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Arthur Rimbaud ALL POEMS

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Poems traditionally gather the texts Rimbaud wrote from January 1870 to mid-September 1871. He fair-copied the first fifteen ones in October 1870 and gathered them in a collection given to the young poet Paul Demeny (the collection known as of Douai). He then attached to them seven other poems he had written when he was in Belgium, that is to say a whole of 22 poems. In those texts, Rimbaud respects the rhyme, uses the alexandrine and favours the sonnet. They contain reminiscences of his readings and some are even true pastiches of other poets like Alfred de Musset or Victor Hugo.

The poems that he wrote after he run away several times, when back to Charleville, changed of style. It is the beginning of a period of rejection of Family, social order, Religion, and the experience of the poet as a "seer", of which he exposed the theory in a letter to Paul Demeny written in May 15, 1871. One month later, he was sending him another letter, asking him to burn, "like the last will of a dead" all the verse that he was enough stupid to give him during his stay in Douai, because he was judging them outmoded.

In August 1871, Arthur sent a lot of his new poems to Paul Verlaine (The Stolen Heart, Those Who Sit, My Little Lovelies, Paris is Repeopled...), then he wrote the Drunken Boat before his departure to join Verlaine in Paris.

The change of style and his psychological evolution are found in every poems he wrote: he passed from the imitation of Parnassians and Romantic Poets to a "New Literature", by a loss of values and references and found a language which "will be from the soul for the soul, summing up everything, perfumes, sounds, colours".

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[to read the French originals, click French titles -- also check the whole section of POESIE]

Refracting Rimbaud



The room is full of shadow; you vaguely hear
Two children whispering, sadly, softly.
Heavy with sleep, their heads are bowed
Beneath the long white curtain that trembles and rises . . .
—Outside, birds huddle against the cold;
Wings benumbed beneath the sky's gray shade;
And the New Year, trailing mist,
Drags the folds of her snowy train behind her,
Smiling through tears, shivering as she sings . . .


But beneath the fluttering curtain, the little ones
Speak as one does in the dark of night, softly.
Lost in thought, they listen as if to a distant murmur . . .
How they tremble at the clear golden voice
Of the morning bell, its metallic refrain striking
The glass globe again and again . . .
—Then . . . on the floor . . . strewn around their beds
In this frozen room, you notice mourning clothes:
The bitter winter wind wailing at the threshold
Blows its grim breath into the house.
You sense something missing in all of this . . .
—Where is their mother? Where is her triumphant
Maternal stare, her warm absolving smile?
One night, alone, bent over them
She must have forgotten to kindle a fire
From a dying ember, must have forgotten
To tuck blanket and quilt around them
Before leaving, while crying out: forgive me.
She couldn't have known how cold the next morning would be,
Nor how to keep the winter wind behind the door . . .
—This maternal dream is a warm blanket,
A cottony nest where children hide,
Like beautiful birds on swaying branches,
Sleeping a soft sleep brimming with white dreams . . .
—And here, the nest is featherless and cold,
And the little ones are cold, restless, afraid;
A nest frozen solid by bitter winds.


Your heart has understood: these are motherless children.
No mother near! —And father far away . . .
—So an old servant cares for them.
The little ones are all alone in this frozen house;
Four-year-old orphans who slowly
Awaken to a happy memory . . .
Like a rosary, a prayer made bead by bead:
—Oh what a beautiful morning! New Year's Morning!
During the night, each dreamt of his heart's loves,
Strange dreams of dancing toys
Gowned in gold, glittering jewels
Dancing a musical dance, disappearing
Under curtains and appearing again!
The next morning, they rose happily,
Mouths watering, rubbing their eyes . . .
With tousled hair and sparkling eyes
They made their way, brimming with holiday joy,
Little bare feet skimming across the floor,
Until softly tapping at their parents' door . . .
And in they went with nightshirted welcomes . . .
Endless kisses and every joy.



On the blue summer evenings, I shall go down the paths,
Getting pricked by the corn, crushing the short grass:
In a dream I shall feel its coolness on my feet.
I shall let the wind bathe my bare head.

I shall not speak, I shall think about nothing:
But endless love will mount in my soul;
And I shall travel far, very far, like a gipsy,
Through the countryside - as happy as if I were with a woman.

Arthur Rimbaud
March 1870.

As translated by Oliver Bernard: Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (1962)


[Soleil et Chair]


The Sun, the hearth of affection and life,
Pours burning love on the delighted earth,
And when you lie down in the valley, you can smell
How the earth is nubile and very full-blooded;
How its huge breast, heaved up by a soul,
Is, like God, made of love, and, like woman, of flesh,
And that it contains, big with sap and with sunlight,
The vast pullulation of all embryos!

And everything grows, and everything rises!

- O Venus, O Goddess!
I long for the days of antique youth,
Of lascivious satyrs, and animal fauns,
Gods who bit, mad with love, the bark of the boughs,
And among water-lilies kissed the Nymph with fair hair!
I long for the time when the sap of the world,
River water, the rose-coloured blood of green trees
Put into the veins of Pan a whole universe!
When the earth trembled, green,beneath his goat-feet;
When, softly kissing the fair Syrinx, his lips formed
Under heaven the great hymn of love;
When, standing on the plain, he heard round about him
Living Nature answer his call;
When the silent trees cradling the singing bird,
Earth cradling mankind, and the whole blue Ocean,
And all living creatures loved, loved in God!

I long for the time of great Cybele,
Who was said to travel, gigantically lovely,
In a great bronze chariot, through splendid cities;
Her twin breasts poured, through the vast deeps,
The pure streams of infinite life.
Mankind sucked joyfully at her blessed nipple,
Like a small child playing on her knees.
- Because he was strong, Man was gentle and chaste.

Misfortune! Now he says: I understand things,
And goes about with eyes shut and ears closed.
- And again, no more gods! no more gods! Man is King,
Man is God! But the great faith is Love!
Oh! if only man still drew sustenance from your nipple,
Great mother of gods and of men, Cybele;
If only he had not forsaken immortal Astarte
Who long ago, rising in the tremendous brightness
Of blue waters, flower-flesh perfumed by the wave,
Showed her rosy navel, towards which the foam came snowing
And , being a goddess with the great conquering black eyes,
Made the nightingale sing in the woods and love in men's hearts!


I believe! I believe in you! divine mother,
Sea-born Aphrodite! - Oh! the path is bitter
Since the other God harnessed us to his cross;
Flesh, Marble, Flower, Venus, in you I believe!
- yes, Man is sad and ugly, sad under the vast sky.
He possesses clothes, because he is no longer chaste,
Because he has defiled his proud, godlike head
And because he has bent, like an idol in the furnace,
His Olympian form towards base slaveries!
Yes, even after death, in the form of pale skeletons
He wishes to live and insult the original beauty!
- And the Idol in whom you placed such maidenhood,
Woman, in whom you rendered our clay divine,
So that Man might bring light into his poor soul
And slowly ascend, in unbounded love,
From the earthly prison to the beauty of day,
Woman no longer knows even how to be a Courtesan!
- It's a fine farce! and the world snickers
At the sweet and sacred name of great Venus!


If only the times which have come and gone might come again!
- For Man is finished! Man has played all the parts!
In the broad daylight, wearied with breaking idols
He will revive, free of all his gods,
And, since he is of heaven, he will scan the heavens!
The Ideal, that eternal, invincible thought, which is
All; The living god within his fleshly clay,
Will rise, mount, burn beneath his brow!
An when you see him plumbing the whole horizon,
Despising old yokes, and free from all fear,
You will come and give him holy Redemption!
- Resplendent, radiant, from the bosom of the huge seas
You will rise up and give to the vast Universe
Infinite Love with its eternal smile!
The World will vibrate like an immense lyre
In the trembling of an infinite kiss!

- The World thirsts for love: you will come and slake its thirst.


O! Man has raised his free, proud head!
And the sudden blaze of primordial beauty
Makes the god quiver in the altar of the flesh!
Happy in the present good, pale from the ill suffered,
Man wishes to plumb all depths, - and know all things! Thought,
So long a jade, and for so long oppressed,
Springs from his forehead! She will know Why!...
Let her but gallop free, and Man will find Faith!
- Why the blue silence, unfathomable space?
Why the golden stars, teeming like sands?
If one ascended forever, what would one see up there?
Does a sheperd drive this enormous flock
Of worlds on a journey through this horror of space?
And do all these worlds contained in the vast ether,
tremble at the tones of an eternal voice?
- And Man, can he see? can he say: I believe?
Is the langage of thought anymore than a dream?
If man is born so quickly, if life is so short
Whence does he come? Does he sink into the deep Ocean
Of Germs, of Foetuses, of Embryos, to the bottom
of the huge Crucible where Nature the Mother
Will resuscitate him, a living creature,
To love in the rose and to grow in the corn?...

We cannot know! - We are weighed down
With a cloak of ignorance, hemmed in by chimaeras!
Men like apes, dropped from our mothers' wombs,
Our feeble reason hides the infinite from us!
We wish to perceive: - and Doubt punishes us!
Doubt, dismal bird, beat us down with its wing...
- And the horizon rushes away in endless flight!...


The vast heaven is open! the mysteries lie dead
Before erect Man, who folds his strong arms
Among the vast splendour of abundant Nature!
He sings... and the woods sing, the river murmurs
A song full of happiness which rises towards the light!...
- it is Redemption! it is love! it is love!...



O splendour of flesh! O ideal splendour!
O renewal of love, triumphal dawn
When, prostrating the Gods and the Heroes,
White Callipyge and little Eros
Covered with the snow of rose petals, will caress
Women and flowers beneath their lovely outstretched feet!
- O great Ariadne who pour out your tears
On the shore, as you see, out there on the waves,
The sail of Theseus flying white under the sun,
O sweet virgin child whom a night has broken,
Be silent! On his golden chariot studded with black grapes,
Lysios, who has been drawn through Phrygian fields
By lascivious tigers and russet panthers,
Reddens the dark mosses along the blue rivers.
- Zeus, the Bull, cradles on his neck like a child
The nude body of Europa who throws her white arm
Round the God's muscular neck which shivers in the wave.
Slowly he turns his dreamy eye towards her;
She, droops her pale flowerlike cheek
On the brow of Zeus; her eyes are closed; she is dying
In a divine kiss, and the murmuring waters
Strew the flowers of their golden foam on her hair.
- Between the oleander and the gaudy lotus tree
Slips amorously the great dreaming Swan
Enfloding Leda in the whiteness of his wing;
- And while Cypris goes by, strangely beautiful,
And, arching the marvellous curves of her back,
Proudly displays the golden vision of her big breasts
And snowy belly embroidered with black moss,
- Hercules, Tamer of beasts, in his Strength,
Robes his huge body with the lion's skin as with glory
And faces the horizons, his brow terrible and sweet!

Vaguely lit by the summer moon,
Erect, naked, dreaming in her pallor of gold
Streaked by the heavy wave of her long blue hair,
In the shadowy glade whenre stars spring in the moss,
The Dryade gazes up at the silent sky...
- White Selene, timidly, lets her veil float,
Over the feet of beautiful Endymion,
And throws him a kiss in a pale beam...
- The Spring sobs far off in a long ectasy...
Ii is the nymph who dreams with one elbow on her urn,
Of the handsome white stripling her wave has pressed against.
- A soft wind of love has passed in the night,
And in the sacred woods, amid the standing hair of the great trees,
Erect in majesty, the shadowly Marbles,
The Gods, on whose brows the Bullfinch has his nest,
- the Gods listen to Men, and to the infinite World!

Arthur Rimbaud
May 1870

Ophelia by Millais - which seemed to have inspired Rimbaud


On the calm black water where the stars are sleeping
White Ophelia floats like a great lily;
Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils...
- In the far-off woods you can hear them sound the mort.
For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.
For more than a thousand years her sweet madness
Has murmured its ballad to the evening breeze.

