Thursday, December 13, 2007

Arthur Rimbaud

Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (October 20, 1854November 10, 1891) was a French poet, born in Charleville. His influence on modern literature, music and art has been enduring and pervasive. He produced his best known works while still in his late teens — Victor Hugo described him at the time as "an enfant Shakespeare" — and gave up creative writing altogether before he reached 21. He remained a prolific letter-writer all his life. Rimbaud was a restless soul, travelling extensively in three continents before his premature death from cancer less than a month after his 37th birthday.

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...

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