Saint-John Perse

31 May 1887 // 20 Sep 1975
Poet, Diplomat


It is up to the true poet to bear witness among us to man's double vocation. And that means holding up to his mind a mirror more sensitive to his spiritual possibilities. It means evoking in this our century a human condition more worthy of original man. It means, finally, bringing the collective soul into closer contact with the spiritual energy of the world.
The poet maintains for us a relationship with the permanence and unity of Being. And his lesson is one of optimism. For him the entire world of things is governed by a single law of harmony. Nothing can happen that by nature could exceed the measure of man.
Since even the philosophers are deserting the threshold of metaphysics, it is the poets's task to retrieve metaphysics; thus poetry, not philosophy, reveals itself as the true �daughter of wonder�, according to the words of that ancient philosopher to whom it was most suspect.
If poetry is not, as has been said, �absolute reality�, it comes very close to it, for poetry has a strong longing for, and a deep perception of, reality, situated as it is at that extreme limit of cooperation where the real seems to assume shape in the poem.
Every creation of the mind is first of all �poetic� in the proper sense of the word; and inasmuch as there exists an equivalence between the modes of sensibility and intellect, it is the same function that is exercised initially in the enterprises of the poet and the scientist.
The great adventure of the poetic mind is in no way secondary to the dramatic advances of modern science. Astronomers have been bewildered by the theory of an expanding universe, but there is no less expansion in the moral infinite of the universe of man.
Poetry is above all a way of life, of integral life. The poet existed among the cave men; he will exist among men of the atomic age, for he is an inherent part of man. Even religions have been born from the need for poetry, which is a spiritual need, and it is through the grace of poetry that the divine spark lives forever in the human flint.
It is enough for the poet to be the bad conscience of his age.


On Anger: "For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind."
On Destiny: "Our destiny exercises its influence over us even when, as yet, we have not learned its nature: it is our future that lays down the law of our today."
Human, All Too Human
On Friendship: "A crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures; and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love."