The wind kisses her breasts and unfolds in a wreath
Her great veils rising and falling with the waters;
The shivering willows weep on her shoulder,
The rushes lean over her wide, dreaming brow.

The ruffled water-lilies are sighing around her;
At times she rouses, in a slumbering alder,
Some nest from which escapes a small rustle of wings;
- A mysterious anthem falls from the golden stars.

O pale Ophelia! beautiful as snow!
Yes child, you died, carried off by a river!
- It was the winds descending from the great mountains of Norway
That spoke to you in low voices of better freedom.

It was a breath of wind, that, twisting your great hair,
Brought strange rumors to your dreaming mind;
It was your heart listening to the song of Nature
In the groans of the tree and the sighs of the nights;

It was the voice of mad seas, the great roar,
That shattered your child's heart, too human and too soft;
It was a handsome pale knight, a poor madman
Who one April morning sate mute at your knees!

Heaven! Love! Freedom! What a dream, oh poor crazed Girl!
You melted to him as snow does to a fire;
Your great visions strangled your words
- And fearful Infinity terrified your blue eye!


- And the poet says that by starlight
You come seeking, in the night, the flowers that you picked
And that he has seen on the water, lying in her long veils
White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.

Arthur Rimbaud


Bal des Pendus

On the black gallows, one-armed friend,
The paladins are dancing, dancing
The lean, the devil's paladins
The skeletons of Saladins.

Sir Beelzebub pulls by the scruff
His little black puppets who grin at the sky,
And with a backhander in the head like a kick,
Makes them dance, dance, to an old Carol-tune!

And the puppets, shaken about, entwine their thin arms:
Their breasts pierced with light, like black organ-pipes
Which once gentle ladies pressed to their own,
Jostle together protractedly in hideous love-making.

Hurray! the gay dancers, you whose bellies are gone!
You can cut capers on such a long stage!
Hop! never mind whether it's fighting or dancing!
- Beelzebub, maddened, saws on his fiddles!

Oh the hard heels, no one's pumps are wearing out!
And nearly all have taken of their shirts of skin;
The rest is not embarrassing and can be seen without shame.
On each skull the snow places a white hat:

The crow acts as a plume for these cracked brains,
A scrap of flesh clings to each lean chin:
You would say, to see them turning in their dark combats,
They were stiff knights clashing pasteboard armours.

Hurrah! the wind whistles at the skeletons' grand ball!
The black gallows moans like an organ of iron !
The wolves howl back from the violet forests:
And on the horizon the sky is hell-red...

Ho there, shake up those funereal braggarts,
Craftily telling with their great broken fingers
The beads of their loves on their pale vertebrae:
Hey the departed, this is no monastery here!

Oh! but see how from the middle of this Dance of Death
Springs into the red sky a great skeleton, mad,
Carried away by his own impetus, like a rearing horse:
And, feeling the rope tight again round his neck,

Clenches his knuckles on his thighbone with a crack
Uttering cries like mocking laughter,
And then like a mountebank into his booth,
Skips back into the dance to the music of the bones!

On the black gallows, one-armed friend,
The paladins are dancing, dancing
The lean, the devil's paladins
The skeletons of Saladins.

TARTUFE’S PUNISHMENT [Le Châtiment de Tartufe]

Raking, raking his amorous heart under
His chaste black robe, happy, his hand gloved,
One day as he walked along, terribly sweet,
Yellow, drooling piety fromhis toothless mouth,

One day as he walked along, - “Let us pray,” – a Wicked Fellow
Seized him roughly by his blessed ear
And hurled frightful words at him as he tore off
The chaste black robe about his moist skin!

Punishment!... His clothes were unbuttoned,
And the long rosary of pardoned sins
Being said in his heart, Saint Tartufe was pale!...

So, he confessed, and prayed, with a death rattle!
The man was content to carry off his clerical bands…
- Pshaw! Tartufe was naked from top to bottom!

“DEAD OF ’92 …” [Morts de Quatre-vingt-douze]

“Frenchmen of ’70, Bonapartists, Republicans, remember your fathers in ’92, etc….”
~ Paul De Cassagnac (Le pays)

Dead of ’92 and ’93,
Who, pale from the hard kiss of freedom,
Calm, broke, under your clogs, the yoke which weighs
On the soul and the brow of all humanity;

Men exalted and noble in the storm,
You whose hearts leapt with love under your rags,
O soldiers whom Death, lofty Mistress, has sown
In all the old furrows, in order to regenerate them;

You whose blood washed every defiled greatness,
You dead of Valmy, of Fleurs, of Italy,
O million Christs with dark soft eyes;

We let you sleep with the Republic,
We, crouching under kings as under a cudgel:
- The gentlemen Cassagnac are speaking again to us about you!

La Musique

[A la Musique]

On the square which is chopped into mean little plots of grass,
The square where all is just so, both the trees and the flowers,
All the wheezy townsfolk whom the heat chokes bring
Each Thursday evening, their envious silliness.

- The military band, in the middle of the gardens,
Swing their shakos in the Waltz of the Fifes:
Round about, near the front rows, the town dandy struts;
- The notary hangs like a charm from his own watch chain.

Private incomes in pince-nez point out all false notes:
Great counting-house desks, bloated, drag their stout spouses
Close by whom, like bustling elephant keepers,
Walk females whose flounces remind you of sales;

On the green benches, retired grocers' clubs,
Poking the sand with their knobbed walking canes,
Gravely discuss trade agreements,
And then take snuff from silver boxes, and resume: "In short!..."

Spreading over his bench all the fat of his rump,
A pale-buttoned burgher, a Flemish corporation,
Savours his Onnaing, whence shreds of tobacco hang loose
You realize, it's smuggled, of course; -

Along the grass borders yobs laugh in derision;
And, melting to love at the sound of trombones,
Very simple, and sucking at roses, the little foot-soldiers
Fondle the babies to get round their nurses...

- As for me, I follow, dishevelled like a student,
Under the green chestnuts, the lively young girls:
Which they know very well, and they turn to me,
Laughing, eyes which are full of indiscreet things.

I don't say a word: I just keep on looking at
The skin of their white necks embroidered with stray locks:
I go hunting, beneath bodices and thin attire,
The divine back below the curve of the shoulders.

Soon I've discovered the boot and the stocking...
- I re-create their bodies, burning with fine fevers.
They find me absurd, and talk together in low voices...
- And my savage desires fasten on to their lips...

VENUS ANADYOMENE [Vénus Anadyomène]

As from a green zinc coffin, a woman’s
Head with brown hair heavily pomaded
Emerges slowly and stupidly from an old bathtub,
With bald patches rather badly hidden;

Then the fat gray neck, broad shoulder-blades
Sticking out; a short back which curves in and bulges;
Then the roundness of the buttocks seems to take off;
The fat under the skin appears in slabs:

The spine is a bit red; and the whole thing has a smell
Strangely horrible; you notice especially
Odd details you’d have to see with a magnifying glass…

The buttocks bear two engraved words: CLARA VENUS;
- And that whole body moves and extends its broad rump
Hideously beautiful with an ulcer on the anus.

(trans. W. Fowlie)


[Première Soirée]

- She was very much half-dressed
And big indiscreet trees
Threw out their leaves against the pane
Cunningly, and close, quite close.

Sitting half naked in my big chair,
She clasped her hands.
Her small and so delicate feet
Trembled with pleasure on the floor.

- The colour of wax, I watched
A little wild ray of light
Flutter on her smiling lips
And on her breast, - an insect on the rose-bush.

- I kissed her delicate ankles.
She laughed softly and suddenly
A string of clear trills,
A lovely laugh of crystal.

The small feet fled beneath
Her petticoat: "Stop it, do!"
- The first act of daring permitted,
Her laugh pretended to punish me!

- Softly I kissed her eyes,
Trembling beneath my lips, poor things:
- She threw back her fragile head
"Oh! come now that's going too far!...

Listen, Sir, I have something to say to you..."
- I transferred the rest to her breast
In a kiss which made her laugh
With a kind laugh that was willing...

- She was very much half-dressed
And big indiscreet trees threw
Out their leaves against the pane
Cunningly, and close, quite close.


[Les Reparties de Nina]


HE - Your breast on my breast,
Eh? We could go,
With our nostrils full of air,
Into the cool light

Of the blue good morning that bathes you
In the wine of daylight?...
When the whole shivering wood bleeds,
Dumb with love

From every branch green drops,
Pale buds,
You can feel in things unclosing
The quivering flesh:

You would bury in the lucerne
Your white gown,
Changing to rose-colour in the fresh air the blue tint which encircles
Your great black eyes,

In love with the country,
Scattering everywhere,
Like champagne bubbles,
Your crazy laughter:

Laughing at me, suddenly, drunkenly -
I should catch you
Like this - lovely hair, ah! -
I should drink in

Your taste of raspberry and strawberry,
Oh flower-flesh!
Laughing at the fresh wind kissing you
Like a thief,

At the wild rose, teasing you
Laughing more than anything, oh madcap,
At your lover!...

Seventeen! You'll be so happy!
Oh! the big meadows
The wide loving countryside!
- Listen, come closer!...

- Your breast on my breast,
Mingling our voices,
Slowly we'd reach the stream,
Then the great woods!...

Then, like a little ghost,
Your heart fainting,
You'd tell me to carry you,
Your eyes half closed...

I'd carry your quivering body
Along the path:
The bird would sping out his andante:
Hard by the hazeltree...

I'd speak into your mouth;
And go on, pressing
Your body like a little girl's I was putting to bed,
Drunk with the blood

That runs blue under your white skin
With its tints of rose:
And speaking to you in that frank tongue...
There!... - that you understand...

Our great woods would smell of sap,
And the sunlight
Would dust with fine gold their great
Green and bronze dream.


In the evening?... We'd take the white road
Which meanders,
Like a grazing herd,
All over the place

Oh the pleasant orchards with blue grass,
And twisted apple trees!
How you can smell a whole league
Off their strong perfume!

We'd get back to the village
When the sky was half dark;
And there'd be a smell of milking
In the evening air;

It would smell of the cowshed, full
Of warm manure,
Filled with the slow rythm of breathing,
And with great backs

Gleaming under some light or other;
And, right down at the far end,
There'd be a cow dunging proudly
At every step...

- Grandmother's spectacles
And her long nose
Deep in her missal; the jug of beer
Circled with pewter

Foaming among the big-bowled pipes
Gallantly smoking:
And the frightfull blubber lips
Which, still puffing,

Snatch ham from forks:
So much, and more:
The fire lighting up the bunks
And the cupboards.

The shining fat buttocks
Of the fat baby
On his hands and knees, who nuzzles into the cups,
His white snout

Tickled by a gently
Growling muzzle,
That licks all over the round face
Of the little darling...

[Black and haughty on her chair's edge,
A terrifying profile,
And old woman in front of the embers,

What sights we shall see, dearest,
In those hovels,
When the bright fire lights up
The grey window panes!...

- And then, small and nestling
Inside the cool
Dark lilacs: the hidden window
Smiling in there...

You'll come, you will come, I love you so!
It will be lovely.
You will come, won't you? and even...

ELLE: - And what about my office?

Arthur Rimbaud

*Suppressed in the version given to Demeny.


Black in the snow and fog,
at the great lighted airshaft, their bums rounded,
on their knees, five little ones - what anguish! -
watch the baker making the heavy white bread.

They see the strong white arm that shapes
the grey dough and sets it to bake in a bright hole.
They listen to the good bread cooking.
The Baker with his fat smile hums an old tune.
They are huddled together, not one of them moves,
in the waft of air from the red vent, warm as a breakfast.

And when, for some midnight breakfast,
plaited like a brioche, the bread is taken out;
When, under the smoky beams, the fragrant crusts hiss,
and the crickets sing; how this warm hole breathes life!

