout à l’heure
Et j’y ai vu
De grand bonheur.

J‘étais au centre   
De la terre
Où il n’y a pas   
De misère.

Si je visite
Les planètes   
Et les étoiles   
Plus secrètes,

Dans la nuit
La plus profonde   
Je suis personne   
Et tout le monde.

Si je m’en vais   
Sans souvenir
Comment pourrai-je   
Revenir?

Ne cherchez pas   
A me revoir
Je serai lá 
Sans le savoir:

Sans figure
Et sans nom
Sans réputation   
Ni renom,

Je suis un oiseau   
Enchanté:
Amour que Dieu
A inventé.

       *

Since I am   
Somebody’s dream,   
I have a good life.

Sometimes I go away in my sailboat on a cloud   
and take a quiet little trip.

I have a secret
which I have learned how to read inside myself;
if I told it to you,
it would make you laugh.

My heart is naked
and no one can put clothes on it,   
and nothing can be put on
that will not immediately fall off.

My secret is ignorant,   
it doesn’t sing songs,
no lie,
it has nothing to tell you.

My two eyes
are maps of the planet—
I see everything
and nothing upsets me.

Just now
I was in China
and saw there a great piece of happiness   
that belonged to one man.

And I have been to the center of the earth,   
where there is no suffering.

If on your loneliest nights,   
I visit other planets
and the most secret stars of all,

besides being no one,   
know that I am you   
and everybody.

But if I go away
without giving you a name to remember me with,
how will I find
the right dream to return to?

You won’t have to mark down
on your calendar that I am coming back;   
don’t bother to write me into your notebooks.   
I will be around
when you aren’t thinking about me,

without hair or a neck,   
without a nose and cheeks   
no reputation—
there won’t be anything.

I am a bird   
which God made.

NOTES: English translation by William Davis.

Thomas Merton, “Le Secret” from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. Copyright © 1977 by The Trustees of the Merton Legacy Trust. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1977)

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Poet Thomas James Merton 1915–1968

Subjects Time & Brevity, Religion, Living, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

Biography

A monk who lived in isolation for several years, and one of the most well-known Catholic writers of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton was a prolific poet, religious writer, and essayist whose diversity of work has rendered a precise definition of his life and an estimation of the significance of his career difficult. Merton was a Trappist, a member of a Roman Catholic brotherhood known for its austere lifestyle and vow of . . .

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SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Religion, Living, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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