The Fort of Delgres

The head of Delgres alone

Rises buried in the slopes of the green meadow

As a wondrous stone sculpture.

I stand beside the statue rising just above my head

To be photographed.

The stony rocks stand like headless columns

On the lawn all around.

Perhaps, they are

The soldiers who committed suicide

Along with Delgres?

Delgres does not like tourists, perhaps,

He stares at me

With his big eyes carved on stone

With chisels.

He tells me something in French

Opening his stony lips

“It is thousand times better to die

Than to live as a slave.”

Napolean’s soldiers

With guns on their arms

Descend in military formation

One by one

Down the sloping meadow

From the battlements of the fort

With its canons.

On their closed lips and hard face

Are engraved

Honour that loves freedom

And courage in the face of death.

In the hellish storm

Warning impending rains

The green blades of grass bend in greeting.

They know

Death is not so easy.

But to live in freedom is more difficult,

Their faces tell.

Delgres raises his voice

To order them.

All obey him

And leave by the rear door

The booming of gun fire echoes

In all directions in the fort

When they shoot themselves

In protest against slavery.

It is five in the evening.

The doorkeepers shut the

Gates of the fort.

Their hours of duty are over.

—— Translated  from Tamil by S. Vincent