Their souls are so ravished under their rags,
They feel life so strong in them, poor frozen Jesuses,
that they all stay, sticking their little pink snouts
against the wire netting, grunting things through the holes,
quite stupid, saying their prayers, and bending down
towards those lights of opened heaven so hard,
they split their trousers, and their shirt tails flutter in the winter wind.

[20 September 70]




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 odours of vines, and odours 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...

Sept. 29, 1870

EVIL [Le mal]

While the red spit of grapeshot
Whistles all day through the endlessness of the blue sky;
While scarlet or green, near the King who mocks them,
Whole battalions collapse in the fire;

While a terrible madness, crushes
And makes of a hundred thousand men a smoking heap;
- Poor dead men! In summer, in the grass, in your joy,
Nature! O you who made these men holy!... -

- There is a God, who laughs at the damask cloths
Of the altars, at the incense, at the great golden chalices;
Who falls asleep in the lullaby of Hosannas,

And wakes up, when mothers, joined
In anguish, and weeping under their old back bonnets,
Give him a penny tied up in their handkerchiefs!

(trans. W. Fowlie)

CAESARS’ RAGES [Rages de Césars]

The pale Man, along the flowering lawns,
Walks, in a black coat, a cigar between his teeth:
The pale Man thinks back on the flowers of the Tuileries
- And at times his dull eye has burning glances…

For the Emperor is drunk on his twenty years’ orgy!
He had said to himself: “I will blow out Liberty
Very softly, like a candle!”
Liberty lives again! He feels his back is broken!

He is caught: - Oh! what name trembles
On his mute lips? What implacable remorse plagues him?
We will never know. The Emperor’s eye is dead.

He is perhaps thinking of his Accomplice in spectacles…
- And watches rising from his burning cigar,
As in the evening at St Cloud, thin blue smoke.

(trans. W. Fowlie)

To xxx Her.


[Rêvé pour l'Hiver]

In the winter, we shall travel in a little pink railway carriage
With blue cushions.
We shall be comfortable. A nest of mad kisses lies in wait
In each soft corner.

You will close your eyes, so as not to see, through the glass,
The evening shadows pulling faces.
Those snarling monsters, a population
Of black devils and black wolves.

Then you'll feel your cheek scratched...
A little kiss, like a crazy spider,
Will run round your neck...

And you'll say to me : "Find it !" bending your head
- And we'll take a long time to find that creature
- Which travels a lot...

Arthur Rimbaud

In a railway carriage, October 7, 1870

- The title should be translated as "Dreamed For Winter"


[Le Dormeur du Val]

It is a green hollow where a stream gurgles,
Crazily catching silver rags of itself on the grasses;
Where the sun shines from the proud mountain:
It is a little valley bubbling over with light.

A young soldier, open-mouthed, bare-headed,
With the nape of his neck bathed in cool blue cresses,
Sleeps; he is stretched out on the grass, under the sky,
Pale on his green bed where the light falls like rain.

His feet in the yellow flags, he lies sleeping. Smiling as
A sick child might smile, he is having a nap:
Cradle him warmly, Nature: he is cold.

No odour makes his nostrils quiver;
He sleeps in the sun, his hand on his breast
At peace. There are two red holes in his right side.

Arthur Rimbaud

October 1870


[Au Cabaret-Vert, cinq heures du soir]

For a whole week I had ripped up my boots
On the stones of the roads. I walked into Charleroi;
Into the Green Inn: I asked for some slices
Of bread and butter, and some half-cooled ham.

Happy, I stuck out my legs under the green
table: I studied the artless patterns of the
Wallpaper - and it was charming when the girl
With the huge breasts and lively eyes,

- A kiss wouldn't scare that one! -
Smilingly brought me some bread and butter
And lukewarm ham, on a coloured plate; -

Pink and white ham, scented with a clove of garlic -
And filled my huge beer mug, whose froth was turned
Into gold by a ray of late sunshine.

Arthur Rimbaud

October 1870

THE SLY GIRL [La maline]

In the brown dining room, perfumed
With an odor of varnish, and fruit, leisurely
I gathered up some Belgian dish
Or other, and spread out in my huge chair.

While I ate, I listened to the clock – happy and quiet.
The kitchen door opened with a gust
- And a servant girl came, I don’t know why,
Her neckerchief loose, her hair coyly dressed

And as she passed her small trembling finger
Over her cheek, a pink and white peach velvet skin,
And pouted with her childish mouth,

She arranged the plates, near me, to put me at ease;
- Then, just like that – to get a kiss, naturally -
Said softly: “Feel there: I’ve caught a cold on my cheek…”

(trans. W. Fowlie)

THE DAZZLING VICTORY OF SARREBRUCK [L’éclatante victorie de Sarrebruck]

Won to shouts of Long Live the Emperor!
(Belgian print, brilliantly colored, on sale in Charleroi, 35 centimes.)

In the center, the Emperor, in a blue and yellow
Apotheosis, goes off, stiff, on his flamboyant
Horsie; very happy, - for he sees everything rose-tinted,
Ferocious as Zeus and mild as papa;

Below, the good soldiers who were napping
Near the gilded drums and red cannon,
Get up politely. Pitou puts his jacket back on,
And turning toward the Leader, gets drunk on great names!

On the right, Dumanet, leaning on his Chassepot
Rifle, feels his hair stand up on the nape of his neck,
And: “Long Live the Emperor!!” – His neighbor stays quiet…

A shako rises up, like a black sun… - In the center,
Boquillon, red and blue, very naïve, on his stomach
Pushes up, and, presenting his backside, asks: “On what?”

(trans. W. Fowlie)

THE CUPBOARD [Le buffet]

It is a wide carved cupboard; the dark oak,
Very old, has taken on the pleasant quality of old people;
The cupboard is open, and gives off in its shadow
Delightful odors like a draught of old wine;

Crammed full, it is a jumble of strange old things,
Of sweet-smelling yellow linen, bits of clothing
Of women or children, of faded laces,
Of grandmother kerchiefs embroidered with griffins;

- There you would find medallions, locks
Of white or blond hair, portraits, dried flowers
Whose smell mingles with the smell of fruit.

- O cupboard of old times, you know many stories,
And you would like to tell your stories, and you murmur
When your big black doors slowly open.

(trans. W. Fowlie)


[Ma Bohème]

I went off with my hands in my torn coat pockets;
My overcoat too was becoming ideal;
I travelled beneath the sky, Muse! and I was your vassal;
Oh dear me! what marvellous loves I dreamed of!

My only pair of breeches had a big whole in them.
– Stargazing Tom Thumb, I sowed rhymes along my way.
My tavern was at the Sign of the Great Bear.
– My stars in the sky rustled softly.

And I listened to them, sitting on the road-sides
On those pleasant September evenings while I felt drops
Of dew on my forehead like vigorous wine;

And while, rhyming among the fantastical shadows,
I plucked like the strings of a lyre the elastics
Of my tattered boots, one foot close to my heart!

THE CROWS [Les corbeaux]

Lord, when the meadow is cold,
When, in the discouraged hamlets,
The long Angeluses are silenced…
Over nature stripped of flowers
Have the dear delightful crows
Swoop down from great skies.

Strange army with solemn cries,
The cold winds assail your nests!
You – along yellowed rivers,
Over roads with old calvaries,
Over ditches and over holes -
Disperse and rally!

By thousands, over the fields of France,
Where sleep the dead of yesterday,
Turn about in the winter, won’t you,
So that each passer-by may remember!
Be the crier of duty,
O our funereal black bird!

But, saints of the sky, at the top of the oak,
A mast lost in the enchanted evening,
Leave alone the May warblers
For those who, in the depths of the wood,
In the grass from which there is no escape,
Are enslaved by a defeat without a future.

(trans. W. Fowlie)


[Les Assis]

Dark with knobbed growths, peppered with pock-marks like hail, their eyes ringed with
Green, warty fingers clenched on their thigh-bones
Their skulls stained with indeterminate blotches
Like the leprous discolorations of ancient walls;

In amorous seizures they have grafted
Their weird bone structures to the great dark skeletons
Of their chairs; their feet are entwined
Morning and evening, on the rickety rails!

These old men have always been one flesh with their seats,
Feeling bright suns drying their skins to the texture of calico,
Or else, looking at the window-panes where the snow is turning grey,
Shivering with the painful shiver of the toad.

And their Seats are kind to them; coloured
Brown with age, the straw yields to the angularities of their buttocks;
The spirit of ancient suns glows, bound
In these braids of ears in which the corn fermented.

And the Seated Ones, knees drawn up to their teeth, green pianists
Whose ten fingers keep drumming under their seats,
Listen to the tapping of each other's melancholy barcarolles,
And their heads nod back and forth as in the act of love.

- Oh don't make them get up! It's a catastrophe ...
They rear up like growling tom-cats when struck,
Slowly spreading their shoulders... What rage!
Their trousers puff out at their swelling backsides.

And you listen to them as they bump their bald heads
Against the dark walls, stamping and stamping with their crooked feet,
And their coat-buttons are the eyes of wild beasts
Which fix yours from the end of the corridors!

And then they have an invisible weapon which can kill:
Returning, their eyes seep the black poison
With which the beaten bitch's eye is charged
And you sweat trapped in the horrible funnel.

Reseated, their fists retreating into soiled cuffs
They think about those who have made them get up
And, from dawn until dusk, their tonsils in bunches
Tremble under their meagre chins, fir to burst.

When austere slumbers have lowered their lids
They dream on their arms of seats become fertile,
Of perfect little loves of open-work chairs
Surrounding dignified desks.

Flowers of ink dropping pollen like commas
Lull them asleep, in their rows of squat flower-cups
Like dragonflies threading their flight along the flags
- And their membra virilia are aroused by barbed ears of wheat.


[Tête de Faune]

Among the foliage, green casket flecked with gold,
In the uncertain foliage that blossoms
With gorgeous flowers where sleeps the kiss,
Vivid and bursting through the sumptuous tapestry,

A startled faun shows his two eyes
And bites the crimson flowers with his white teeth.
Stained and ensanguined like mellow wine
His mouth bursts out in laughter beneath the branches.

And when he has fled - like a squirrel -
His laughter still vibrates on every leaf
And you can see, startled by a bullfinch
The Golden Kiss of the Wood, gathering itself together again.

THE CUSTOMS MEN [Les douaniers]

Those who say: In God’s Name, those who say not on your life,
Soldiers, sailors, wrecks of the Empire, men pensioned
Are nothing, really nothing, compared with Soldiers of Treaties
Who slash the frontier azure with heavy blows of the axe

A pipe between their teeth, a blade in their hand, deep, not upset
When darkness drools in the woods like a cow’s muzzle
They go off, taking their dogs on the leash,
To hold every night their terrible revels!

They report the female fauns to our modern laws
They seize our Fausts and our Devils
“Stop that, you old men! Put down the bundles!”

When his highness approaches young men,
The Custom Man is intent on dutiable attractions!
Hell for the Offenders his palm has frisked!

(trans. W. Fowlie)

EVENING PRAYER [Oraison du soir]

I live seated, like an angel in the hands of a barber,
In my fist a strongly fluted mug,
My stomach and neck curved, a Gambier pipe
In my teeth, under the air swollen with impalpable veils of smoke.

Like the warm excrement of an old pigeonhouse,
A Thousand Dreams gently burn inside me:
And at moments my sad heart is like sap-wood
Which the young dark gold of its sweating covers with blood.

Then, when I have carefully swallowed my dreams,
I turn, having drunk thirty or forty mugs,
And collect myself, to relieve the bitter need:

Sweetly as the Lord of the cedar and of hyssops,
I piss toward the dark skies very high and very far,
With the consent of the large heliotropes.

(trans. W. Fowlie)


[Chant de guerre parisien]

Spring is evidently here; for
The ascent of Thiers and Picard
From the green Estates lays
Its splendours wide open!

