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20 January 2008 @ 11:23 am
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"The Drunken Boat," 1871
Le Bateau ivre
by Arthur Rimbaud

As I was floating down impassive 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 cotton.
When, along with my haulers, those uproars stopped,
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 the 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, carrying 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 blueness,
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 lightning,
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 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 muzzle by force the 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 sea's 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 fish. --
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 my shadow-flowers with their yellow sucking disks toward me,
and I hung there like a kneeling woman...

Resembling an island, tossing on my sides the brawls
and droppings of pale-eyed, clamouring birds.
And I was scudding along when across my frayed ropes
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 Hanseatic 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 tiny electric moons,
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 off
the groans of Behemoths rutting, and the dense Maelstroms;
eternal spinner of blue immobilities,
I long for Europe with it's age-old parapets!

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

But, truly, I have wept too much! Dawns are heartbreaking.
Every moon is atrocious and every sun bitter:
sharp love has swollen me up with intoxicating torpor.
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 prison hulks.