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Arthur Rimbaud

French Poet

1854-1891


THE DRUNKEN BOAT AND OTHER POEMS

Narrated by Marc Cashman

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The Drunken Boat

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.

My Bohemian Life

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!

Romance

I

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...

II

- 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...

III

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...

IV

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...

A Dream for Winter

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...

Faun’s Head

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 Cheated Heart

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?

More information about Arthur Rimbaud from Wikipedia

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