UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: poetry
Record 8 of 59

System Number: 04100
Date: 17 October 1885[1]
Author: Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac[2]
Place: [Paris]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler M370
Document Type: ADI


Fiat Nox et Fiat Lux[3]

Des portraits brillants - et pourtant sombres,
Comme une lumière au fond des nuits;
Des rayonnements - tout remplis d'ombres,
Comme des gaîtés - faites d'ennuis.

Des pays brillants - et pourtant mornes;
Libres à la fois - et précieux.
Et des infinis - ayant des bornes
Où sont des lueurs ayant des yeux.

Toute la clarté - tout le mystère[4]
Près de tout l'obscur - de tout le clair:
C'est la loi du Ciel et de la Terre
Des Créations du Dieu-Whistler.

RMF

17 Octobre 1885


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Translation:

Let there be Night and let there be Light[5]

Portraits brilliant - and yet sombre,
Like a light in the depth of night;
Glowing rays - full of shadows,
Like pleasures - full of perplexities.

Landscapes brilliant - and yet dull;
At the same time free - and yet precious.
And infinite - having an end
Where there are gleams having eyes.

All the clarity - all the mystery
Beside all the obscurity - and all the clearness:
That is the law of the Sky and the Earth
Of the Creations of the God Whistler.

RMF

17 October 1885


Notes:

1.  17 October 1885
The poem is dated 17 October 1885 but was actually sent to JW on 10 May 1887 (#04103). It was published in Newton, Joy, La Chauve-Souris et le Papillon. Correspondance Montesquiou-Whistler, Glasgow, 1990, pp. 39-40.

2.  Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac
Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921), Symbolist writer and poet, and collector [more].

3.  Fiat Nox
This poem was written soon after the meeting of Montesquiou and JW in early summer 1885. It was published, with slightly altered punctuation, in the section 'MIST' of Le Parcours du rêve au souvenir, Paris, 1895, p. 266. There is also a second, undated, copy in Montesquiou's hand (#04101).

4.  mystère
In the Fonds Montesquiou there is the following citation referring to JW: 'Il peint, le maître Whistler, / Le mystère, le mist, l'air.' (Papillottes Mondaines: Première Partie: Ateliers. Nouv. Acq. Fr. 15288, f. 73).