~ ~ ~

O May! What delirious bare bums!
O Sèvres Meudon, Bagneux, Asnières,
Listen now to the welcome arrivals
Scattering springtime joys!

~ ~ ~

They have shakos, and sabers, and tom-toms,
And none of the old candleboxes;
And skiffs which have nev... nev...
Are cutting the lake of bloodstained waters!

~ ~ ~

More than ever before, we roister,
As on to our ant-heaps come
Tumbling the yellow heads,
On these extraordinary dawns:

~ ~ ~

Thiers and Picard are Cupids;
And beheaders of sunflowers too;
They paint Corots with insecticide:
Look how their tropes de-cockchafer the trees...

~ ~ ~

They're familiars of the Great What's-his-name!...
And Favre, lying among the irisis,
Blinks and weeps crocodile tears,
And sniffs his peppery sniff!

~ ~ ~

The Big City has hot cobblestones,
In spite of your showers of paraffin;
And decidedly we shall have
To liven you up in your parts...

~ ~ ~

And the Rustics who take their ease
In long squattings,
Will hear boughs breaking
Among the red rustlings.

- Text of the letter to Paul Demeny, May 15, 1871.


[Mes Petites Amoureuses]

A tincture of tears washes
The cabbage-green skies:
Beneath the dripping tree with tender shoots,
Your waterproofs

Whitened by peculiar moons
With round staring eyes,
Knock your kneecaps together,
My ugly ones!

We loved each other in those days,
Blue ugly one!
We used to eat boiled eggs
And chickweed!

One evening you anointed me poet,
Blond ugly one:
Come down here, let me smack you
Across my knees;

I have puked up your brillantine,
Black ugly one;
You would stop the sound of my mandolin
Before it was out of my head.

Ugh! My dried spittle,
Red-headed ugly one,
Still infects the wrinckles
Of your round breast!

O my little Mistresses,
How I hate you!
Plaster with painful blisters
Your ugly bosoms!

Trample upon my little pots
Of feelings;
Now then jump! Be ballerinas for me
Just for a moment!

Your shoulder-blades are out of joint,
O my loves!
With a star on your hobbling backs
Turn in your turns!

And yet after all, it's for these shoulders of mutton
That I've made rhymes!
I'd like to break your hips
For having loved!

Insipid heap of fallen stars,
Pile up in the corners!
- You'll be extinguished in God, saddled
With ignoble cares!

Whitened by peculiar moons,
With round staring eyes,
Knock your kneecaps together,
My ugly ones!


- Text of the letter to Paul Demeny, May 15, 1871.



Very late, when he feels his stomach churn,
Brother Milotus, one eye on the skylight
Whence the sun, bright as a scoured stewpan,
Darts a megrim at him and dizzies his sight,
Moves his priest's belly under the sheets.

He struggles beneath the grey blanket
And gets out, his knees to his trebling belly,
Flustered like an old man who has swallowed a pinch of snuff,
Because he has to tuck up his nightshirt in armfuls round his waist
With one hand grasping the handle of a white chamberpot!

Now he is squatting, chilly, his toes curled up,
His teeth chattering in the bright sunshine
Which daubs the yellow of cake upon the paper panes;
And the old fellow's nose, its crimson catching fire,
Snuffles in the rays like a polypary of flesh.


The old fellow simmers at the fire, his arms twisted, his blubber lips
On his belly: he feels his thighs slipping into the fire,
And his breeches scorching, and his pipe going out;
Something resembling a bird stirs a little
In his serene belly which is like a mountain of tripe!

Round about him sleeps a jumble of stunned furniture
Among tatters of filth, lying on soiled bellies;
Stools cower like weird toads in dark corners:
Cupboards have maws like choirmasters,
Yawning with a sleepiness which is full of revolting appetites.

The sickening heat stuffs the narrow room;
The old fellow's head is crammed with rags:
He listens to the hairs growing in his moist skin,
And sometimes, with deep and clownish hiccoughs,
Moves away, shaking his rickety stool..


And in the evening, in rays of moonlight which leaves
Dribbles of light on the contours of his buttocks,
A shadow with details squats against a background
Of snow-coloured pink like a hollyhock...
Fantastic, a nose follows Venus in the deep sky.

- Text of the letter to Paul Demeny, May 15, 1871.


And so the Mother, shutting up the duty book,
Went, proud and satisfied. She did not see the look
In the blue eyes, or how with secret loathing wild,
Beneath the prominent brow, a soul raged in her child.
All the day long he sweated with obedient zeal;
a clever boy; and yet appearing to reveal,
By various dark kinks, a sour hypocrisy.
In corridors bedecked with musty tapestry
He wouls stick out his tongue, clenching hid two fists tight
Against his groin, and with closed eyes see specks of light.
a door stood open on the evening; when, aloof,
Under a gulf og brightness hanging from the roof,
High on the banisters they saw him crowing.
In summer, cowed and stupid, he'd insist on going
Off to the cool latrines, for that was where he chose
to sit in peace and think, breathing deep through his nose.

In winter-time, when, washed by all the smells of noon,
The garden plot behind the house shone in the moon;
Lying beneath a wall, in lumpy earth concealed
And straining long for visions, till his eyesight reeled,
He listened to the creak of mangy trellises.
Soft heart! He chose out as his sole accomplices
Those wretched, blank-browed children, of slurred eye and cheek
And grubby, thin, sick fingers plunged in the clothes that reek
Of excrement: already old, whose conversation
Is held with gentle, imbecilic hesitation.
And if his mother, catching him at some foul act
Of pity, showed alarm, the child must face the fact
That to his earnest, tender mind brought grave surprise:
That's how it was. She had the blue-eyed stare-- which lies!

at seven years he wrote romance about lives
In the great desert, where an exiled Freedom thrives,
Savannahs, forests, shores and suns! He had some aid
From illustrated magazines, whose gay parade
Of Spanish and Italian ladies made him blush.
When, brown-eyed, bold, in printed cotton, in would rush
The eight-year daughter of the working-folk next door,
And when the little savage down upon him bore,
Cornered him, leaping on his back, and tossed her hair,
He from beneath would bite her thighs, for they were bare
--She never put on drawers. Then, though she grapped fast,
Pounding with fists and heels, he'd shake her off at last
And bring the odours of her skin back to his room.

He feared December Sundays, with their pallid gloom,
When with pomaded hair, from a mahogany ledge
e read a Bible with gold, green-tarnished edge.
Dreams pressed upon him in the alcove every night.
Not God he loved, but men whom by the sallow light
Of evening he would see return, begrimed and bloused,
To suburbs where the crier's triple roll aroused
A jostling crowd to laugh and scold at the decrees.
He dreamed of the rapt prairie, where long brilliances
Like waves and wholesome scents and golden spurts of force
Persist in their calm stir and take their airy course.

And, as he relished most all things of sombre hue,
He'd sit in the bare, shuttered chamber, high and blue,
Gripped in an acrid, piercing dampness, and would read
The novel that was always running in his head
Of heavy, ochre skies and forests under floods
--Then vertigo, collapse, confusion, ruin, woe!--
While noises of the neighborhood rose from below,
He'd brood alone, stretched out upon a canvas,
prophesying strongly of the sail!...

(trans. N. Cameron)


Penned between oaken pews,
in corners of the church which their breath stinkingly warms,
all their eyes on the chancel dripping with gold,
and the choir with its twenty pairs of jaws bawling pious hymns;

Sniffing the odour of wax if it were the odour of bread,
happy, ad humbled like beaten dogs,
the Poor offer up to God, the Lord and Master,
their ridiculous stubborn oremuses.

For the women it is very pleasant to wear the benches smooth;
after the six black days on which God has made them suffer.
They nurse, swaddled in strange-looking shawls,
creatures like children who weep as if they would die.

Their unwashed breasts hanging out, these eaters of soup,
with a prayer in their eyes, but never praying,
watch a group of hoydens wickedly
showing off with hats all out of shape.

Outside is the cold, and hunger - and a man on the booze.
All right. There's another hour to go; afterwards, nameless ills! -
Meanwhile all around an assortment of old
dewlapped women whimpers, snuffles, and whispers:

These are distracted persons and the epileptics from whom,
yesterday, you turned away at street crossings;
there too are the blind who are led by a dog into courtyards,
poring their noses into old-fashioned missals. -

And all of them, dribbling a stupid groveling faith,
recite their unending complaint to Jesus who is dreaming up there,
yellow from the livid stained glass window,
far above thin rascals and wicked potbellies,
far from the smell of meat and mouldy fabric,
and the exhausted somber farce of repulsive gestures -
and as the prayer flowers in choice expressions,
and the mysteries take on more emphatic tones, from the aisles,
where the sun is dying, trite folds of silk and green smiles,
the ladies of the better quarters of the town - oh Jesus! -
the sufferers from complaints of the liver,
make their long yellow fingers kiss the holy water in the stoups.



[Le Coeur Volé]

My poor heart dribbles at the stern
My heart covered with caporal
They squirt upon it jets of soup
My poor heart dribbles at the stern
Under the gibes of the whole crew
Which burst out in a single laugh,
My poor heart dribbles at the stern
My heart covered with caporal.

Ithypallic, erkish, lewd,
Their gibes have corrupted it.
In the wheelhouse you can see graffiti*
Ithypallic, erkish, lewd.
O abracadantic waves
Take my heart that it may be cleansed!
Ithypallic, erkish, lewd,
Their gibes have corrupted it.

When they have finished chewing their quids
What shall we do, o cheated heart?
It will be bacchic hiccups then
When they have finished chewing their quids
I shall have stomach heavings then
I can swallow down my heart:
When they have finished chewing their quids
What shall we do, o cheated heart?

May 1871.

- *Frescos in the original text.
- Text of the copy of Verlaine.
- 2 later different versions exist: in the letter to Izambard, May 13, 1871 and in the letter to Demeny, June 10, 1871 (respectively "The Tortured Heart" and "The Heart of the Clown")


[L'Orgie Parisienne ou Paris se repeuple]

O cowards, there she is! Pile out into the stations!
The sun with its fiery lungs blew clear
The boulevards that one evening the Barbarians filled.
Here is the holy City, seated in the West!

Come! we'll stave off the return of the fires,
Here are the quays, here are the boulevards, here
Are the houses against the pale,
Radiant blue-starred, one evening, by the red flashes of bombs!

Hide the dead palaces with forests of planks!
Affrighted, the dying daylight freshens your looks.
Look at the red-headed troop of the wrigglers of hips:
Be mad, you'll be comical, being haggard!

Pack of bitches on heat, eating poultices,
The cry from the houses of gold calls you. Plunder!
Eat! See the night of joy and deep twitchings
Coming down on the street. O desolate drinkers,

Drink! When the light comes, intense and crazed,
To ransack round you the rustling luxuries,
You're not going to dribble into your glasses,
Without motion or sound, with your eyes lost in white distances?

Knock it back, to the Queen whose buttocks cascade in folds!
Listen to the working of stupid tearing hiccups!
Listen to them leaping in the fiery night
The panting idiots, the aged, the nonentities, the lackeys!

O hearts of filth, appalling mouths,
Work harder, mouths of foul stenches!
Wine for these ignoble torpors, at these tables...
Your bellies are melting with shame, O Conquerors!

Open your nostrils to these superb nauseas!
Steep the tendons of your necks in strong poisons!
Laying his crossed hands on the napes of your childish necks
The Poet says to you: "O cowards! be mad!

Because you are ransacking the guts of Woman,
You fear another convulsion from her,
Crying out, and stifling your infamous perching
On her breast with a horrible pressure.

Syphilitics, madmen, kings, puppets, ventriloquists,
What can you matter to Paris the whore,
Your souls or your bodies, your poisons or your rags?
She'll shake you off, you pox-rotten snarlers!

And when you are down, whimpering on your bellies,
Your sides wrung, clamouring for your money back, distracted,
The red harlot with her breasts swelling with battles
Will clench her hard fists, far removed from your stupor!

