Friday, June 01, 2007

Novel by Arthur Rimbaud

"Situations have ended sad,
Relationships have all been bad.
Mine've been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud."
--Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go"

The French poet, Paul Verlaine, fell for Rimbaud's talent after reading the boy's visionary poem "The Drunken Boat," then fell for the boy himself (Rimbaud was only 16 at the time). Verlaine abandoned his family and the two ran off together and cavorted around Europe, scandalizing cafes and cocktail parties with their forbidden love, absinthe, and hasish. Eventually, Rimbaud, a classic enfant terrible, drove Verlaine so mad the old(er) man shot him. Rimbaud survived, and Verlaine was imprisoned and subjected to a very public psychological evaluation. Thankfully for them, it was only 1870, and there was no US magazine. You can read about it in more detail here.

His lurid and fascinating life aside, Rimbaud is highly thought of as a poet. Notice the ecstatic energy and sensuality infused in Novel, and how when the first line is finally repeated, it means something quite different to the speaker.


Novel

I.
No one's serious at seventeen.--
On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade
And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need--
You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.

Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!
Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;
The wind brings sounds--the town is near--
And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .

II.
--Over there, framed by a branch
You can see a little patch of dark blue
Stung by a sinister star that fades
With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .

June nights! Seventeen!--Drink it in.
Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . .
The mind wanders, you feel a kiss
On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .

III.
The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels--
And when a young girl walks alluringly
Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow
Of her father's starched collar. . .

Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,
She turns on a dime, eyes wide,
Finding you too sweet to resist. . .
--And cavatinas die on your lips.

IV.
You're in love. Off the market till August.
You're in love.--Your sonnets make Her laugh.
Your friends are gone, you're bad news.--
Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .!

That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;
You order beer or lemonade. . .
--No one's serious at seventeen
When lindens line the promenade.


A volatile and peripatetic poet, the prodigy Arthur Rimbaud wrote all of his poetry in a space of less than five years. His poetry was subconsciously inspired and highly suggestive; his persona was caustic and unstable. Though brilliant, during his life his peers regarded him as perverse, unsophisticated, and youthfully arrogant, and he died virtually indifferent to his own work.

14 Comments:

Anonymous moi said...

Yes, it's June and the tilleuls are in full blossom here in France....

10:44 AM  
Blogger Jeffro said...

Whose translation, please?

4:34 PM  
Blogger Paris said...

Translated by Wyatt Mason

9:20 AM  
Blogger Epic Noir said...

Then, one night, your beloved, writes...!

Okay: two issues: 1. The comma between 'beloved' and 'writes'
2. The exclamation point. I could've sworn without it that they had broken off whatever liaison they had. But... what does that line mean for the rest of the poem??

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