V. Nezval (Born 1900)
Out of the fog loom the inky
Bows of a ship, where a boatman
Dries out a torn, ragged net.
Singing, the girls wash out dresses,
Dresses of blue that they flourish
Decked out in holiday time.
Sweet is the smile of the maidens,
Pretty, how pretty is Baucis,
Gentle, how gentle is Madlen.
Hands, as they wash, feel the tender
Touch of the lily’s caress.
Clear their reflection that mirrors
As in a glass, where their fleeting
Years pass away with the fishes;
As in a glass where the maidens
Turn into women grown haggard.
Evening draws on, and the river
Swarms with the kerchiefs they flourish,
Charming and fresh as their names.
Sprites of the stream touch with kisses
Feet of the girls that, reflected,
Gleam to the fishermen passing,
Quicken the eyes of the boatmen.
(The opening stanzas of the poem “The unknown girl taken from the Seine.”)