When your feet, Paris, danced so hard in anger!
When you had so many knife wounds;
When you lay helpless, still retaining in your clear eyes
A little of the goodness of the tawny spring,

O city in pain, O city almost dead,
With your face and your two breasts pointing towards the Future
Which opens to your pallor its thousand million gates,
City whom the dark Past could bless:

Body galvanized back to life to suffer tremendous pains,
You are drinking in dreadful life once more! You feel
The ghastly pale worms flooding back in your veins,
And the icy fingers prowling on your unclouded love!

And it does you no harm. The worms, the pale worms,
Will obstruct your breath of Progress no more
Than the Stryx could extinguish the eyes of the Caryatides
From whose blue sills fell tears of sidereal gold."

although it is frightful to see you again covered in this fashion;
although no city was ever made into a more foul-smelling
Ulcer on the face of green Nature,
The Poet says to you:"Your Beauty is Marvellous!"

The tempest sealed you in supreme poetry;
The huge stirring of strength comes to your aid;
Your work comes to the boil, death groans, O chosen City!
Hoard in your heart the stridors of the ominous trumpet.

The Poet will take the sobs of the Infamous,
The hate of the Galley slaves, the clamour of the Damned;
And the beams of his love will scourge Womankind.
His verses will leap out: There's for you! There! Villains!

- Society, and everything, is restored: - the orgies
Are weeping with dry sobs in the old brothels:
And on the reddened walls, the gaslights in frenzy,
Flare balefully upwards to the wan blue skies!

[May 1871]


Jeanne-Marie has strong hands; dark hands tanned by the summer,
pale hands like dead hands. Are they the hands of Donna Juana?
Did they get their dusky cream colour
sailing on pools of sensual pleasure?

Have they dipped into moons, in ponds of serenity?
Have they drunk heat from barbarous skies, calm upon enchanting knees?
Have they rolled cigars, or traded in diamonds?
Have they tossed golden flowers at the glowing feet of Madonnas?

It is the black blood of belladonnas that blazes and sleeps in their palms.
Hands which drive the diptera with which
the auroral bluenesses buzz, towards the nectars?
Hands which measure out poisons?

Oh what Dream has stiffened them in pandiculations?
Some extraordinary dream of the Asias, of Khenghavars or Zions?
These hands have neither sold oranges
nor become sunburnt at the feet of the gods:
these hands have never washed the napkins of heavy babies without eyes.

These are not the hands of a tart,
nor of working women with round foreheads burnt
by a sun which is drunk with the smell of tar,
in woods that sink of factories.

These are benders of backbones; hands that never work harm;
more inevitable than machines, stronger than carthorses!
Stirring like furnaces, shaking off all their chills of fear,
their flesh sings Marseillaises, and never Eleisons!

They could grasp your necks, O evil women;
they could pulverize your hands, noblewomen;
your infamous hands full of white and of carmine.
The splendour of these hands of love turns the heads of the lambs!

On their spicy fingers the great sun sets a ruby!
A dark stain of the common people makes then brown
like the nipples of the women of yesterday,
but it is the backs of these Hands which every
proud Rebel desires to kiss! Marvelous,
they have paled in the great sunshine full of love of the cause
on the bronze casing of machine-guns throughout insurgent Paris!

Ah, sometimes, O blessed Hands, at your wrists,
Hands where our never-sobered lips tremble,
cries out a chain of bright links!
And there's a strange and sudden

Start in our beings when,
sometimes, they try, angelic Hands,
to make your sunburn fade away
by making your fingers bleed!


The young man whose eyes is bright, whose skin is brown;
the handsome twenty-year-old body which should go naked,
and which, its brow circled with copper, under the moon,
would have been worshipped in Persia by an unknown Genie;
impetuous, with a softness both virginal and dark,
proud of his first obstinacies,
like the young seas, tears of summer nights,
turning on beds of diamonds;
The young man face with the ugliness of this world,
shudders in his heart, generously provoked;
and filled with the deep unhealing wound,
begin to desire his sister of charity.
But O Woman, heap of bowels, sweet compassion,
you never are the sister of charity,
never: neither your dark look,
nor your belly where sleeps a russet shadow,
nor your light fingers, nor splendidly shaped breasts.
Blind one, unawakened, with enormous rises,
the whole of our union is only a questioning;
it is you who hang on us,
O bearer of breasts;
it is we who nurse you, charming, grave Passion.
Your hatreds, your unmoving torpors, your failings,
and your brutalization suffered long ago,
you give everything back to us,
O Night still without malevolence,
like an excess of blood which is shed every month. -
When Woman, taken on for an instant, terrifies him;
love, the call of life and song of action; they come,
the green Muse and burning Justice,
to tear him to pieces with their august obsessions.
Ah! Thirsting without cease for splendours and calms,
forsaken by the two implacable Sisters,
whimpering fondly after knowledge
whose arms are full of nourishment,
he brings to nature in flower his forehead covered with blood.
But dark alchemy and sacred study are repugnant to the wounded one,
the somber scholar of pride;
he feels marching towards him atrocious solitudes.
Then, and still handsome, without disgust of the coffin,
he must believe in vast purposes,
in immense Dreams or Journeys across the night of Truth,
and he must call you in his soul and sick limbs,
O mysterious Death, O sister of charity!

[June 1871]

Voyelles - Vowels



A Black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:
A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies
Which buzz around cruel smells,

Gulfs of shadow; E, whiteness of vapours and of tents,
Lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of cow-parsley;
I, purples, spat blood, smile of beautiful lips
In anger or in the raptures of penitence;

U, waves, divine shudderings of viridian seas,
The peace of pastures dotted with animals, the peace of the furrows
Which alchemy prints on broad studious foreheads;

O, sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds,
Silences crossed by Worlds and by Angels:
O the Omega, the violet ray of Her Eyes!

Autographed VOYELLES


[L'Etoile a pleuré rose]

The star has wept rose-colour in the heart of your ears,
The infinite rolled white from your nape to the small of your back
The sea has broken russet at your vermilion nipples,
And Man bled black at your royal side.


[Ce qu'on dit au Poète à propos de fleurs]


Thus continually towards the dark azure,
Where the sea of topazes shimmers,
Will function in your evening
The Lilies, those pessaries of ectasy!

In our own age sago,
When Plants work for their living,
The Lily will dring blue loathings
From you religious Proses!

- Monsieur de Kerdrel's fleur-de-lys,
The Sonnet of eighteen-thirty,
The Lily they bestow on the Bard
Together with the pink and the amaranth!

Lilies! lilies! None to be seen!
Yet in your Verse, like the sleeves
Of the soft-footed Women of Sin,
Always these white flowers shiver!

Always, Dear Man, when you bathe,
Your shirt with yellow oxters
Swells in the morning breezes
Above the muddy forget-menots!

Love get through your customs
Only Lilacs, - o eye-wash!
And the Wild Violets,
Sugary spittle of the dark Nymphs!...


O Poets, if you had
Roses, blown Roses,
Red upon laurel stems,
And swollen with a thousand octaves!

If Banville would make them snow down,
Blood-tinged, whirling,
Blacking the wild eye of the stranger
With his ill-disposed interpretations!

In your forests and in your meadows,
O very peaceful photographers!
The Flora is more or less diverse
Like the stoppers on decanters!

Always those French vegetables,
Cross-gained, phthisical, absurd,
Navigated by the peaceful bellies
Of basset-hounds in twilight;

Always, after frightful drawings
Of blue Lotuses or Sunflowers,
Pink prints, holy pictures
For young girls making their communion!

The Asoka Ode agrees with the
Loretto window stanza form;
And heavy vivid butterflies
Are dunging on the Daisy.

Old greenery, and old galloons!
O vegetable fancy biscuits!
fancy-flowers of old Drawing-rooms!
- For cockchafers, not rattlesnakes,

The pulling vegetable baby dolls
Which Grandville would have put round the margins,
And which sucked in their colours
From ill-natured stars with eyeshades!

Yes, the drooling from your shepherd's pipes
Make some priceless glucoses!
- Pile of fried eggs in hold hats,
Lilies, Asokas, Lilacs and Roses!...


O white Hunter, running sockingless
Across the panic Pastures,
Can you not, ought you not
To know your botany a little?

I'm afraid you'd make succeed,
To russet Crickets, Cantharides,
And Rio golds to blues of Rhine, -
In short, to Norways, Floridas:

But, My dear Chap, Art does not consist now,
- it's the truth, - in allowing
To the astonishing Eucalyptus
boa-constrictors a hexameter long;

There now!... As if Mahogany
Served only, even in our Guianas,
As helter-skelters for monkeys,
Among the heavy vertigo of the lianas!

- In short, is a Flower, Rosemary
Or Lily, dead or alive, worth
The excrement of one sea-bird?
Is it worth a solitary candle-drip?

- And I mean what I say!
You, even sitting over there, in a
Bamboo hut, - with the shutters
Closed, and brown Persian rugs for hangings, -

You would scrawl blossoms
Worthy of extravagant Oise!...
- Poet ! these are reasonnings
No less absurd than arrogant!...


Speak, not of pampas in the spring
Black with terrible revolts,
But of tobacco and cotton trees!
Speak of exotic harvests!

Say, white face which Phoebus has tanned,
How many dollars
Pedro Velasquez of Habana ;
Cover with excrement the sea of Sorrento

Where the Swans go in thousands;
Let your lines campaign
For the clearing of the mangrove swamps
Riddled with pools and water-snakes!

Your quatrain plunges into the bloody thickets
And come back to offer to Humanity
Various subjects: white sugar,
Bronchial lozenges, and rubbers!

Let us know though You wheter the yellownesses
Of snow Peaks, near the Tropics,
Are insects which lay many eggs
Or microscopic lichens!

Find, o Hunter, we desire it,
One or two scented madder plants
Which Nature in trousers
May cause to bloom! - fr our Armies!

Find, on the outskirts of the Sleeping Wood,
Flowers, whick look like snouts,
Out of which drip golden pomades
On to the dark hair of buffaloes!

Find, in wild meadows, where on the Blue Grass
Shivers the silver of downy gowths,
Calyxex full of fiery Eggs
Cooking among the essential oils!

Find downy Thistles
Whose wool ten asses with glaring eyes
Labour to spin!
Find Flowers which are chairs!

Yes, find in the heart of coal-black seams
Flowers that are almost stones, - marvellous ones! -
Which, close to their hard pale ovaries
Bear gemlike tonsils!

Srve us, o Stuffer, this you can do,
On a splendid vermilion plate
Stews of syrupy Lilies
To corrode our German-silver spoons!


Someone will speak about great Love,
The thief of black Indulgences:
But neither Renan, nor Murr the cat
Have seen the immense Blue Thyrsuses!

You, quicken in our sluggishness,
By means of scents, hysteria;
Exalt us towards purities
Whiter than the Marys...

tradesman! colonial! Medium!
Your Rhyme will well up, pink or white,
Like a blaze of sodium,
Like a bleeding rubber-tree!

But from your dark Poems, - Juggler!
dioptric white and green and red,
Let strange flowers burst out
And electric butterflies!

See! it's the Century of hell!
And the telegraph poles
Are going to adorn, - the iron-voiced lyre,
Your magnificent shoulder blades!

Above all, give us a rhymed account
Of the potato blight!
- And, in order to compose
Poems full of mystery

Intended to be read from Tréguier
To Paramaribo, go and buy
A few volumes by Monsieur Figuier,
- Illustrated! - at Hachette's !

Alcide Bava
A. R.
14 July 1871

- Text of the letter to Théodore de Banville, August 15, 1871

FIRST COMMUNIONS [Les premières communions]


It’s idiotic, these hill churches where
Say fifteen ugly brats defile the walls,
Mauling the holy babble with their burr,
whilst a grotesque intones in sweaty shoes:
But sunlight wakens, as it flecks the choir,
Some ancient colours in the crooked glass.

