Thursday, October 7, 2010

10 Poems by Arthur Rimbaud

Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (20 October 1854 – 10 November 1891) was a French poet. Born in Charleville, Ardennes, he produced his best known works while still in his late teens—Victor Hugo described him at the time as "an infant Shakespeare"—and gave up creative writing altogether before the age of 21. As part of the decadent movement, Rimbaud influenced modern literature, music and art. He was known to have been a libertine and a restless soul, traveling extensively on three continents before his death from cancer less than a month after his 37th birthday.
Rimbaud's poetry is often seen as influential to the Symbolist, Dadaist and Surrealist movements, not only for its various themes, but also for its inventive use of form and language. French poet Paul Valéry stated that "all known literature is written in the language of common sense—except Rimbaud's."

A Winter Dream

In winter we’ll travel in a little pink carriage
With cushions of blue.
We’ll be fine. A nest of mad kisses waits
In each corner too.

You’ll shut your eyes, not to see, through the glass,
Grimacing shadows of evening,
Those snarling monsters, a crowd going past
Of black wolves and black demons.

Then you’ll feel your cheek tickled quite hard…
A little kiss, like a maddened spider,
Will run over your neck…

And you’ll say: “Catch it!” bowing your head,
        And we’ll take our time finding that creature
        Who travels so far…?


I kissed the dawn of summer.


Nothing stirred before the palace. 

Water was motionless. 

Shadow claimed the woodland road. 

I walked, lively and with warm breath, noticing precious stones along the way; 

and wings rose without a sound.


First, I encountered a form full of freshness and light--a flower who told me her name.


I laughed at the bright waterfall pounding trees into disarray: 

at the silver summit, I perceived the goddess.


I lifted her veils, one by one. 

My arms trembled with delight. 

But across the plain,I denounced her to the cock. In the city, she fled among steeples and domes,

and I chased after like a beggar on the banks of marble.


On a little road near the forest, I bound her with gathered veils,

and gathered my courage to touch her colossal body.

At once, both dawn and child fell down at the woodpile.


On waking, I found that it was noon.


All is seen...
The vision gleams in the air.
All is had...
The distant sound of cities at night,
In sunlight, always.
All is known...
Chaos! Disorder!
These are the stuff of life.
Departure while love yet lingers,
And bright sounds.


It's revealed once more. 
What? Eternity.
It's the sea run off 
with the sun.


Sentinel soul, 
Whisper your confession 
Of the empty night 
And the burning day.


From human approval, 
From common urges 
You must free yourself, 
And make your own way.


For from you alone, 
Satiny embers, 
Duty breathes 
Without anyone saying: finally!

There's no hope, 
No enlightenment. 
In the quest for knowledge, 
Only pain is certain.


It's revealed once more.
What? Eternity. 
It is the sea run off 
With the sun.


The First Encounter


She was only half-dressed
And equally bare trees tossed
Their few leaves against the window pane
Playfully and with reckless abandon.


Sprawling half naked in my desk chair,
Hands pressed modestly against her pale breasts,
She tapped small, delicate feet on the floor
Betraying sweet anticipation.


Her body was the color of wax, and I watched
As an eager little ray of light
Fluttered across her laughing lips,
Across her peeking breast, like an insect on the rose-bush.


I knelt and kissed her little ankles.
She laughed softly and produced
A perfect string of clear trills,
A delightful crystal laugh.


Her delicate feet disappeared 
Underneath her: "Stop! You're so naughty!"
Yet the first act of daring permitted,
She pretended to punish me only with a laugh!


I rose and kissed her eyelids softly.
They trembled beneath my lips, poor things:
And she tossed her head back, eyes shining...
"You're not trying to take advantage of me ... are you?


"If you are, darling, you know I'll have to--"
But I silenced the protest, dipping my mouth to her breast,
Which caused an explosion of ringing laughter
And she opened herself willingly...


She was only half-dressed
And equally bare trees tossed
Their few leaves against the window pane
Playfully and with reckless abandon.

