Two Poems by Arther Rimbaud: Memory and Motion
Translated by Wallace Fowlie
Clear water; like the salt of childhood tears,
the assault on the sun by the whiteness of women’s bodies;
the silk of banners, in masses and of pure lilies,
under the walls a maid once defended;
the play of angels;—no…the golden current on its way,
moves its arms, black, and heavy, and above all cool, with grass. She
dark, before the blue Sky as a canopy, calls up
for curtains the shadow of the hill and the arch.
Ah! the wet surface extends its clear broth!
The water fills the prepared beds with pale bottomless gold.
The green faded dresses of girls
make willows, out of which hop unbridled birds.
Purer than a louis, a yellow and warm eyelid
the marsh marigold—your conjugal faith, o Spouse!—
at prompt noon, from its dim mirror, vies
with the dear rose Sphere in the sky grey with heat.
Madame stands too straight in the field
nearby where the filaments from the work snow down; the parasol
in her fingers; stepping on the white flower; too proud for her
children reading in the flowering grass
their book of red morocco! Alas, He, like
a thousand white angels separating on the road,
goes off beyond the mountain! She, all
cold and dark, runs! after the departing man!
Longings for the thick young arms of pure grass!
Gold of April moons in the heart of the holy bed! Joy
of abandoned boatyards, a prey
to August nights which made rotting things germinate.
Let her weep now under the ramparts! the breath
of the poplars above is the only breeze.
After, there is the surface, without reflection, without springs, gray:
an old man, dredger, in his motionless boat, labors.
Toy of this sad eye of water, I cannot pluck,
o! motionless boat! o! arms too short! neither this
nor the other flower: neither the yellow one which bothers me,
there; nor the friendly blue one in the ash-colored water.
Ah! dust of the willows shaken by a wing!
The roses of the reeds devoured long ago!
My boat still stationary; and its chain caught
in the bottom of this rimless eye of water,—in what mud?
The swaying motion on the bank of the river falls,
The chasm at the sternpost,
The swiftness of the hand-rail,
The huge passing of the current
Conduct by unimaginable lights
And chemical newness
Voyagers surrounded by the waterspouts of the valley
And the current.
They are the conquerors of the world
Seeking a personal chemical fortune;
Sports and comfort travel with them;
They take the education
Of races, classes, and animals, on this Boat.
Repose and dizziness
To the torrential light,
To the terrible nights of study.
For from the talk among the apparatus,—blood, flowers, fire, jewels—
From the agitated accounts on this fleeing deck,
—You can see, rolling like a dyke beyond the hydraulic motor road,
Monstrous, illuminated endlessly,—their stock of studies;
Themselves driven into harmonic ecstasy
And the heroism of discovery.
In the most startling atmospheric happenings
A youthful couple withdraws into the archway,
—Is it an ancient coyness that can be forgiven?—
And sings and stands guard.
[from Illuminations (1872-1874?)]