The flint still smells of mother earth. You’ll see
Every place you look these dirty stones
In rutting fields which quiver solemnly
And bring thick corn near, down the ochre lanes,
Scorched shrubbery in which the sloes turn blue,
Ripe blackberries and roses overblown.

They tart these barns up once a century
With a diluted wash of curdled milk:
If wacky mysteries are to the fore
By Mary’s niche, some saint made out of stalks,
Flies smelling nicely of manure or beer
Are on the sunlit floorboards gorging wax.

Each child is faithful to a hearth and home
Of simple cares, good brutalising jobs.
All leave the church forgetting that their skin
Crawls where Christ’s priest has laid his fingertips.
The priest is paid a roof cooled by an elm
To leave these bronzed heads for the sun to lap.

His first black coat—and lovely cakes as well!
Beneath the Bonaparte or Drummer Boy:
Mary and Joseph in bright prints and all,
With loving tongues stuck out excessively!
(He’ll get two cards when he starts Sunday School.)
—His only thoughts from this important day.

The girls keep church up for the happiness
Of being called class pussy by the runts
Who arse around after the services:
Lads destined for the chic of army towns
From low cafés deride grand terraces,
In spivvy jerkins chanting dirty songs.

The curate picks out drawings for the young;
When, vespers over, in his yard, the air
Fills up with a dance-music’s distant hum,
In spite of sacred edicts that say no
He feels his toes itch and his shanks beat time.
—Black pirate night docks on the golden sky.


The priest has seen, among the catechists
From the rich suburbs somewhere around here
An unknown little girl with eyes downcast,
Pale forehead, and nice parents at the door.
‘On the Great Day, when God himself has noticed,
Snow will fall from the fonts upon her brow!’


The Great Day’s eve: the pallid child goes limp!
Stronger than the high anthems bleakly soughing
At first a shiver—though her bed’s not damp—
A superhuman shiver: ‘I am dying …’

As if with love from stupid sisters stolen,
Her hand defeated on her heart, she scores
The Angels off, the Jesuses, white Virgins,
And calmly her soul drinks its conqueror.

Oh Lord! …—In cadences the liturgy …
Red brows are bathed by skies moiréd with greens …
Great snow-cloths stained with blood, sacred and pure
From breasts celestial, fall around the suns!

—For her virginities, those past, to come,
She gnaws the cool of your Forgivenesses,
But they are icier, Oh Queen of Zion,
Than larder marmalades or water lilies!


The Virgin’s just the virgin in the book
And mystical elations crack, defunct.
Boring etched images instead are stuck
Up on a ledge, bad woodcuts, coloured prints.

A vaguely shameless curiosity
Alarms her sky-blue dream, caught in surprise
Among celestial tunics; she lurks by
The linen veil across Christ’s nakedness.

She wants, she wishes, in her soul at loss,
Her pillowed forehead creased by cries unheard,
To make the utmost flash of tenderness
Last longer, drooling. Shadows fill the yard.

The child can take no more. She arches up
Her little loins and tears the drapes ajar
To let the coolness of the bedroom slip
Over her stomach and her breasts on fire.


She wakes. It’s twelve. The windowpanes are white.
Inside the blue and moon-illumined bed
She’s been by a white Sunday vision bought.
Yet she dreamed red. Her nose is full of blood.

And feeling chaste indeed, her feeble thoughts
Ache for her love to rise to God, and gasps
For night when heart exults, submits,
Beneath God’s gentleness (and more, she hopes).

For the unbodied Virgin Mother Night,
Which bathes young passions in grey silences,
For that strong Night she thirsts, when the bled heart
May pour revolt without stern witnesses.

Playing at Victim and at little wife,
Her star sees as, a candle in her grasp,
She finds the courtyard where a damp blouse waves
A white ghost; she dispels the black roof’s ghost.


Her holy night she spends in a latrine;
White air flows to her candle from roof slats;
The purple swarthiness of a wild vine
Collapses this side of the next-door yard.

A heart of light’s made by her skylight’s gash
Where low skies ruddify the window glass
With gold. The paving stinks of gutter wash,
Enduring shadows still crammed dark with sleep.


Who’ll tell about her languorous, squalid grace,
And of the hate she’ll feel, you filthy fools
Whose holy work deforms the universe,
When finally the pox eats this sweet girl?


When, having knotted up hysteria,
Grieving she’ll see, beneath their horribly sad
Happiness, her lover dreaming Marys
By the ton, after a night they’ve shared:

‘You know I’ve made you die? I took your mouth,
All that you have, all to be had, your heart . . .
I’m sick: I wish they’d put me with the dead
Whose thirst is quenched by runnels every night.

I was so young and Christ gave me a dose,
Cramming me to my gullet with disgust.
You kissed my gorgeous hair as thick as fleece.
Agh, go away! You’re fine, for you are just

‘A man, and you don’t think the woman most
In love, buried in shame which terror jerks,
Is the most prostituted and downcast
And all her urges for you are mistakes!

‘My First Communion went in a flash.
I never felt your kiss, as for embrace
My heart and flesh, adhering to your flesh,
Are crawling with the putrid kiss of Christ.’


The soul corrupted, the soul left desolate,
Will feel your overflow of malediction.
They will have bedded in your lasting Hate,
Escaped from passion for oblivion.

Messiah! Energy’s eternal thief,
Two thousand years, for your own pallor’s sake,
With shame and migraine you’ve nailed to the earth
The sorrowing minds of maids, or let them shriek.

(trans. A. Marshfield)


When the child's forehead, full of red torments,
Implores the white swarm of indistinct dreams,
There come near his bed two tall charming sisters
With slim fingers that have silvery nails.
They seat the child in front of a wide open
Window where the blue air bathes a mass of flowers,
And in his heavy hair where the dew falls,
Move their delicate, fearful and enticing fingers.
He listens to the singing of their apprehensive breath
Which smells of long rosy plant honey,
And which at times a hiss interrupts, saliva
Caught on the lip or desire for kisses.
He hears their black eyelashes beating in the perfumed
Silence; and their gentle electric fingers
Make in his half-drunken indolence the death of the little lice
Crackle under their royal nails.
Then the wine of Sloth rises in him,
The sigh of an harmonica which could bring on delerium;
The child feels, according to the slowness of the caresses,
Surging in him and dying continuously a desire to cry.

[trans. W. Fowlie]


[Le Bateau Ivre]

As I was floating down unconcerned Rivers
I no longer felt myself steered by the haulers:
Gaudy Redskins had taken them for targets
Nailing them naked to coloured stakes.

I cared nothing for all my crews,
Carrying Flemish wheat or English cottons.
When, along with my haulers those uproars were done with
The Rivers let me sail downstream where I pleased.

Into the ferocious tide-rips
Last winter, more absorbed than the minds of children,
I ran! And the unmoored Peninsulas
Never endured more triumphant clamourings

The storm made bliss of my sea-borne awakenings.
Lighter than a cork, I danced on the waves
Which men call eternal rollers of victims,
For ten nights, without once missing the foolish eye of the harbor lights!

Sweeter than the flesh of sour apples to children,
The green water penetrated my pinewood hull
And washed me clean of the bluish wine-stains and the splashes of vomit,
Carring away both rudder and anchor.

And from that time on I bathed in the Poem
Of the Sea, star-infused and churned into milk,
Devouring the green azures; where, entranced in pallid flotsam,
A dreaming drowned man sometimes goes down;

Where, suddenly dyeing the bluenesses, deliriums
And slow rhythms under the gleams of the daylight,
Stronger than alcohol, vaster than music
Ferment the bitter rednesses of love!

I have come to know the skies splitting with lightnings, and the waterspouts
And the breakers and currents; I know the evening,
And Dawn rising up like a flock of doves,
And sometimes I have seen what men have imagined they saw!

I have seen the low-hanging sun speckled with mystic horrors.
Lighting up long violet coagulations,
Like the performers in very-antique dramas
Waves rolling back into the distances their shiverings of venetian blinds!

I have dreamed of the green night of the dazzled snows
The kiss rising slowly to the eyes of the seas,
The circulation of undreamed-of saps,
And the yellow-blue awakenings of singing phosphorus!

I have followed, for whole months on end, the swells
Battering the reefs like hysterical herds of cows,
Never dreaming that the luminous feet of the Marys
Could force back the muzzles of snorting Oceans!

I have struck, do you realize, incredible Floridas
Where mingle with flowers the eyes of panthers
In human skins! Rainbows stretched like bridles
Under the seas' horizon, to glaucous herds!

I have seen the enormous swamps seething, traps
Where a whole leviathan rots in the reeds!
Downfalls of waters in the midst of the calm
And distances cataracting down into abysses!

Glaciers, suns of silver, waves of pearl, skies of red-hot coals!
Hideous wrecks at the bottom of brown gulfs
Where the giant snakes devoured by vermin
Fall from the twisted trees with black odours!

I should have liked to show to children those dolphins
Of the blue wave, those golden, those singing fishes.
- Foam of flowers rocked my driftings
And at times ineffable winds would lend me wings.

Sometimes, a martyr weary of poles and zones,
The sea whose sobs sweetened my rollings
Lifted its shadow-flowers with their yellow sucking disks toward me
And I hung there like a kneeling woman...

Almost an island, tossing on my beaches the brawls
And droppings of pale-eyed, clamouring birds,
And I was scudding along when across my frayed cordage
Drowned men sank backwards into sleep!

But now I, a boat lost under the hair of coves,
Hurled by the hurricane into the birdless ether,
I, whose wreck, dead-drunk and sodden with water,
neither Monitor nor Hanse ships would have fished up;

Free, smoking, risen from violet fogs,
I who bored through the wall of the reddening sky
Which bears a sweetmeat good poets find delicious,
Lichens of sunlight [mixed] with azure snot,

Who ran, speckled with lunula of electricity,
A crazy plank, with black sea-horses for escort,
When Julys were crushing with cudgel blows
Skies of ultramarine into burning funnels;

I who trembled, to feel at fifty leagues' distance
The groans of Behemoth's rutting, and of the dense Maelstroms
Eternal spinner of blue immobilities
I long for Europe with it's aged old parapets!

I have seen archipelagos of stars! and islands
Whose delirious skies are open to sailor:
- Do you sleep, are you exiled in those bottomless nights,
Million golden birds, O Life Force of the future? -

But, truly, I have wept too much! The Dawns are heartbreaking.
Every moon is atrocious and every sun bitter:
Sharp love has swollen me up with heady langours.
O let my keel split! O let me sink to the bottom!

If there is one water in Europe I want, it is the
Black cold pool where into the scented twilight
A child squatting full of sadness, launches
A boat as fragile as a butterfly in May.

I can no more, bathed in your langours, O waves,
Sail in the wake of the carriers of cottons,
Nor undergo the pride of the flags and pennants,
Nor pull past the horrible eyes of the hulks.


[to read the French originals,
click the French titles]


Tear [Larme]
The River of Cassis [Rivière de Cassis]
Comedy of Thirst [Comédie de la soif]
Pleasant Thought for the Morning [Bonne pensée du matin]
- May Banners
- Song of the highest Tower
- Eternity
- Golden Age
Young Couple [Jeune ménage]
Is she an Almeh ? [Est-elle almée?]
Feasts of Hunger [Fétes de la faim]
What does it matter to us, my heart... ["Qu'est-ce pour nous, mon cœur..."]
Listen to how... ["Entends comme brame"]
The wolf howled under the leaves...
Michel and Christine [Michel et Christine]
Shame [Honte]
Memory [Mémoire]
[Happiness] O seasons, o castles... [O saison, o chateaux]



Far away from birds and herds and village girls,
I was drinking, kneeling down in some heather
Surrounded by soft hazel copses,
In an afternoon mist, warm and green.

