A Prayer to Go to Paradise with the Donkeys by Francis Jammes

Francis Jammes was a French poet.  He spent most of his life in his native region of Béarn and the Basque Country and his poems are known for singing the pleasures of a humble country life .

His later poetry  included a strong religious element brought on by his conversion to Catholicism.

I love this poem ( regular readers will already know how much I love donkeys).

When I must come to you, O my God, I pray
It be some dusty-roaded holiday,
And even as in my travels here below,
I beg to choose by what road I shall go
To Paradise, where the clear stars shine by day.

I’ll take my walking-stick and go my way,
And to my friends the donkeys I shall say,
“I am Francis Jammes, and I’m going to Paradise,
For there is no hell in the land of the loving God.”

And I’ll say to them: “Come, sweet friends of the blue skies,
Poor creatures who with a flap of the ears or a nod
Of the head shake off the buffets, the bees, the flies ...”

Let me come with these donkeys, Lord, into your land,
These beasts who bow their heads so gently, and stand
With their small feet joined together in a fashion
Utterly gentle, asking your compassion.

I shall arrive, followed by their thousands of ears,
Followed by those with baskets at their flanks,
By those who lug the carts of mountebanks
Or loads of feather-dusters and kitchen-wares,

By those with humps of battered water-cans,
By bottle-shaped she-asses who halt and stumble,
By those tricked out in little pantaloons
To cover their wet, blue galls where flies assemble
In whirling swarms, making a drunken hum.

Dear God, let it be with these donkeys that I come,
And let it be that angels lead us in peace
To leafy streams where cherries tremble in air,
Sleek as the laughing flesh of girls;

and there in that haven of souls let it be that, leaning above
Your divine waters, I shall resemble these donkeys,
Whose humble and sweet poverty will appear
Clear in the clearness of your eternal love.

Translated by Richard Wilbur

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