Being Beauteous

Against a fall of snow, a Being Beautiful, and very tall.
Whistlings of death and circles of faint music
Make this adored body, swelling and trembling
Like a specter, rise...
Black and scarlet gashes burst in the gleaming flesh.
The true colors of life grow dark, 
Shimmering and separate
In the scaffolding, around the Vision.

Shiverings mutter and rise, 
And the furious taste of these effects is charged
With deadly whistlings and the raucous music
That the world, far behind us, hurls at our mother of beauty...
She retreats, she rises up...
Oh! Our bones have put on new flesh, for love.

Oh ash-white face

Oh tousled hair

O crystal arms! 

On this cannot I mean to destroy myself
In a swirling of trees and soft air


Come, the Wines are off to the seaside,
and the waves by the million!
Look at wild bitter rolling from the mountain tops!
Let us reach, like good pilgrims, green-pillared Absinthe…

Myself: No more of these landscapes.
What is drunkenness, friends?
I had soon - rather, even - rot in the pond,
beneath the horrible scum, near the floating driftwood.



When you are seventeen you aren't really serious.
- One fine evening, you've had enough of beer and lemonade,
And the rowdy cafes with their dazzling lights!
- You go walking beneath the green lime trees of the promenade.

The lime trees smell good on fine evenings in June!
The air is so soft sometimes, you close your eyelids;
The wind, full of sounds, - the town's not far away -
Carries odors of vines, and odors of beer...


- Then you see a very tiny rag
Of dark blue, framed by a small branch,
Pierced by an unlucky star which is melting away
With soft little shivers, small, perfectly white...

June night! Seventeen! - You let yourself get drunk.
The sap is champagne and goes straight to your head...
You are wandering; you feel a kiss on your lips
Which quivers there like something small and alive...


Your mad heart goes Crusoeing through all the romances,
- When, under the light of a pale street lamp,
Passes a young girl with charming little airs,
In the shadow of her father's terrifying stiff collar...

And because you strike her as absurdly naif,
As she trots along in her little ankle boots,
She turns, wide awake, with a brisk movement...
And then cavatinas die on your lips...


You're in love. Taken until the month of August.
You're in love - Your sonnets make Her laugh.
All your friends disappear; you are not quite the thing.
- Then your adored one, one evening, condescends to write to you...!

That evening,... - you go back again to the dazzling cafes,
You ask for beer or for lemonade...
- You are not really serious when you are seventeen
And there are green lime trees on the promenade...


So long as the blade has not 
Cut off that brain, 
That white, green and fatty parcel, 
Whose steam is never fresh, 
Ah ! He, should cut off his 
Nose, his lips, his ears, 
His belly! And abandon 
But no, truly, I believe that so long as 
The blade to his head, 
And the stone to his side, 
And the flame to his guts 
Have not done execution, the tiresome 
Child, the so stupid animal, 
Must never for an instant cease 
To cheat and betray 
And like a Rocky Mountain cat ; 
To make all places stink ! 
But still when he dies, 
O my God! 
May there rise up some prayer! 



No one's serious at seventeen.
--On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade
And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need
--You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.

Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!
Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;
The wind brings sounds--the town is near--
And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .


--Over there, framed by a branch
You can see a little patch of dark blue
Stung by a sinister star that fades
With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .

June nights! Seventeen!--Drink it in.
Sap is champagne; it goes to your head. . .
The mind wanders; you feel a kiss
On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .


The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels
--And when a young girl walks alluringly
Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow
Of her father's starched collar. . .

Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,
She turns on a dime, eyes wide, 
Finding you too sweet to resist. . .
--And cavatinas die on your lips.


You're in love. Off the market till August.
You're in love.--Your sonnets make Her laugh.
Your friends are gone, you're bad news.
--Then, one night, your beloved, writes . . .!

That night . . . you return to the blinding cafés;
You order beer or lemonade. . .
--No one's serious at seventeen 
When lindens line the promenade

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