What can I have been drinking in that young Oise,
Voiceless elms, flowerless turf, overcast sky.
What did I draw from the gourd of the wine?
Some golden liquor, pale, which causes sweating

Such as I was, I should have made a poor inn-sign.
Then the storm changed the sky, until the evening.
It was black countries, lakes, poles,
Colonnades under the blue night, railway stations.

The water from the woods trickled away into virgin sands
The wind, from the sky, threw sheets of ice across the ponds...
But! like a fisher for gold or shellfish,
To think that I did not bother to drink!

May 1872

- Manuscript given to Jean-Louis Forain by Arthur, gone into the collection Louis Barthou, then in the collection Pierre Bérès in 1935.
- Rimbaud wrote another copy for Verlaine, which dated later than the above version but was prior to the one published in A Season in Hell (Alchemy of the word).


[Le rivière de Cassis]

The Cassis River rolls unknown in strange valleys;
the voices of a hundred rooks go with it,
the true benevolent voice of angles:
with the wide movements of the fir woods
when several winds sweep down.

Everything flows with [the] horrible mysteries of ancient landscapes;
of strongholds visited, of large estates:
it is along these banks that you can hear
the dead passions of errant knights:
but how the wind is wholesome!

Let the traveler look through these clerestories:
he will journey on more bravely.
Forest soldiers whom the Lord sends,
dear delightful rooks! Drive away from here the crafty peasant,
clinking glasses with his old stump of an arm.

(May 1872)


[Comédie de la soif]


We are your Grand-Parents, the Grown-Ups!
Covered with the cold sweats of the moon and the greensward.
Our dry wines had heart in them!
In the sunshine where there is no deception,
what does man need? To drink.
Myself: To die among barbarous rivers.

We re your Grand-Parents of the fields.
The water lies at the foot of the willows:
see the flow of the moat round the damp castle.
Let us go down to our storerooms;
afterwards, cider or milk.
Myself: To go where the cows drink.

We are your Grand-Parents; here,
take some of the liqueurs in our cupboards;
Tea and Coffee, so rare, sing in our kettles.
Look at the pictures, the flowers.
We are back from the cemetery.
Myself: Ah! To drink all urns dry!


Eternal Undines, split the pure water.
Venus, sister of azure, stir up the clear wave.
Wandering Jews of Norway, tell me of snow;
old beloved exiles tell me of the sea.
Myself: No, no more of these pure drinks,
these water-flowers for glasses;
neither legends nor faces quench my thirst;
singer, your god-child is my thirst so mad,
a mouthless intimate hydra
which consumes and ravages.


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.


Perhaps an Evening awaits me
when I shall drink I peace in some old Town,
and die the happier: since I am patient!
If my pain submits, if I ever have any gold,
shall I choose the North or the Country of Vines? …
- Oh! It is shameful to dream - since it is pure loss!
And if I become once more the old traveler,
never can the green inn be open to me again.


The pigeons which flutter in the meadow,
the game which runs and sees in the dark,
the water animals, the animal enslaved,
the last butterflies!.. also are thirsty.
But to dissolve where that wandering cloud is dissolving -
Oh! Favoured by what is fresh!
To expire in those damp violets
whose awakening fills these woods?

(May 1872)


[Bonne Pensée du Matin]

At four o'clock on a summer morning,
The Sleep of love still lasts.
Under the spinneys the dawn disperses scents
Of the festive night.

But down there in the huge workshop
Near the Hesperidean sun,
The carpenters in their shirtsleeves
Are already astir.

Peaceful in the midst of their wilderness of foam,
They are preparing the costly canopies
Where the riches of the city
Will smile beneath painted skies.

Ah! for these charming Labourer's sakes
Subjects of a king of Babylon,
Venus! leave Lovers for a little while,
Whose souls are wearing crowns.

O Queen of the Sheperds!
Take strong liquor to the workers,
So that their strength may be calmed
Until the sea-bathe at noon.

May 1872

- Another version was published by Rimbaud in A Season in Hell (Alchemy of the word).


May Banners
Song of the highest Tower
Golden Age


[Bannières de Mai]

In the bright lime-tree branches
Dies a fainting mort.
But lively song
Flutters among the currant bushes.
So that our bloods may laugh in our veins,
See the vines tangling themselves.
The sky is as pretty as an angel,
The azure and the wave commune.
I go out. If a sunbeam wounds me
I shall succumb on the moss.

Being patient and being bored
Are too simple. To the devil with my cares.
I want dramatic summer
To bind me to its chariot of fortune.
Let me most because of you, o Nature,
- Ah! less alone and less useless! - die.
There where the Shepherds, it's strange,
Die more or less because of the world.

I am willing that the seasons should wear me out.
To you, Nature, I surrender;
With my hunger and all my thirst.
And, if it please you, feed and water me.
Nothing, nothing at all deceives me;
To laugh at the sun is to laugh at one's parents,
But I do not wish to laugh at anything;
And may this misfortune go free.

May 1872



[Chanson de la plus haute Tour]

Idle youth
Enslaved to everything,
By being too sensitive
I have wasted my life.
Ah! Let the time come
When hearts are enamoured.

I said to myself: let be,
And let no one see you:
Do without the promise
Of higher joys.
Let nothing delay you,
Majestic retirement.

I have endured so long
That I have forgotten everything;
Fear and suffering
Have flown to the skies.
And morbid thirst
Darkens my veins.

Thus the meadow
Given over to oblivion,
Grown up, and flowering
With frankincense and tares
To the wild buzzing
Of a hundred filthy flies.

Oh! the thousand bereavements
Of the poor soul
Which possesses only the image
Of Our Lady!
Can one pray
To the Virgin Mary?

Idle youth
Enslaved by everything,
By being too sensitive
I have wasted my life.
Ah! Let the time come
When hearts are enamoured!

May 1872

- Another version was published by Rimbaud in A Season in Hell (Alchemy of the word).




It has been found again.
What? – Eternity.
It is the sea fled away
With the sun.

Sentinel soul,
Let us whisper the confession
Of the night full of nothingness
And the day on fire.

From humain approbation,
From common urges
You diverge here
And fly off as you may.

Since from you alone,
Satiny embers,
Duty breathes
Without anyone saying: at last.

Here is no hope,
No orietur.
Knowledge and fortitude,
Torture is certain.

It has been found again.
What? – Eternity.
It is the sea fled away
With the sun.

May 1872

- Another version was published by Rimbaud in A Season in Hell (Alchemy of the word). "It is the sea mingled with the sun", in Oliver Bernard's translation, more faithful to the original French than Paul Schmidt's one.



[Age d'Or]

One of the voices
Always angelic
- It is about me, -
Sharply expresses itself:

Those thousand questions
Spreading their roots
Bring in the end,
Only drunkenness and madness;

Understand this trick
So gay, so easy:
Is is only wave, only flower,
And that is your family!

Then it sings. O
So gay, so easy,
And visible to the naked eye...
- I sing with it, -

Understand this trick
So gay, so easy:
Is is only wave, only flower,
And that is your family!... etc...

And then a voice
- How angelic it is! -
It is about me,
Sharply expresses itself:

And sings at this moment
Like a sister to breath:
With a German tone,
But ardent and full:

The world is vicious;
If that surprises you!
Live and leave to the fire
Dark misfortune.

O! pretty castle!
How bright your life is!
What age do you belong to,
Princely nature Of our elder brother! etc...,

I also sing:
Many sisters! voices
Not at all public!
Sourround me
With chaste glory... etc...,

June 1872

[Jeune ménage]

The room is open to the turquoise blue sky;
no room here: boxes and bins!
Outside the wall is overgrown with birthwort
where the brownies' gums buzz.

How truly there are the plots of genii -
this expense and this foolish untidiness!
It is the African fairy who supplies
the mulberry and the hairnets in the corners.

Several, cross godmothers [dressed] in skirts of light,
go into the cupboards, and stay there!
The people of the house are out,
they are not serious, an nothing gets done.

The bridegroom has the wind which cheats him
during his absence, here, all the time.
Even some water sprites, mischievous,
come in t wander about among the spheres under the bed.

At night, beloved oh! The honeymoon will gather their smiles
and fill the sky with a thousand copper diadems.
Then they will have to deal with the crafty rat. -
As long as no ghastly will O;
the wisp comes, like a gunshot, after vespers, -
O holy white Sprits of Bethlehem, charm,
rather than that, the blueness of their window!

(27 June 1872)



Boulevard du Régent

Flowerbeds of amaranths right up to
The pleasant palace of Jupiter.
- I know it is Thou, who is this place,
Minglest thine almost Saharan Blue!

Then, since rose and fir-tree of the sun
And tropical creeper have their play enclosed here,
The little widow's cage!...
Flocks of birds, o iaio, iaio!...

- Calm houses, old passions!
Summerhouse of the Lady who ran mad for love.
After the buttocks of the rosebushes, the balcony
Of Juliet, shadowy and very low.

- La Juliette, that reminds me of l'Henriette,
A charming railway station,
At the heart of a mountain, as if the bottom of an orchard
Where a thousand blue devils dance in the air!

Green bench where in stormy paradise,
The white Irish girl sings to the guitar.
Then, from the Guianian dining-room,
Chatter of children and of cages.

The duke's window which makes me think
Of the poison of snails and of boxwood
Sleeping down here in the sun.
And then,
It is too beautiful! too! Let us maintain our silence.

- Boulevard without movement or business,
Dumb, every drama and every comedy,
Unending concentration of scenes,
I know you and I admire you in silence.

Zatzka - Harem Dancer

[Est-elle almée?]

Is she an Almah?... in the first blue hours
Will she destroy herself like flowers of fire...
In front of the splendid sweep where one may smell
The enormous flowering city's breath!

It's too beautiful! It's too beautiful! but it is necessary
- For the Fisherwoman* and the Corsair's song,
And also because the last masqueraders still believed
In nocturnal festivities on the pure sea!

(July 1872)

*Translated from the word pêcheuse in French, as Rimbaud wrote it in the poem.
Oliver Bernard translated it as Woman of Sin, which in French is pêcheresse.

[Fêtes de la faim]

My hunger, Anne, Anne,
flee on your donkey.

If I have any taste, it s for hardly anything
but earth and stones.
Dinn! Dinn! Dinn! Dinn!

Let us eat air, rock, coal, iron.
Turn, my hungers.
Feed, hungers, in the meadow of sounds!
Suck the gaudy poison of the convolvuli;
Eat, the stones a poor man breaks,
the old masonry of churches, boulders,
children of floods, loaves lying in the grey valleys!

Hungers, it is bits of black air; the azure trumpeter;
it is my stomach that makes me suffer.
It is unhappiness. Leaves have appeared on earth!
I go looking for the sleepy flesh of fruit.
At the heart of the furrow I pick
Venus' looking-glass and the violet.

My hunger, Anne, Anne, flee on your donkey.

August 1872


[Qu'est-ce pour nous mon coeur...]

What does it matter to us, my heart, the sheets of blood
And of red-hot coals, and a thousand murders, and long howls
Of rage; sobbings from every inferno destroying
Every (kind of) order; and still the North wind across the wreckage;

And all the vengeance? Nothing!... - But still, yes
We desire it! Industrialists, princes, senates,
Perish! Power, justice, history: down!
It is our due. Blood! blood! the golden flame!

All to war, to vengeance, to terror,
My soul! Let us turn in the wound: Ah! away with you,
Republics of this world! Of Emperors,
Regiments, colonists, peoples, enough!

Who should stir the vortices of furious flames
But we and those whom we imagine brothers?
It's our turn, romantic friends: we are
Going to enjoy it. Never shall we labour, O fiery waves

Europe, Asia, America - vanish!
Our march of vengeance has occupied every place,
Cities and countrysides! - We shall be smashed!
The volcanoes will explode! And the Ocean, smitten...

Oh! my friends! - My heart, it is certain; they are brothers;
Dark strangers, if we began! Come on! Come on!
- O evil fortune! I feel myself tremble, the old earth,
On me who am more and more yours! the earth melts.

