Deo Optimo Maximo
By Han Ryner
O God, you can not hear me, and yet I speak to you.
As I sometimes talk to Helena, Don Quixote, Faust, or to some other of my sons.
But to many of my sons I speak in boasting, for I have given then the gift of immortality.
To you whom I have only been able to give the poor eternity, I speak with an anxious humility.
To my son that I call Father, I did not know how to make you viable, and now you are dead.
When I created you, God, I did not really know what I wanted.
Or rather, I wanted too many, and contradictory, things.
I wanted to satisfy my imagination and its ambitious poverty. That is why I gave you unity.
I wanted to flatter my intelligence, and its laziness, and its need to draw lines. To believe that I understood the world, I made you all-powerful and called you Creator.
I wanted to soothe my heart, and I gave you justice and kindness.
Alas! I soon saw you stagger under the weight of so many presents.
Neither you, my Dream, nor I, my Hands, have been able to make the real world just and good.
For a long time, I have refused to admit my error, and I supported your tottering with a thousand subtle props.
I declared you to great to be understood. And my intelligence became dissatisfied again.
I asserted that the words “goodness” and “justice” no longer had the same meaning when I spoke of you, immense as you are, or of me, tiny as I am. But I realized that I no longer knew what I said, and my heart began to weep.
And I have seen you die, crushed under the weight of my presents.
I wanted to give you all of the real and all of the ideal.
But the real and the ideal are bitter enemies, and they have torn at you in a combat that will never end.
To save you, I renounced the impossible unity. I made you double, Ormuzd-Ahriman, White God and Black God.
But does the world only make black and white?
Or rather is there black and white, good and evil, before my thought, by classifying them, distorted facts and things?
Oh, God, whether I make you one or make you two, I give you the life in my only by killing the world.
One, Two, I created you by violating the Multiple with an embrace that I thought was fruitful.
I only embraced a cloud and created chimeras.
When I wanted to understand a little bit of the real, a was condemned to solve you in the Multiple.
When I wanted to create a little bit of love and the ideal, I could only create my own heart.
When I wanted to believe in the Unique, I no longer knew if I believed in your or if I believed in myself.
But I look at you and I look at myself.
My unity is a harmony that I must remake each day.
Your unity is a fleeting dream; when I speak of it, I stumble to the same words I use to speak of nothingness.
Oh, God-Void, my unwelcome son, I still love you and I owe you something.
As I love all my errors and owe something to all my errors.
Each error that I adopt, my good will impregnates with some truth, and the sorrowful mother dies in the throes of childbirth.
You, God, the dearest of my errors, the long meditations with which I have embraced my love have taught me many things:
The One is the need and the dream of my imagination. I smiled on it and caressed it in the heaven of poetry.
But I banished it—for its glare would blind me—as soon as I descended to the earth of observation and induction.
Alas! The Causes are as indifferent to the dream of my imagination as to the desires of my heart.
They are ignorant of unity, justice and goodness alike.
I want to create a little bit of unity and beauty. But that would be in my harmonious works, and it would be in me, the most important and most difficult of my works.
I want there to be as much of the divine as possible in the monde;
But I can only create my indulgent heart and active kindness;
And to increase my power a little, each time that the means of its enlargement will not diminish my heart, and my kindness which gives itself, and my indulgence which smiles by keeping itself from crying.
The Smart Set, October 1919, 129-130.
Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur.