Rimbaud

 

     Selected Poems

 

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                  A.S.Kline    ã 2002 All Rights Reserved


 

                                            Contents

 

First Evening. 4

Sensation. 6

Romance. 7

Eighteen Seventy. 9

Rage of The Caesars. 10

The Famous Victory of Saarbrucken. 11

A Winter Dream.. 12

Evil 13

My Bohemia: A Fantasy. 14

At The Green Inn. 15

The Sly Girl 16

The Sleeper in the Valley. 17

Poets at Seven Years. 18

The Seekers of Lice. 21

The Drunken Boat 22

Vowels. 26

The Rooks. 27

Memory. 28

Teardrop. 30

The Song of the Highest Tower. 32

Eternity. 35

O Seasons, O Chateaux. 37

After the Flood. 39

Childhood. 41

Departure. 45

Ruts. 46

Dawn. 47

Barbarian. 48

Prayer. 49

Democracy. 50

Genie. 51

Bad Blood. 53

Lightning. 62

Farewell 63

Extract from the ‘Voyant’ Letter. 65

Index of First Lines. 68

 

 


First Evening

                 (Première Soirée)

 

She was barely dressed though,

And the great indiscreet trees

Touched the glass with their leaves,

In malice, quite close, quite close.

 

Sitting in my deep chair,

Half-naked, hands clasped together,

On the floor, little feet, so fine,

So fine, shivered with pleasure.

 

I watched, the beeswax colour

Of a truant ray of sun’s glow

Flit about her smile, and over

Her breast – a fly on the rose.

 

-        I kissed her delicate ankle.

She gave an abrupt sweet giggle

Chiming in clear trills,

A pretty laugh of crystal.

 

Her little feet under her slip

Sped away: ‘Will you desist!’

Allowing that first bold act,

Her laugh pretended to punish!

 

-        Trembling under my lips,

Poor things, I gently kissed her lids.

-        She threw her vapid head back.

‘Oh! That’s worse, that is!’…

 

‘Sir, I’ve two words to say to you...’

-        I planted the rest on her breast

In a kiss that made her laugh

With a laugh of readiness….

 

- She was barely dressed though,

And the great indiscreet trees

Touched the glass with their leaves

In malice, quite close, quite close.



Sensation

                   (Sensation)

 

Through blue summer evenings, I’ll go down the pathways,

Pricked by the wheat ears, trampling the short grass:

In a dream, I’ll be sensing, beneath me, the freshness.

I’ll let evening breezes bathe my bare forehead.

 

I’ll speak not a thing: I’ll think not a thing:

But infinite love will swell in my soul,

And, I’ll go, far, far away, like a gypsy,

Through Nature - joyful, as if I had a girl.



Romance

                     (Roman)

 

                              I

 

You’re not serious when you’re seventeen.

-        One fine evening, tired of beers and lemonade,

The noisy cafés with their dazzling gleam!

-        You walk below lime-trees’ green on the Parade.

 

The limes smell so good on fine June evenings!

The air’s so sweet sometimes you close your eyes:

The wind, full of sounds - the town’s nearby -

Blows the smell of beer, and the scent of vines…

 

                              II

 

- Then you make out a little tiny tatter

Of sombre azure framed by a twig of night,

Pierced by a fatal star, it melts, after

Soft tremblings, tiny and perfectly white…

 

June night! And Seventeen! – You get tipsy.

The sap’s champagne and blurs every feature…

You wander: you feel a kiss on your lips

That quivers there, like a tiny creature….

 

                              III

 

Your mad heart goes Crusoeing the romances,

- Where in the pale lamp’s glare your eyes follow

A young girl going by with sweet little glances

Below the gloom of her father’s stiffened collar…

 

And because she finds you immensely naïve

As by, in her little ankle boots, she trips

She turns away alertly with a quick shrug…

-        And cavatinas die away on your lips….

 

You’re in love. Taken till the month of August.

You’re in love. - Your sonnets make her smile.

All your friends have gone: you’re in bad taste.

-        Then the adored, one evening, deigns to write!

 

That evening…. you return to the cafés gleam,

You call out for beer or lemonade…

-        You’re not serious when you’re seventeen

And the lime-trees are green on the Parade.

                                                           
                                               23 September 70



Eighteen Seventy

           (Morts de Quatre-Vingt-Douze)

 

“ …….Frenchmen of ‘70, Bonapartists, Republicans, remember your forefathers of ’92….”         

                                        Paul de Cassagnac (Le Pays)

 

You Dead of ninety-two and ninety-three,

Who, pale from the great kiss of Liberty,

Crushed, calm, beneath your wooden shoes

That yoke that weighs on human brows and souls:

 

Men exalted, great in agony,

You whose hearts raged with love, in misery,

O soldiers that Death, noble Lover, has sown

In all the old furrows, so they’ll be reborn:

 

You whose blood washed every soiled grandeur,

Dead of Valmy, Dead of Fleurus, Dead of Italy,

O millions of Christs with eyes gentle and sombre:

 

We’ve let you fall asleep with the Republic,

We, cowering under kings as if under blows.

- They’re telling tales of you so we’ll remember!

                                    Done at Mazas, 3 September 1870



Rage of The Caesars

                 (Napoleon III after Sedan)

                      (Rages Des Césars)

 

The pale Man walks through the flowery scene,

Dressed in black, a cigar between his teeth:

The pale Man thinks of the flowers of the Tuileries

And sometimes his fish-eye grows keen…

 

The Emperor’s drunk from his twenty-year orgy!

He said to himself: ‘I’ll snuff out Liberty

As if it were a candle, and so delicately!”

Liberty revives! He feels himself exhausted!

 

He’s in prison. - Oh! What name is it that trembles

On his mute lips? What relentless regret does he feel?

No one will ever know. The Emperor’s eye’s dark.

 

He recalls the ‘Accomplice’, perhaps, in spectacles…

And watches a thin wreathe of smoke steal,

As on those Saint-Cloud evenings, from his cigar.

 

Note: This is Napoleon III, in 1870, imprisoned and ill, at Wilhelmshoehe in Prussia. Émile Ollivier, his Minister at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, who failed to oppose its declaration, is the ‘Accomplice’.



          The Famous Victory of Saarbrucken

              (L’Éclatante Victoire de Sarrebrück)

 

(Belgian print, brilliantly tinted,

sold  at Charleroi, 35 centimes)

 

 

At centre, the Emperor, blue-yellow, in apotheosis,

Gallops off, ramrod straight, on his fine gee-gee,

Very happy – since everything he sees is rosy,

Fierce as Zeus, and as gentle as a Daddy is:

 

The brave Infantrymen taking a nap, in vain,

Under the gilded drums and scarlet cannon,

Rise politely. One puts his tunic back on,

And, turns to the Chief, stunned by the big name!

 

On the right, another, leaning on his rifle butt,

Feeling the hair rise at the back of his neck,

Shouts: ‘Vive L’Empereur!!” – his neighbour’s mute…

 

A shako rises, like a black sun…- In the midst

The last, a simpleton in red and blue, lying on his gut

Gets up, and, - showing his arse - asks: “On what?”



A Winter Dream

                   (Rêvé pour l’Hiver)

                                                            To … Her

 

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…

 

                              In the railway carriage, 7 October 70



Evil

                (Le Mal)

           

While the red spittle of the grape-shot

Whistles all day in the infinite blue sky:

While the battalions, scarlet or green, fly,

By the King who jeers, en masse, into the pot:

 

While the terrible stupidity grinds and crushes,

And makes a smoking heap of a thousand men:

-        Poor Dead! In summer, among the rushes,

In your joy, sacred Nature, who created them!…

 

-        There’s a God, who laughs at altar-cloths

Of damask, incense, and great gold chalices:

Who dozes to Hosannas for lullaby,

 

And wakes when mothers, gathered in their grief,

Weeping under their old black bonnets, sigh

And yield Him the coin knotted in their handkerchief.

                     



My Bohemia: A Fantasy

                           (Ma Bohème: Fantaisie)

 

I ran off, fists in my ragged seams:

Even my overcoat was becoming Ideal:

I went under the sky, Muse! I was yours:

Oh! What miraculous loves I dreamed!

 

My only pair of pants was a big hole.

-        Tom Thumb the dreamer, sowing the roads there

With rhymes. My inn the Sign of the Great Bear.

-        My stars in the sky rustling to and fro.

 

I heard them, squatting by the wayside,

In September twilights, there I felt the dew

Drip on my forehead, like a fierce coarse wine.

 

Where, rhyming into the fantastic dark,

I plucked, like lyre strings, the elastics

Of my tattered shoes, a foot pressed to my heart.



At The Green Inn

                     (Au Cabaret-Vert)

 

For eight days, I’d ripped up my boots

On the road stones. I’d made Charleroi.

-        At the Green Inn: I ordered bread

Buttered, along with half-cold ham.

 

Happy, I stretched my legs out under the table,

A green one: considering the naïve prints

On the walls. – And it was charming,

When the girl with big tits and lively eyes,

 

-        That one, just a kiss wouldn’t scare her! –

Smiling, brought me slices of bread and butter,

With lukewarm ham on a coloured platter,

 

Ham, white and pink, a fragrant garlic clove,

-        And filled a huge beer mug high, its foam

Turned by a ray of late sunlight to gold.



The Sly Girl

                     (La Maline)

 

In the brown dining-room, its perfumed air

Full of the smell of wax and fruit, at ease

I gathered a plate of who knows what Belgian

Dish, and marvelled in my enormous chair.

 

Eating I listened to the clock – silent, happy.

The kitchen door opened with a gust,

-        And the serving girl came in, who knows why,

Shawl half-off, hair dressed cunningly.

 

And, touching her little finger tremblingly

To her cheek, a pink and white velvet-peach,

And making a childish pout with her lips,

 

She tidied the plates to put me at my ease:

-        Then, just like that – to get a kiss, for certain –

Whispered: ‘Feel: It’s caught a cold, my cheek...’

 

                                                  Charleroi, October 70



The Sleeper in the Valley

                        (Le Dormeur du Val)

 

It’s a green hollow where a river sings

Madly catching white tatters in the grass.

Where the sun on the proud mountain rings:

It’s a little valley, foaming like light in a glass.

 

A conscript, open-mouthed, his bare head

And bare neck bathed in the cool blue cress,

Sleeps: stretched out, under the sky, on grass,

Pale where the light rains down on his green bed.

 

Feet in the yellow flags, he sleeps. Smiling

As a sick child might smile, he’s dozing.

Nature, rock him warmly: he is cold.

 

The scents no longer make his nostrils twitch:

He sleeps in the sunlight, one hand on his chest,

Tranquil. In his right side, there are two red holes.

 



Poets at Seven Years

                   (Les Poëtes de Sept Ans)

 

And the mother, closing the work-book

Went off, proud, satisfied, not seeing,

In the blue eyes, under the lumpy brow,

The soul of her child given over to loathing.

 

All day he sweated obedience: very

Intelligent: yet dark habits, certain traits

Seemed to show bitter hypocrisies at work!

In the shadow of corridors with damp paper,

He stuck out his tongue in passing, two fists

In his groin, seeing specks under his shut lids.

A doorway open to evening: by the light

You’d see him, high up, groaning on the railing

Under a void of light hung from the roof. In summer,

Especially, vanquished, stupefied, stubborn,

He’d shut himself in the toilet’s coolness:

He could think in peace there, sacrificing his nostrils.

 

When the small garden cleansed of the smell of day,

Filled with light, behind the house, in winter,

Lying at the foot of a wall, buried in clay

Rubbing his dazzled eyes hard, for the visions,

He listened to the scabbed espaliers creaking.

Pity! His only companions were those children

Bare-headed and puny, eyes sunk in their cheeks,

Hiding thin fingers yellow and black with mud

Under old clothes soiled with excrement,

Who talked with the sweetness of the simple-minded!

 

And if his mother took fright, surprising him

At his vile compassions: the child’s deep

Tenderness overcame her astonishment.

All fine. She’d had the blue look, - that lies!

 

At seven he was making novels about life

In the great desert, where ravished Freedom shines,

Forests, suns, riverbanks, savannahs! – He used

Illustrated weeklies where he saw, blushing,

Smiling Italian girls, and Spanish women.

When the daughter of next door workers came by,

Eight years old - in Indian prints, brown-eyed,

A little brute, and jumped him from behind,

Shaking out her tresses, in a corner,

And he was under her, he bit her buttocks,

Since she never wore knickers:

-        And, bruised by her fists and heels,

Carried the taste of her back to his room.

 

He feared the pallid December Sundays,

When, hair slicked back, at a mahogany table,

He read from a Bible with cabbage-green margins:

Dreams oppressed him each night in the alcove.

He didn’t love God: rather those men in the dusk,

Returning, black, in smocks, to the outer suburbs

Where the town-crier, with a triple drum beat,

Made the crowds laugh and murmur at the edicts.

-        He dreamed of the amorous prairies, where

Luminous swells, pure odours, gold pubescences,

Stirred in the calm there, and then took flight!

 

And above all how he savoured sombre things,

When, in his bare room behind closed shutters,

High, and blue, and pierced with acrid damp,

He read his novel, mooned over endlessly,

Full of drowned forests, leaden ochre skies,

Flowers of flesh opening in star-filled woods,

Dizziness, epilepsies, defeats, compassion!

-        While the street noises rumbled on below,

Lying alone on pieces of unbleached canvas,

With a violent presentiment of setting sail!



The Seekers of Lice

               (Les Chercheuses de Poux)

 

When the child’s brow, tormented by red,

Implores the white crowd of half-seen dreams,

Two charming sisters come close to his bed

Slender-fingered, with silver nails, it seems.

 

They sit the child down in front of the window,

Wide open to where blue air bathes tangled flowers,

And through his thick hair full of dewfall,

Move their fine fingers, fearful, magical.

 

He hears the sighing of their cautious breath

That flows with long roseate vegetal honeys,

And is interrupted sometimes by a hiss,

Saliva caught on the lips or desire to kiss.

 

He hears their dark lashes beating in perfumed

Silence: and their fingers, electrified and sweet

Amidst his grey indolence, make the deaths

Of little lice crackle beneath their royal treat.

 

It’s now the wine of Sloth in him rises, the sigh

Of a child’s harmonica that can bring delerium:

Prompted by slow caresses, the child feels then

An endlessly surging and dying desire to cry.

 


               The Drunken Boat

                                (Le Bateau Ivre)

 

As I floated down impassive Rivers,

I felt myself no longer pulled by ropes:

The Redskins took my hauliers for targets,

And nailed them naked to their painted posts.

 

Carrying Flemish wheat or English cotton,

I was indifferent to all my crews.

The Rivers let me float down as I wished,

When the victims and the sounds were through.

 

Into the furious breakers of the sea,

Deafer than the ears of a child, last winter,

I ran! And the Peninsulas sliding by me

Never heard a more triumphant clamour.

 

The tempest blessed my sea-borne arousals.

Lighter than a cork I danced those waves

They call the eternal churners of victims,

Ten nights, without regret for the lighted bays!

 

Sweeter than sour apples to the children

The green ooze spurting through my hull’s pine,

Washed me of vomit and the blue of wine,

Carried away my rudder and my anchor.

 

Then I bathed in the Poem of the Sea,

Infused with stars, the milk-white spume blends,

Grazing green azures: where ravished, bleached

Flotsam, a drowned man in dream descends.

 

Where, staining the blue, sudden deliriums

And slow tremors under the gleams of fire,

Stronger than alcohol, vaster than our rhythms,

Ferment the bitter reds of our desire!

 

I knew the skies split apart by lightning,

Waterspouts, breakers, tides: I knew the night,

The Dawn exalted like a crowd of doves,

I saw what men think they’ve seen in the light!

 

I saw the low sun, stained with mystic terrors,

Illuminate long violet coagulations,

Like actors in a play that’s very ancient

Waves rolling back their trembling of shutters!

 

I dreamt the green night of blinded snows,

A kiss lifted slow to the eyes of seas,

The circulation of unheard-of flows,

Sung phosphorus’s blue-yellow awakenings!

 

For months on end, I’ve followed the swell

That batters at the reefs like terrified cattle,

Not dreaming the Three Marys’ shining feet

Could muzzle with their force the Ocean’s hell!

 

I’ve struck Floridas, do you know, beyond belief,

Where eyes of panthers in human skins,

Merge with the flowers! Rainbow bridles, beneath

                    the seas’ horizon, stretched out to shadowy fins!

 

I saw the great swamps boil, and the hiss

Where a whole whale rots among the reeds!

Downfalls of water among tranquilities,

Distances showering into the abyss.

 

Nacrous waves, silver suns, glaciers, ember skies!

Gaunt wrecks deep in the brown vacuities

Where the giant eels riddled with parasites

Fall, with dark perfumes, from the twisted trees!

 

I would have liked to show children dolphins

Of the blue wave, the golden singing fish.

-        Flowering foams rocked me in my drift,

At times unutterable winds gave me wings.


Sometimes, a martyr tired of poles and zones,

The sea whose sobs made my roilings sweet

Showed me its shadow flowers with yellow mouths

And I rested like a woman on her knees…

 

Almost an isle, blowing across my sands, quarrels

And droppings of pale-eyed clamorous gulls,

And I scudded on while, over my frayed lines,

Drowned men sank back in sleep beneath my hull!…

 

Now I, a boat lost in the hair of bays,

Hurled by the hurricane through bird-less ether,

I, whose carcass, sodden with salt-sea water,

No Monitor or Hanseatic vessel would recover:

 

Freed, in smoke, risen from the violet fog,

I, who pierced the red skies like a wall,

Bearing the sweets that delight true poets,

Lichens of sunlight, gobbets of azure:

 

Who ran, stained with electric moonlets,

A crazed plank, companied by black sea-horses,

When Julys were crushing with cudgel blows

Skies of ultramarine in burning funnels:

 

I, who trembled to hear those agonies

Of rutting Behemoths and dark Maelstroms,

Eternal spinner of blue immobilities,

I regret the ancient parapets of Europe!

 

I’ve seen archipelagos of stars! And isles

Whose maddened skies open for the sailor:

- Is it in depths of night you sleep, exiled,

Million birds of gold, O future Vigour? –


But, truly, I’ve wept too much! The Dawns

Are heartbreaking, each moon hell, each sun bitter:

Fierce love has swallowed me in drunken torpors.

O let my keel break! Tides draw me down!

 

If I want one pool in Europe, it’s the cold

Black pond where into the scented night

A child squatting filled with sadness launches

A boat as frail as a May butterfly.

 

Bathed in your languor waves I can no longer

Cut across the wakes of cotton ships,

Or sail against the pride of flags, ensigns,

Or swim the dreadful gaze of prison ships.



Vowels

                                (Voyelles)

 

A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels

Someday I’ll talk about your secret birth-cries,

A, black velvet jacket of brilliant flies

That buzz around the stenches of the cruel,

 

Gulfs of shadow: E, candour of mists, of tents,

Lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of parsley:

I, purples, bloody salivas, smiles of the lonely

With lips of anger or drunk with penitence:

 

U, waves, divine shudders of viridian seas,

Peace of pastures, cattle-filled, peace of furrows

Formed on broad studious brows by alchemy:

 

O, supreme Clarion, full of strange stridencies,

Silences crossed by worlds and by Angels:

O, the Omega, violet ray of her Eyes!



The Rooks

                               (Les Corbeaux)

 

Lord, when the fields are cold,

When, in the abject hamlets,

The long angelus is silent…

On nature, deflowered, old,

Falling from the open sky

Let the lovely rooks sweep by.

 

Strange army with your stern calls,

Cold winds attack your nests!

You, along the yellowed river-edge,

Over the roads’ with old crosses, fall,

Over the wayside ditches, and the alleys,

Disperse yourselves, then rally!

 

In thousands, over the fields of France,

Where sleep the dead of yesteryear,

Wheel, then, in the wintry air,

So each traveller, at a glance

Remembers! Be the call to duty,

O our black funereal beauty!

 

But, saints of heaven, at the oak’s top,

Mast lost in the charm of fading day,

Leave the little warblers of May

For those imprisoned in the copse,

In depths from which one cannot flee,

Who defeat, without a future, see.




Memory

                     (Dernier Vers: Mémoire)

 

                              I

 

Clear water: stinging like the child’s salt tears,

Whiteness of women’s bodies attacking the sun:

Silk, en masse and pure lily, Oriflammes

Under walls the Maid defended without fear:

 

Dancing of angels: - No…the gold current slid

Moving its dark arms, tired, cool above all, and green.

She, sombre, having the blue Heavens for canopy,

Summoned as curtains the arch and the hill’s shade.

 

                              II

 

Ah the moist surface holds such limpid bubbles!

Water of pale deep gold covers the made beds:

Little girls’ green and faded dresses

Were willows, from which the bridle-less birds fled.

 

Purer than gold, a yellow eyelid and warm,

Marsh marigold – your married faith, O Bride! –

At stroke of noon, from its dull mirror, jealous

Of the dear rose-coloured Sphere: grey heat in the sky.

 

                              III

 

Madame stands too stiffly in the nearby field,

Where the threads of toil snow down: the parasol

In her fingers: crushing cow-parsley: it’s too proud:

The children are reading on the flowery green:

 

A red morocco book! Alas, the man, He, like

A thousand white angels parting on the road,

Vanishes behind the mountain! She, quite cold,

And black, runs on! Following the man’s flight!

 

                              IV

 

Regret for the firm young arms of pure grass!

Gold of April moons in the heart of the sacred bed!

Joy of the riverside boat-yards, abandoned to fate,

To the August evenings that made rot germinate!

 

How she weeps at present under the rampart!

The breath of the poplars up high’s the only breeze.

Then the unreflecting surface, without source, grey:

An old man, dredging, toils in his motionless barge.

 

                              V

 

Toy of this eye of sad water, I cannot reach,

O motionless boat! O arms too short! Not one

Or the other flower: not the yellow that begs me:

Nor the blue, the friend in the water, its colour ashen.

 

Ah! The willow pollen a wing troubles!

The rose of the reeds long since eaten up!

My boat, stuck fast: and its deep anchor buried

In this boundless eye of water - in what mud?



Teardrop

                      (Larme)

 

1.     (From: Dernier Vers 1872)

 

 

Far from the village girls, cattle, birds,

I drank, kneeling down in the heather

Surrounded by tender copses of hazel,

In the green warm mist of afternoon.

 

What could I have drunk from that young Oise,

Elms without voices, turf without flowers,

Shut sky? Or sip from the gourd of the vine?

Some liquor of gold that causes pale sweats.

 

Like that I’d have made a poor inn-sign.

Then storms altered the sky till evening.

Black landscapes, poles, lakes, colonnades

under the blueness of night, rail-stations.

 

Wood’s water was lost in virgin sand.

The wind, out of heaven, iced the ponds…

But, like fishers for gold or shells, to think

That I didn’t take the trouble to drink!

 


2. (From: Une Saison en Enfer 1873)

 

Far from the village girls, cattle, birds,

On my knees, what was I drinking there,

Surrounded by tender copses of hazel,

In the green warm mist of afternoon?

 

What could I have drunk from that young Oise -

Elms without voices, turf without flowers,

shut sky - from these yellow gourds, far from my

dear hut? Some gold liquor that causes sweats.

 

I made a dubious inn-sign. - A storm

Came to hunt the sky. At evening

Wood’s water was lost in virgin sand.

The wind, of God, iced the ponds:

 

Weeping, I saw gold – and could not drink!

 


The Song of the Highest Tower

                                  (Chanson de la Plus Haute Tour)

 

                              1. (From: Fetes de la Patience)

 

Idle Youth

By all things enslaved

Through sensitivity

I’ve wasted my days.

Ah! Let the moment come

When hearts love as one.

 

I told myself: wait

And let no one see:

And without the promise

of true ecstasy.

Let nothing delay

This hiding away.

 

I’ve been patient so long

I’ve forgotten even

The terror and suffering

Flown up to heaven,

A sick thirst again

Darkens my veins.

 

So the meadow

Freed by neglect

Flowered, overgrown

With weeds and incense

To the buzzing nearby

Of a hundred foul flies.


 

Ah! Thousand widowhoods

Of a soul so poor

It bears only the image

Of our Lady before!

Does one then pray

To the Virgin today?

 

Idle Youth

By all things enslaved

Through sensitivity

I’ve wasted my days.

Ah! Let the moment come

When hearts love as one.


 

                              2. (From: Une Saison en Enfer)

 

Let it come, let it come

The day when hearts love as one.

 

I’ve been patient so long

I’ve forgotten even

The terror and suffering

Flown up to heaven,

A sick thirst again

Darkens my veins.

 

Let it come, let it come

The day when hearts love as one.

 

So the meadow

Freed by neglect

Flowered, overgrown

With weeds and incense

To the buzz nearby

Of foul flies.

 

Let it come, let it come

The day when hearts love as one.




Eternity

                               (L’Éternité)

 

                              1. (From: Fetes de la Patience)

 

It’s found you see.

What? – Eternity.

It’s the sun, free

To run with the sea.

 

Soul on watch

In whispers confess

To the empty night

To the day’s excess.

 

From the mortal weal

From the common urge

Here you diverge

To fly as you feel.

 

Since from you alone

Embers of satin

Duty breathes down

With no ‘at last’ spoken.

 

There’s nothing of hope,

No entreaty here.

Science and patience,

Torture is real.

 

It’s found you see.

What? – Eternity.

It’s the sun, free

To run with the sea.

 

 


2. (From: Une Saison en Enfer)

 

It’s found you see!

What? – Eternity.

It’s the sun, mingled

   With the sea.

 

My immortal soul

Keep your vow

Despite empty night

And the day’s glow.

 

Then you’ll diverge

From the mortal weal

From the common urge,

And fly as you feel…

 

- No hope, never,

No entreaty here.

Science and patience,

Torture is real.

 

No more tomorrow

Embers of satin

Your own ardour

The only duty.

 

It’s found you see.

- What? - Eternity.

It’s the sun, mingled

    With the sea.



O Seasons, O Chateaux

                                   (Ô saisons, Ô châteaux)

 

                              1. (From: Fetes de la Patience)

 

 

O seasons, O chateaux,

Where’s the flawless soul?

 

O seasons, O chateaux,

 

The magic study I pursued

Of happiness, none can elude.

 

O may it live, each time

The Gallic cock makes rhyme.

 

There’s no other I desire,

It’s possessed my life entire.

 

That charm! It’s taken heart and soul

And made all my effort go.

 

Where’s the sense in what I say?

It makes the whole thing fly away!

 

O seasons, O chateaux!


  O Seasons, O Chateaux

                                     (Ô saisons, Ô châteaux)

 

                              2. (From: Une Saison en Enfer)

 

 

O seasons, O chateaux!

Where’s the flawless soul?

 

The magic study I pursued

Of happiness, none can elude.

 

A health to it, each time

The Gallic cock makes rhyme.

 

Ah! There’s nothing I desire,

It’s possessed my life entire.

 

That charm has taken heart and soul

And made all my efforts go.

 

O seasons, O chateaux!

 

The hour of its flight, alas!

Will be the hour I pass.

 

O seasons, O chateaux!


After the Flood

       (Illuminations I: Après le Déluge) 

 

As soon as the idea of the Flood was finished, a hare halted

in the clover and the trembling flower bells, and said its prayer to the rainbow through the spider’s web.

     Oh! The precious stones that hid, - the flowers that gazed around them.

      In the soiled main street stalls were set, they hauled the boats down to the sea rising in layers as in the old prints.

      Blood flowed, at Blue-beard’s house - in the abattoirs in the circuses where God’s promise whitened the windows. Blood and milk flowed.

      The beavers built. The coffee cups steamed in the bars.

      In the big greenhouse that was still streaming, the children in mourning looked at the marvellous pictures.

      A door banged, and, on the village-green, the child waved his arms, understood by the cocks and weathervanes of bell-towers everywhere, under the bursting shower.

      Madame *** installed a piano in the Alps. The Mass and first communions were celebrated at the hundred thousand altars of the cathedral.

      Caravans departed. And the Hotel Splendide was built in the chaos of ice and polar night.

      Since then, the Moon heard jackals howling among the deserts of thyme – and pastoral poems in wooden shoes grumbling in the orchard. Then, in the burgeoning violet forest, Eucharis told me it was spring.

     Rise, pond: - Foam, roll over the bridge and under the trees: - black drapes and organs - thunder and lightning rise and roll: - Waters and sadnesses, rise and raise the Floods again.

      Because since they abated  - oh! the precious stones burying themselves and the opened flowers! - it’s wearisome! And the Queen, the Sorceress who lights her fire in the pot of earth, will never tell us what she knows, and what we are ignorant of.

 


 

  Childhood

                        (Illuminations II: Enfance)

 

                                            I

 

That idol without ancestors or court, black-eyed and yellow

haired, nobler than legend, Mexican and Flemish: his land insolent azure and green, skirts beaches named by the waves without shipping with names ferociously Greek, Slav, Celtic.

At the edge of the forest – flowers of dream chime, burst flare – the girl with orange lips, knees crossed in the clear flood that rises from the meadows, nudity shadowed, traversed and clothed by rainbows, flowers, the sea.

Ladies who stroll on terraces by the sea: girl-child and giantess, superb blacks in the verdigris moss, jewels arrayed on the rich soil of groves and the little thawed-out gardens -young mothers and elder sisters with looks full of pilgrimage, Sultanas, princesses with tyrannical costumes, little foreign girls and gently unhappy people.

What tedium, the hour of the ‘beloved body’ and ‘dear heart’!


                  II 

 

It’s her, the little dead girl, behind the roses. - The young mother, deceased, descends the steps. - The cousin’s carriage squeaks over the sand. - The little brother - (he’s in India!) there, in front of the sunset, in the meadow of carnations. The old ones buried upright in the ramparts overgrown with wallflowers.     

The swarm of golden leaves surrounds the General’s house. They are in the south. – You follow the red road to reach the empty inn. The chateau’s for sale: the shutters are loose. – The priest will have carried off the key to the church. – Around the park the keepers’ cottages are untenanted. The fences are so high you can see nothing but rustling treetops. Besides, there’s nothing there to be seen.     

The meadows rise to hamlets without cockerels, without anvils. The sluice gate is raised. O the crosses and windmills of the wild, the isles and the stacks.      

Magic flowers buzzed. The slopes cradled him. Creatures of fabulous elegance circled round. Clouds gathered over the open sea made of an eternity of warm tears.


                    III 

 

There’s a bird in the woods, its song makes you stop and blush.         

There’s a clock that never chimes.        

There’s a hollow with a nest of white creatures.

There’s a cathedral that descends, and a lake that rises.        

There’s a little carriage abandoned in the copse, or running down the lane, beribboned.

There’s a troupe of little players in costume, glimpsed on the road through the edge of the woods.

There’s someone, at last, when you’re hungry and thirsty, who drives you away.      

 

                     IV 

 

I’m the saint, praying on the terrace – as the peaceful beasts graze down to the sea of Palestine.

          I’m the scholar in the dark armchair. Branches and rain fling themselves at the library casement.

          I’m the traveller on the high road through the stunted woods: the roar of the sluices drowns out my steps. I watch for hours the melancholy golden wash of the sunset.

          I might well be the child left on the jetty washed to the open sea, the little farm-boy following the lane whose crest touches the sky.

          The paths are rough. The little hills are covered with broom. The air is motionless. How far away the birds and the fountains are! That can only be the world’s end ahead.


                              V

 

Let them rent me this tomb at the last, whitewashed, with the lines of cement in relief - very deep underground.

           I lean on the table, the lamp lights brightly those magazines I’m a fool to re-read, those books without interest.

           At a vast distance above my subterranean room houses root, fogs gather. The mud is red or black. Monstrous city, night without end!

           Lower down there are sewers. At the sides only the thickness of the globe. Perhaps gulfs of azure, wells of fire Perhaps on these levels moons and comets, seas and fables meet.

           In hours of bitterness I imagine balls of sapphire, of metal. I am master of silence. Why should a semblance of skylight pale in the corner of the vault?


Departure

                       (Illuminations VIII:Départ)

 

Enough seen. The vision was encountered under all skies.

     Enough had. Sounds of cities, evening, and in the light, and always.

      Enough known. The decisions of life. - O Sounds and Visions!

      Departure into new affection and noise!


Ruts

                  (Illuminations XVI:Ornières)

 

On the right the summer dawn wakes the leaves and mists

and the noises of this corner of the park, and the banks on the  left hold the thousand rapid ruts of the damp road in their  violet shadow. Magical procession. Wagons, indeed, loaded with gilded wooden animals, poles and gaudily-coloured canvas, galloped past furiously by twenty dappled circus horses, and men and children on their truly astonishing beasts  - twenty vehicles, carved, decked out and be-flowered like ancient carriages or in fairy-tales, full of children dressed for suburban pastoral: - coffins even, under their canopies of night, flourishing their ebony plumes, filing past to the trot of the great blue-black mares.


Dawn

     (Illuminations XXII:Aube)

 

I embraced the summer dawn.

      Nothing was stirring yet on the fronts of the palaces. The water was dead. The crowds of shadows had not yet left the woodland road. I walked, waking vivid warm breaths, and the precious stones looked up, and wings rose without a sound.

      The first adventure, on the path already full of cool pale gleams, was a flower that told me its name.

      I smiled at the blond dishevelled waterfall among the fir trees: on the silvered peak I recognised the Goddess.

      Then I lifted the veils one by one. In the lane, waving my arms. On the plain where I denounced her to the cockerel. In the city, she fled among bell-towers and domes, and, running like a beggar across the marble quays, I chased after her.

      At the top of the road, near a laurel wood, I surrounded her with her gathered veils, and I felt her vast body a little. Dawn and the child fell down at the foot of the wood.

      Waking, it was noon.


Barbarian

               (Illuminations XXIX:Barbare)

 

Long after the days and the seasons, the beings and countries,      

The banner of bloodied meat on the silk of seas and of arctic flowers: (they do not exist.)       

Having recovered from the old fanfares of heroism - that still attack our hearts and heads - far from the ancient assassins.       

- Oh! The banner of bloodied meat on the silk of seas and of arctic flowers: (they do not exist.)

Ecstasies!

The blazes raining in gusts of frost. - Ecstasies! - fires in the rain from the wind of diamonds hurled out by the earthly heart, charred for us. - O world! -

(Far from the old retreats and the old flames, that you hear and feel,)

The blazes and foams. The music, churnings of gulfs and the shock of icicles on the stars.

O ecstasies, O world, O music! And here, forms, sweats, hair and eyes, floating. And the white tears, boiling - O ecstasies! - and the feminine voice reaching the depths of volcanoes and arctic caves.

       The banner…


Prayer

(Illuminations XXXVI:Dévotion)

 

To my Sister Louise Vanaen de Voringhem: - her blue

coif turned towards the North Sea. - For the shipwrecked.

         To my Sister Léonie Aubois d’Ashby. Baow! - the buzzing, stinking summer grass. - For the fevers of mothers and children.

          To Lulu - demon - who has maintained her taste for the oratories of the age of Les Amies and her unfinished education. For men. - To Madame ***.

          To the adolescent I was. To this old saint, hermitage or  mission. To the spirit of the poor. And to a very high clergy. Also to every cult in such a place of memorial cults and among such events that one must give in, according to the aspirations of the moment or our own serious vices.

            This evening, to Circeto of the icy heights, fat as a fish, and illuminated like the ten months of reddish light - (her heart amber and spunk) - my only prayer as silent as the regions of night and preceding acts of daring more violent than this polar chaos.

             At any price and in every guise, even in metaphysical journeys. - But then no more.


Democracy

     (Illuminations XXXVII:Démocratie)

 

“ The flag goes with the foul landscape, and our dialect

muffles the drum.

    In the Interior we’ll nourish the most cynical prostitution. We’ll massacre the logical rebellions.

  To the spiced and sodden countries! - in the service of  the most monstrous exploitations, industrial or military. Farewell here, no matter where. Voluntary conscripts we’ll possess a fierce philosophy: ignorant of science, wily for our comforts: let the world go hang. That’s true progress.  Forward – march!”


Genie

      (Illuminations XL:Génie)

 

        He is affection and the present because he has built the

house open to the foaming winter and the sounds of summer, he who purified food and drink, he who is the charm of fugitive places  and the superhuman delight of halts. He is affection and the future, the power and love that we, held in rage and boredom, watch as it passes by in the stormy sky among banners of ecstasy.

  He is love, perfect and reinvented measure, marvellous and unexpected reason, and eternity: beloved machinery of the fatal forces. We have all known the terror of his surrender and our own: O pleasure in our health, impulse of our faculties, selfish affection and passion for him, him who loves us throughout his infinite life….. And we summon him again and he travels on…And if Adoration vanishes, it resounds, his promise resounds: “Away with these superstitions, these ancient bodies, these households and these ages. It is this époque that has darkened!”

He will not go, he will not descend from any heaven again, he will not achieve redemption of Woman’s anger and Man’s gaieties, and all that sin: because it’s finished, he exists, and he’s loved.

O his breaths, his heads, his running: the terrible swiftness of the perfection of forms and action!

O fecundity of the spirit and vastness of the universe!

His body! The redemption dreamed of, the shattering of grace meeting with new violence!

The sight of him, the sight of him! All the old kneelings and pains lifted at his passing.

His light! The abolition of all sonorous and moving suffering in a more intense music.

His step! Migrations more enormous than the old invasions.

O He and We! Pride more kindly than lost charities.

O world! And the clear song of new misfortunes!

He has known us all and loved us all. May we know on this winter night, from cape to cape, from tumultuous pole to chateau, from the crowd to the sands, from glance to glance, strength and feelings weary, how to hail him and to see him, and send him on his way again, and under the tides and over the deserts of snow, follow his visions, his breaths, his body, his light.


Bad Blood

  (Une Saison en Enfer: Mauvais Sang)

 

I’ve the whitish blue eye of my Gallic ancestors, the narrow

skull, and the awkwardness in combat. I find my clothing as barbarous as theirs. But I don’t butter my hair.

The Gauls were the most inept flayers of cattle and burners of grass of their age.

From them I get: idolatry and love of sacrilege: - oh! all the vices, anger, lust - magnificent, the lust - above all lying and sloth.

I’ve a horror of all trades. Masters and workers, all peasants, ignoble. The hand with a pen’s the same as the hand at the plough. - What an age of hands! - I’ll never get my hand in. Anyway service goes too far. The honesty of beggary upsets me. Criminals disgust me like eunuchs: me, I’m intact, and it’s all one to me!

But! Who made my tongue so deceitful that it’s guided and safeguarded my laziness till now? Without even using my body to live, and more idle than a toad, I’ve lived everywhere. Not a family in Europe I don’t know. – I mean families like mine, who owe it all to the declaration of the Rights of Man. – I’ve known every son of good family!

 

                                 *

 

If only I’d forerunners at some time or other in the history of France!

But no, nothing.

It’s obvious to me I’ve always belonged to an inferior race. I don’t understand rebellion. My race never rose up except to pillage: like wolves round a beast they haven’t killed

I recall the history of France, eldest daughter of the Church. As a peasant I’d have made the journey to the Holy Land: I have all the roads of the Swabian plains in my head, all the views of Byzantium, the ramparts of Suleiman: the cult of the Virgin, tenderness for the crucified, wake in me among a thousand profane enchantments. – I sit, a leper, among broken pots and nettles, at the foot of a wall ravaged by the sun. – Later, a mercenary, I’d have bivouacked under German midnights.

Ah! Again: I dance the Sabbath in a red glade, with old women and children.

I don’t remember anything further off than this country and Christianity. I’d never be finished with viewing myself in this past. But always alone: without a family: what language, even, did I speak? I never see myself in the counsels of Christ: nor in the counsels of the Lords – representatives of Christ.

What was I in the last century: I only discover myself in the present day. No more vagabonds, no more vague wars. The inferior race has spread everywhere – the people, as one says, reason: the nation and science.

Oh! Science! They’ve altered everything. For the body and the soul – the eucharist – we’ve medicine and philosophy – old wives’ remedies and arrangements of popular songs. And the diversions of princes and the games they prohibited! Geography, cosmography, physics, chemistry!…

Science! The new nobility! Progress. The world progresses! Why shouldn’t it turn as well?

It’s the vision of numbers. We advance towards the Spirit. It’s quite certain: it’s oracular, what I say. I know, and unaware how to express myself without pagan words, I’d rather be mute.


*

 

The pagan blood returns! The Spirit is near, why doesn’t Christ help me by granting my soul nobility and freedom? Alas! The Gospel has passed! The Gospel! The Gospel.

I wait for God with greed. I’ve been of inferior race from all eternity.

Here I am on the Breton shore. How the towns glow in the evening. My day is done: I’m quitting Europe. Sea air will scorch my lungs: lost climates will tan me. To swim, trample the grass, hunt, above all smoke: drink hard liquors like boiling metals – as those dear ancestors did round the fire.

I’ll return with iron limbs, dark skin, a furious look: from my mask I’ll be judged as of mighty race. I’ll have gold: I’ll be idle and brutal. Women care for these fierce invalids returning from hot countries. I’ll be involved in politics. Saved.

Now I’m damned, I have a horror of country. The best is a good drunken sleep on the beach.


                                           *

One doesn’t go. - Let’s take to the roads again, full of my vice, the vice that has thrust its roots of suffering into my side, since the age of reason - that rises to the sky, strikes me, knocks me down, drags me along.

The last innocence and the last timidity. I’ve said it. Not to carry my disgust and betrayals through the world.

Let’s go! Marching, burdens, deserts, boredom, anger.

Whom shall I hire myself to? What beast must be adored? What saintly image attacked? What hearts shall I break? What lie must I uphold?  - Wade through what blood?

Rather, protect oneself from justice – a hard life, pure brutalisation – to open the coffin lid with a withered hand, sit down, stop your breath. So no old age, no dangers: to be terrified is not French.

- Ah! I am so forsaken I could offer any divine image no matter what my urges towards perfection.

O my self-denial, O my marvellous pity! Even down

here!

De profundis Domine, what a creature I am!


                                          *

Still a child, I admired the stubborn convict on whom the prison gates always close once more: I visited inns and lodgings that he might have sanctified with his presence: I saw the blue sky with his mind, and the flowering labour of the countryside: I scented his fate in the towns. He had more strength than a saint, more good sense than a traveller - and he, he alone! As witness to his glory and reason.

On the roads, on winter nights, without shelter, without clothing, without bread, a voice would clutch my frozen heart: “Weakness or strength: with you it’s a strength. You don’t know where you’re going or why you’re going, go everywhere, react to everything. They won’t kill you any more than if you were a corpse.” In the morning I had such a lost look, such a dead face, that those who met me perhaps they did not see me.

Suddenly, in the towns, the mud would seem red or black to me, like the mirror when the lamp is carried about in the next room, like a treasure in the forest! Goods luck, I’d cry, and I’d see a sea of flames and smoke in the sky: and to right and left all the riches flaming like a trillion lightning flashes.

But orgies and the company of women were forbidden me. Not even a friend. I could see myself before an angry crowd, facing the firing-squad, weeping with a misery they couldn’t have understood, and forgiving them! - Like Joan of Arc ! – “Priests, professors, masters, you’re wrong to hand me over to justice. I’ve never been one of this race: I’ve never been a Christian: I’m of the race that sings under torture: I don’t understand the law: I’ve no moral sense, I’m a brute: you’re wrong…”

Yes, I’ve shut my eyes to your light. I’m a beast, a black. But I can be saved. You are really blacks, you maniacs, wild beasts, misers. Merchant, you’re a black: magistrate, you’re a black: general, you’re a black: emperor, you old sore, you’re a black: you’ve drunk an untaxed liquor, Satan’s make. – This race is inspired by fever and cancer. Old folks and invalids are so respectable they ask to be boiled. – The cleverest thing is to quit this continent, where madness prowls to find hostages for these wretches. I’m off to the true kingdom of the sons of Ham.

Do I know nature yet? Do I know myself? - No more words. I bury the dead in my gut. Shouts, drums, dance, dance, dance, dance! I don’t even see the moment when the whites land, and I’ll fall to nothingness.

Hunger, thirst, shouts, dance, dance, dance, dance!


                                          *

 

The whites are landing. Cannon! We have to submit to baptism, clothes, work.

I’ve received the coup de grâce to my heart. Ah! I hadn’t foreseen it!

I’ve done nothing wrong. The days will pass easily for me, repentance will be spared me. I’ll not have known the torments of the soul that’s almost dead to virtue, where the light rises severely like that from funeral tapers. The fate of a son of good family, an early coffin scattered with crystal tears. Doubtless, debauchery is foolish, vice is foolish, rottenness must be thrown out. But the clock has not yet taken to striking only hours of pure sadness! Shall I be carried off like a child to play in paradise forgetting all unhappiness?

Quick! Are there other lives? – Repose with riches is impossible. Wealth has always been so public. Divine love alone offers the keys of knowledge. I see that nature is nothing but a show of kindness. Farewell chimeras, ideals, errors.

The rational song of the Angels rises from the lifeboat: it’s divine love. - Two Loves! I can die of earthly love, or die of devotion. I’ve left souls for whom the pain of my departure increases! You have chosen me from the shipwrecked: those who are left aren’t they my friends?

Save them!

Reason is born in me. The world is good. I’ll bless life. I’ll love my brothers. These are no longer childish promises. Nor the hope of escaping old age and death. God give me strength and I praise God.


                                            *

 

Tedium’s no longer my love. Rage, debaucheries, madness, all of whose joys and disasters I know - all my burden is laid down. Let us appreciate without dizziness the extent of my innocence.

I’d no longer be capable of demanding the comfort of a bastinado. I don’t think I’m embarking for a wedding with Jesus Christ for father-in-law.

I’m not a prisoner of my reason. I said: ‘God, I want freedom in salvation: how to pursue it? Frivolous tastes have quit me. No need for self-sacrifice or divine love any more. I don’t regret the age of sensitive hearts. Each has his reason, scorn, pity: I retain my place at the summit of this angelic ladder of good sense.

As for established happiness: domestic or not…no, I can’t. I’m too dissipated, too feeble. Life flowers through work, an old truth: me, my life is too insubstantial, it flies off and drifts around far above the action, that focus dear to the world.

What an old maid I’m becoming, lacking the courage to love death!

If God would grant me celestial, aerial, calm, prayer - like the ancient saints – the Saints! Strong ones! The anchorites, artists for whom there’s no longer need!

Continual farce! My innocence should make me weep. Life is the farce all perform.


                                        *

 

Enough! Here is the sentence. - March!

Ah! My lungs burn, my brow throbs! Night revolves in my eyes, in this sun! Heart…limbs…

Where to? To fight? I’m weak! The others advance. Equipment, arms…the weather!…

Fire! Fire at me! Here! Or I’ll surrender -  Cowards! - I’ll kill myself! I’ll hurl myself under the horses’ hooves! 

Ah!..

- I’ll get used to it.

That would be the French way, the path of honour!



Lightning

  (Une Saison en Enfer: L’Éclair)

 

Human labour! It’s the explosion that lightens my abyss

from time to time.

“Nothing’s in vain: on to Science, forward!” Cries the modern Ecclesiastes, that’s to say The Whole World. And yet the corpses of the wicked and idle still fall on the hearts of others…Ah! Quick, quick, a moment: there, beyond the night, that future recompense, eternal…shall we escape them?…

- What can I do? I know work: and Science is too slow. How prayer gallops and light groans… I see that fine. It’s too simple, and the weather’s too warm: they’ll do without me. I’ve my duty, I’ll be proud the way others are, in setting it aside.

My life’s used up. Let’s go! Cheat, do nothing, O the pity! And we’ll exist by amusing ourselves, dreaming monstrous loves and fantastic universes, moaning and quarrelling with the world’s shows, acrobat, beggar, artist, ruffian – priest! In my hospital bed, the smell of incense returned to me so strongly: guardian of the holy herbs, confessor, martyr…

I recognise now my rotten childhood education. So what! …Let me be twenty, if the others are going to be twenty…

No! No! Now I rebel against death! Work seems too trivial for my pride: my betrayal to the world would be too brief a torment. At the last I’ll attack to right and left…

Then - oh! - poor dear soul, eternity would not be lost to us.



Farewell

  (Une Saison en Enfer: Adieu)

 

Autumn already! – But why regret an eternal sun, if we are

engaged in discovering the divine light – far from races that die with the seasons.

Autumn. Our ship towering in the motionless fogs turns towards the port of poverty, the enormous city with a sky that’s flecked with fire and mud. Ah! The rotting rags, the bread soaked with rain, the drunkenness, the thousand loves that have crucified me! She’ll never have done then, this ghoulish queen of millions of souls and corpses who will be judged! I see my skin ravaged again by mud and pestilence, worms filling my hair and my armpits, and bigger worms in my heart, stretched out among ageless unknowns, without feeling…I might have died there…Horrible imagining! I detest poverty.

And I fear winter because it’s the season of comfort!

- Sometimes I see limitless beaches in the sky covered by white nations full of joy. A great golden vessel, above me, waves its multicoloured flags in the morning breeze. I’ve created all the feasts, all the triumphs, all the dramas. I’ve tried to invent new flowers, new stars, new flesh, new languages. I believed I’d gained supernatural powers. Ah well! I must bury my imagination and my memories! Sweet glory as an artist and story-teller swept away!

- I! I who called myself magus or angel, exempt from all morality, I’m returned to the soil, with a task to pursue, and wrinkled reality to embrace! A peasant!

Am I wrong? Is pity the sister of death, to me?

Well, I shall ask forgiveness for nourishing myself with lies. Let’s go.

But no friendly hand! And where to find help?

 

 

                                            *

 

Yes, the present hour is very severe at least.

Since I can say the victory is won: the gnashing of teeth, the hissing of flames, the pestilential sighs are fading. All the foul memories are vanishing. My last regrets flee. – my envy of beggars, brigands, friends of Death, all sorts of backward ones. – Damned ones, if I revenged myself!

It’s necessary to be absolutely modern.

No hymns: hold the yard gained. Hard night! The dried blood smokes on my face, and I’ve nothing at my back but that horrible stunted tree!…Spiritual combat is as brutal as the warfare of men: but the vision of justice is God’s delight alone.

Still, now is the eve. Let us receive every influx of strength and true tenderness. And at dawn, armed with an ardent patience, we’ll enter into the splendid cities.

What did I say about a friendly hand? One real advantage, is that I can smile at old false loves, and blast those lying couples with shame - I’ve seen the hell of women down there: - and it will be granted me to possess truth in a soul and a body.

                                                                      April-August, 1873


Extract from the ‘Voyant’ Letter

       (Lettre à Paul Demeny: Charleville, 15 mai 1871)

 

“ Romanticism has never been properly judged. Who could

judge it? The Critics! The Romantics! Who prove so clearly that the singer is so seldom the work, that’s to say the idea sung and intended by the singer.

For I is another. If the brass wakes the trumpet, it’s not its fault. That’s obvious to me: I witness the unfolding of my own thought: I watch it, I hear it: I make a stroke with the bow: the symphony begins in the depths, or springs with a bound onto the stage.

If the old imbeciles hadn’t discovered only the false significance of Self, we wouldn’t have to now sweep away those millions of skeletons which have been piling up the products of their one-eyed intellect since time immemorial, and claiming themselves to be their authors!

In Greece, as I say, verse and lyre took rhythm from Action. Afterwards, music and rhyme are a game, a pastime. The study of this past charms the curious: many delight in reviving these antiquities: - that’s up to them. The universal intelligence has always thrown out its ideas naturally: men gathered a part of these fruits of the mind: they acted them out, they wrote books by means of them: so it progressed, men not working on themselves, either not being awake, or not yet in the fullness of the great dream. Civil-servants - writers: author, creator, poet, that man has never existed!
          The first study for a man who wants to be a poet, is true complete knowledge of himself: he looks for his soul, examines it, tests it, learns it. As soon as he knows it he must develop it! That seems simple: a natural development takes place in every brain: so many egoists proclaim themselves authors: there are plenty of others who attribute their intellectual progress to themselves! - But the soul must be made monstrous: after the fashion of the comprachicos, yes! Imagine a man planting and cultivating warts on his face.

I say that one must be a seer (voyant), make oneself a seer.

The poet makes himself a seer by a long, rational and immense disordering of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering, madness: he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons in himself, to keep only their quintessence. Unspeakable torture, where he needs all his faith, every superhuman strength, during which he becomes the great patient, the great criminal, the great accursed – and the supreme Knower, among men! – Because he arrives at the unknown! Because he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than others! He arrives at the unknown, and when, maddened, he ends up by losing the knowledge of his visions: he has still seen them! Let him die charging among those unutterable, unnameable things: other fearful workers will come: they’ll start from the horizons where the first have fallen!……………

 

I’ll go on:

So the poet is truly the thief of fire, then.

He is responsible for humanity, even for the animals: he must make his inventions smelt, felt, heard: if what he brings back from down there has form, he grants form: if it’s formless he grants formlessness. To find a language – for that matter, all words being ideas, the age of a universal language will come! It is necessary to be an academic – deader than a fossil – to perfect a dictionary of any language at all. The weak-minded thinking about the first letter of the alphabet would soon rush into madness!

This language will be of the soul for the soul, containing everything, scents, sounds, colours, thought attaching to thought and pulling. The poet would define the quantity of the unknown, awakening in the universal soul in his time: he would give more than the formulation of his thought, the measurement of his march towards progress! An enormity become the norm, absorbed by all, he would truly be an enhancer of progress!

This future will be materialistic, you see. – Always filled with Number and Harmony, these poems will be made to last. – At heart, it will be a little like Greek poetry again.

Eternal art will have its function, since poets are citizens. Poetry will no longer take its rhythm from action: it will be ahead of it!

These poets will exist! When woman’s endless servitude is broken, when she lives for and through herself, when man - previously abominable - has granted her freedom, she too will be a poet! Women will discover the unknown! Will her world of ideas differ from ours? – She will discover strange things, unfathomable, repulsive, delicious: we will take them to us, we will understand them.

Meanwhile, let us demand new things from the poets - ideas and forms. All the clever ones will think they can easily satisfy this demand: that’s not so!…..


 

     Index of First Lines

 

She was barely dressed though, 4

Through blue summer evenings, I’ll go down the pathways, 6

You’re not serious when you’re seventeen. 7

You Dead of ninety-two and ninety-three, 9

The pale Man walks through the flowery scene, 10

At centre, the Emperor, blue-yellow, in apotheosis, 11

In winter we’ll travel in a little pink carriage. 12

While the red spittle of the grape-shot 13

I ran off, fists in my ragged seams: 14

For eight days, I’d ripped up my boots. 15

In the brown dining-room, its perfumed air 16

It’s a green hollow where a river sings. 17

And the mother, closing the work-book. 18

When the child’s brow, tormented by red, 21

As I floated down impassive Rivers, 22

A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels. 26

Lord, when the fields are cold, 27

Clear water: stinging like the child’s salt tears, 28

Far from the village girls, cattle, birds, 30

Idle Youth. 32

It’s found you see. 35

O seasons, O chateaux, 37

As soon as the idea of the Flood was finished, a hare halted. 39

That idol without ancestors or court, black-eyed and yellow.. 41

Enough seen. The vision was encountered under all skies. 45

On the right the summer dawn wakes the leaves and mists. 46

I embraced the summer dawn. 47

Long after the days and the seasons, the beings and countries, 48

To my Sister Louise Vanaen de Voringhem: - her blue. 49

“ The flag goes with the foul landscape, and our dialect 50

He is affection and the present because he has built the. 51

I’ve the whitish blue eye of my Gallic ancestors, the narrow.. 53

Human labour! It’s the explosion that lightens my abyss. 62

Autumn already! – But why regret an eternal sun, if we are. 63

“ Romanticism has never been properly judged. Who could. 65