It is nothing: I am here; I am still here.


["Entends comme brame"]

Listen to how the green
shoot of the pea
bellows near the acacias
in April!

In its clear haze,
toward Phoebe! you see
moving about the heads
of saints of former times...

Far from the bright stacks
of the headlands, from the handsome roofs,
these good Ancient men want
this sly philter...

Gold neither ferial
nor astral! is
the mist exhaled
by this night effect.

Nevertheless they remain,
- Sicily, Germany,
in this sad and pale
fog, precisely!

[from "DELIRIUM II" - cf. Illuminations]

Beneath the bush a wolf will howl
Spitting bright feathers
From his feast of fowl:
Like him, I devour myself.

Waiting to be gathered
Fruits and grasses spend their hours;
The spider spinning in the hedge
Eats only flowers.

Let me sleep! Let me boil
On the altars of Solomon;
Let me soak the rusty soil,
And flow into Kendron.


[Michel et Christine]

The devil with it if the sun leaves these shores!
Vanish, bright flood! Here is the shade of the roads.
In the willows, in the old courtyard
The storm at first sheds its big drops.

O hundred lambs, blond soldiers of the idyl,
From acqueducts and scanty heath,
Flee! plains, deserts, fields, horizons
Are in the red wash of the storm!

Black dog, brown shepherd whose cloak puffs in the wind,
Flee the hour of high lightning;
Blond flock, when the dark and brimstone float about,
Try to go down to better retreats.

But, Lord! my Spirit flies away,
After the icy red skies, under the
Heavenly clouds hastening and flying
Over a hundred Solognes as long as a railway.

Behold a thousand wolves, a thousand wild seeds
Which, not without loving the bindweed, are carried off
By this religious afternoon of storms.
Over old Europe where a hundred hordes will pass!

Afterwards, moonlight! over the heath,
Reddening their faces against the black skies, the warriors
Slowly ride their pale horses!
Pebbles ring under this proud troop!

- And will see the yellow wood and the bright valley,
The blue-eyed Bride, the man with the red brow, - o Gaul,
And the white Paschal lamb, at their dear feet,
- Michel and Christine, - and Christ! – end of the Idyl.



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!


Clear water; [stinging] like the salt of a child's tears,
the whiteness of women's bodies attacking the sun;
silken, in masses and pure lily, banners under the walls a maiden defended;
The frolic of angels - No… the current of gold in motion moves its arms,
dark and above all cool, of green. She [the weed] sinks,
and having the blue Heaven for a canopy,
takes for curtains the shade of the hill and of the arch.

Oh! The wet surface stretches out its clear bubbles!
The water covers the made beds with pale and bottomless gold;
[it is as if] the faded green dresses of little girls
[were] playing at willows, out of which leap the unbridled birds.
Purer than a gold louis, yellow warm eyelid, the marsh marigold -
thy conjugal faith O Spouse! - at noon sharp,
from its dull mirror, envies the rosy beloved
Sphere in the sky wan with heat.

Madame holds herself too erect in the neighbouring meadow
where the threads of [the spider's] toil are snowing down'
parasol in her fingers; crushing the cow-parsley;
too proud for her; children reading
in the flowery greenness; their red morocco book! Alas,
He, like a thousand white angels parting on the roadway,
makes off beyond the mountain!
She, quite cold, and dark, runs!
After the flight of the man!

Nostalgia for the thick young arms of pure green!
Gold of the April moons in the heart of the hallowed bed!
Joy of the abandoned boat-yards, the prey to the August evenings
which quickened these corruptions!
How she weeps, now, under he ramparts!
The breath of the poplars above is all there is for a breeze.
Then it is the sheet of water without reflections
and without a spring, grey: an old man, a dredger,
in his motionless boat, labours.

Plaything of this eye of mournful water, I cannot reach -
O boat without motion! O too short arms! -
either this flower or that one: neither the yellow one
which importunes me here; nor the blue one,
the beloved in the ashes water.
Ah! The pollen of willows which a wing shakes!
The roses of the reeds, long since eaten away!
My boat still fast; and its anchor chain taut to the bottom
of this limitless eye of water, - in what slime? ---------------
What does it matter to us, my heart,
the sheets of blood And of red-hot coals,
and a thousand murders, and long howls Of rage ;
sobbings from every inferno destroying Every (kind of) order ;
and still the North wind across the wreckage ;
And all the vengeance ? Nothing !... -
But still, yes We desire it ! Industrialists, princes,
senates, Perish ! Power, justice, history : down !
It is our due. Blood ! blood ! the golden flame !
All to war, to vengeance, to terror, My soul !
Let us turn in the wound : Ah !
away with you, Republics of this world !
Of Emperors, Regiments, colonists, peoples, enough !
Who should stir the vortices of furious flames
But we and those whom we imagine brothers ?
It's our turn, romantic friends : we are Going to enjoy it.
Never shall we labour, O fiery waves !
Europe, Asia, America - vanish !
Our march of vengeance has occupied every place,
Cities and countrysides ! - We shall be smashed !
The volcanoes will explode ! And the Ocean, smitten...
Oh ! my friends ! - My heart, it is certain ; they are brothers ;
Dark strangers, if we began ! Come on ! Come on ! -
O evil fortune ! I feel myself tremble, the old earth,
On me who am more and more yours ! the earth melts.
It is nothing : I am here ; I am still here.



O seasons, O castles,
What soul is blameless?

O seasons, O castles,

I pursued the magic lore
Of Happiness, which no one escapes.

Oh long live to it, everytime
That the Gallic cock crows.

But! I shall never want again,
It has taken charge of my life.

That Charm! it took hold of soul and body,
And dissipated every effort.

What to understand about my words?
It makes it flee and vanish into air!

O seasons, O castles!

[And, if misfortune takes me away,
Its disgrace with me will be certain.

Its contempt will take me, alas!
To the quickest death!

– O seasons, O castles!
What soul is blameless?]**

* Title of the rough work of Alchemy of the word.
** The end of the poem has been crossed out.
- Rimbaud wrote a slightly different version in a Season in Hell (Alchemy of the word).


Zutique - original frontispice

This is an album of 48 pages, composed of poems written by Verlaine and his friends, who periodically met at "Hotel Des Etrangers", boulevard Saint-Michel, at the corner of the two streets "Racine" and "Ecole-de-Médecine", in a room of the third floor, to make fun, smoke, drink, recite verse and even to play piano: the group of "Vilains Bonhommes" (Naughty Fellows). Thereafter, it was renamed "Zutist Circle" (or Zutic) by Charles Cros.

The poets had fun to parody themselves, and to also parody some Parnassiens, preferably in an obscene way. Rimbaud was very brilliant with this exercise.

The Album was first published in 1943.

The name of the parodied poet appears in first, followed by the initials of the author of parody.

[for ALBUM ZUTIQUE in the French original, go to OPERE VARIE]

zutic drawing
The Idol - Asshole Sonnet
Lips shut. Seen in Rome
Love Feast
I occupied a third-class carriage...
Doubtless I prefer...
Humanity was putting shoes on...
Nasty Jokes:
- I Young Greedyguts
- II Paris
Nasty Jokes 2nd serie
- Drunken Coachman
The Old Guard
State of Siege?
The Brush
The Accursed Cherub
But finally, th...
Summer evenings...
Rhymed endings
Saturnian Hypotyposes, taken from Belmontet
Memories of the Simple-minded Old Man
The Child who picked up the balls...

Verlaine and Rimbaud - watercolor


Dark and wrinkled like a purple pink
It breathes, nestling humbly among the still-damp
Froth of love that follows the gentle slope
Of the white buttocks to its crater's edge.

Filaments like tears of milk
Have wept in the cruel wind which pushes them back,
Across little clots of reddish marl
To lose themselves where the slope called them.

My dream has often kissed its opening;
My soul, jealous of physical coitus,
Has made this its fawn-coloured tear-bottle and its nest of sobs.

It is the rapturous olive and the wheedling flute,
The tube from which the heavenly burnt almond falls:
Feminine Canaan enclosed among moistures.

Albert Mérat.

Parody of Albert Mérat's work, called The Idol, where are detailed all the beauties of a lady: Sonnet of the forehead, Sonnet of the eyes...

Michelangelo's Creation - Sistine Chapel, Rome

[Lèvres closes. Vu à Rome.]

In Rome within the Sistine Chapel,
Covered over with Christian signs,
There is a scarletcolored casket
Where most ancient noses dry:

Noses of Thebaid ascetics,
Noses of Sangreal canons
In which livid night firmset is,
And the old sepulchral anthems.

Into their aridity mystical
Is introduced each morningtide
Some filthiness schismatical
Ground into a powder fine.

Léon Dierx

~ As translated by Christopher Mulrooney



[Jeune Goinfre]

Of silk moiré,
Little wand**
Of ivory,

Very dark,
Paul watches
The cupboard,

Sticks out
Little tongue
At pear,

Gives a poke,
And squitters


*connerie: French slang for bloody stupidity, bullshit.
**wand: willy. Quéquette in French slang.

Rimabud smoking - drawing



[Cocher Ivre]




- Whimpers!



[L'Angelot Maudit]

Bluish roofs and white doors
As on nocturnal Sundays,

At the town's end, the road without
Sound is white, and it is night.

The street has strange houses
With shutters of angels.

But look how he runs towards a
Boundary-stone, evil and shivering,

A dark cherub who staggers,
Having eaten too many jujubes.

He does a cack: then disappears:
But his cursed cack appears,

Under the holy empty moon,
A slight cesspool of dirty blood!

Louis Ratisbonne.

A. Rimbaud.



~ ~ ~

[Les anciens animaux...]

The ancient beasts bred even on the run,
Theirs glans encrusted with blood and excrement.
Our forfathers displayed theirs members proudly
By the fold of the sheath and the grain of the scrotum.

In the middle ages, for a female, angel or sow,
A fellow whose gear was substantial was needed;
Even a Kléber, judging by his breeches which exagerate
Perhaps a little, can't have lacked resources.

Besides, man is equal to the proudest mammal;
We are wrong to be surprised at the hugeness of their members;
But a sterile hour has struck: the gelding

And the ox have bridled their ardours, and no one
Will dare again to raise his genital pride
In the copses teeming with comical children.

[Nos fesses ne sont pas les leurs...]

Our buttocks are not theirs. I have often seen
People unbuttoned behind some hedge,
And, in those shameless bathings where children are gay,
I used to observe the form and performance of our arse.

Firmer, in many cases pale, it possesses
Striking forms which the screen
Of hairs covers; for women, it is only in the charming parting
That the long tufted silk flowers.

A touching and marvellous ingenuity
Such as you see only in angels in holy pictures
Imitates the cheek where the smile makes a hollow.

Oh! For us to be naked like that, seeking joy and repose,
Facing one's companion's glorious part,
Both of us free to murmur and sob?

As translated by Oliver Bernard: Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (1962)

Boy Arthur, enfant terrible



Dark and wrinkled like a purple pink
It breathes, nestling humbly among the still-damp
Froth of love that follows the gentle slope
Of the white buttocks to its crater's edge.

Filaments like tears of milk
Have wept in the cruel wind which pushes them back,
Across little clots of reddish marl
To lose themselves where the slope called them.

My dream has often kissed its opening;
My soul, jealous of physical coitus,
Has made this its fawn-coloured tear-bottle and its nest of sobs.

It is the rapturous olive and the wheedling flute,
The tube from which the heavenly burnt almond falls:
Feminine Canaan enclosed among moistures.

Albert Mérat.
P.V. - A.R.

- Parody of Albert Mérat's work, called The Idol, where are detailed all the beauties of a lady: Sonnet of the forehead, Sonnet of the eyes...
- As translated by Oliver Bernard: Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (1962)

(Document partly resulting from website ARTHUR RIMBAUD @ http://www.mag4.net/Rimbaud/)
~ ~ ~ ~

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