23 January 2021: The winged traveller

11th day aboard the Marion Dufresne. The swell passes harmoniously in a disconcerting silence. Six o’clock in the evening, as the last rays of sunshine pierce through the clouds, the first dancers enter the stage: the ballet of the white-chinned petrels begins. Their deep black silhouettes hurtle down to the troughs and then acrobatically up to the next wave. Suddenly, as if time stood still, a new silhouette appears in the distance. Neither the swell nor the Marion Dufresne can disturb the passage of this majestic shadow, larger, calmer, more inaccessible. Here he comes at last, the first Albatross of the SWINGS cruise! It does not go without reminding us of this famous poem…

The Albatross

Often, to amuse themselves, the men of the crew
Catch those great birds of the seas, the albatrosses,
lazy companions of the voyage, who follow
The ship that slips through bitter gulfs.

Hardly have they put them on the deck,
Than these kings of the skies, awkward and ashamed,
Piteously let their great white wings
Draggle like oars beside them.

This winged traveler, how weak he becomes and slack!
He who of late was so beautiful, how comical and ugly!
Someone teases his beak with a branding iron,
Another mimics, limping, the crippled flyer!

The Poet is like the prince of the clouds,
Haunting the tempest and laughing at the archer;
Exiled on earth amongst the shouting people,
His giant’s wings hinder him from walking.

Charles Baudelaire
(Translated by Geoffrey Wagner, Selected Poems of Charles Baudelaire, NY: Grove Press, 1974, Source: https://fleursdumal.org/poem/200 )

White-chinned petrels. © Corentin Clerc
Bottom picture: Albatross. Top picture: White-chinned petrels. © Corentin Clerc
Albatross. © Corentin Clerc

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