Here’s a poem by the 19th century French poet Frédéric Mistral to cool you off in the heat of the summer. Maybe we could even consider it a beach poem. The Étang de Vaccarès is a salt water lagoon in southern France’s Camargue region and is famous for its wild horses. The poem could also be describing the horses of Chincoteague Island, which is further down the Chesapeake Bay from where I live.
The translation is by my father, which is how I became aware of the poem. Let your imagination roam free as you read it:
Wild Horses of the Salt Marshes
A hundred white mares
Bending the tall reeds of the salt marshes.
A hundred white manes
Like marsh grass thick and flowing out
Free from the shears, floating
Over their necks in their wild flights, their great leaps, like
Banners of wild spirits against the sky.
O shame to the slave drivers! The mares of the salt marshes
Have never yielded to the terrible spur that tears flanks,
To the hand that flatters.
Broken by treachery,
Some have been exiled far from their ocean home
To cover twenty leagues of marsh at a gallop, flaring the wind, returning after years of prison
To the Vaccarès where they were born,
Breathing the free salt winds of the wild water.
The sea is the element of this savage race; they have escaped
From the chariots of Neptune white with sea foam.
When the sea whistles and goes dark
And the ships in the harbors escape their hausers,
The stallions of the salt marshes laugh with joy
And lash the whips of their tails and paw the ground
And feel in their flesh the trident of the terrible god,
The one who breaks in chaos, in tempest and deluge, shattering to great spouts of spray,
The silent profundities of the sea.