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preview of dennis j. carlile's rimbaud: the works translations


"In A Season in Hell and Illuminations.. [Carlile] has managed to capture the weird combination of craziness, immaturity, intuition and insight, obscenity and remorse... that marks Rimbaud's work."

-Martin Kanes, Professor Emeritus of French and Humanities, UNY



The following translations are from the forthcoming Xlibris release, RIMBAUD: THE WORKS. These pieces were painstakingly translated from the French by playwright Dennis J. Carlile and with his kind permission, appear here exclusively for the first time.

RIMBAUD: THE WORKS is set to be published early this summer.



The Runaways/ Les Effares

20 September 1870


Dark against the snow and fog,
At the big lit-up vent,
Their butts in a huddle,
Five urchins, kneeling - wretched! -
Watch the baker making
Loaves of heavy blond bread.


They see the strong white arm knead
It and shove the raw dough
Into the oven's bright hole.


They hear the good bread baking,
The baker with a fat smile
Growling an old ditty.


They crouch there, not one budging,
At the red grating's breath
Just as warm as a breast.


When, shaped like buttery tarts
For some midnight party,
The bread is brought on out,


When, under smoke-stained beams,
The fragrant crusts are singing
Along with the crickets,


When life breathes out from that warm hole,
Their souls are so enraptured
Under their ragged clothes,


They feel such lively bliss, those
Poor frostbitten Jesuses,
That they all gather close,


Gluing their pink little snouts
To the grating, mumbling
Such nonsense round about,


All foolish, at their prayers,
Hunkering toward that light
From heaven bright and fair,


So hard they split their pants,
And their shirt-tails flutter
In the winds of winter.




The Stolen Heart/ Le Coeur vole

October 1871 (Verlaine's Copy)

My sad heart slavers at the poop,
Heart slathered in tobacco-spit:
They spew their juice in spurts of soup,
My sad heart slobbers at the poop,
Under the jeering of the troop
While they burst out laughing at it,
My sad heart's drooling at the poop,
My heart swamped in tobacco-spit.


Fishy-phallic and soldier blue
Their dirty jokes debauch it!
The rudder's marked with frescoes too,
Fishy-phallic and soldier blue.
Abracadabra-like billows
O take my heart and wash it!
Fishy-phallic and soldier blue
Their dirty jokes debauch it!


When they have spent their wad of quid,
O stolen heart, how will I act?
They'll belch their booze in Bacchic fits
When they've exhausted all their quid:
My queasy gut will churn with it,
I, if my heart is leveled flat:
When they have spent their wad of quid,
O stolen heart, how will I act?


My Gypsy Life (A Fantasy)/ Ma Boheme (Fantaisie)


With fists in ragged pockets, off I went -
My topcoat too on its way to ideal.
I traveled under skies, muse, your vassal!
Oh! look now! what sumptuous loves I dreamt!


My only trousers were hugely holey,
- And dreamy Tom Thumb I, seeding rhymes there
Along my way: - I stayed at the Big Bear.
The stars above rustled softly for me,


And I heard them, sitting roadside
In the fine September twilight,
Felt dewdrops on my face like heady wine;
Where amid fantastic shadows I'd rhyme,
While plucking at the laces like a harp,
On my battered shoes, one foot near my heart!


The Crows/ Les Corbeaux


Lord, when the grasslands have grown cold,
When in villages battered flat,
Tedious bells no longer toll . . .
Over nature there deflowered,
Let the sleek sweet body of crows
Swoop down out of wide open skies.


Outlandish army with harsh cries,
Chill winds are assailing your nests!
Disperse, along yellow rivers.
On roads toward old Calvarys,
Over the ditches and trenches,
All of you, scatter and rally!
By thousands, over fields of France,
Where the dead of yesterday sleep,
Wheel 'round, why don't you, in winter
So each passer-by remembers!
Be then the designated spokesman,
Our black bird of the funerals.


You, skyborne saints, high in the oak,
Tree-top lost in spellbound twilight:
Leave be the singing birds of May,
For those in depth of woods held tight
Under the grass of no escape,
Defeated, with no future day.


Poets at Seven Years Old/ Les Poetes de Sept Ans

26 May 1871


And, shutting the lesson book, the Mother
Left satisfied, so proud, without seeing
In the blue eyes under the knotted brow
The soul of her child possessed with loathing.


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All day he sweated obedient, so

Bright; yet certain gloomy traits he displayed
Foreshadowed some bitter hypocrisies.
Passing darkened hallways hung with moldy
Tapestries, he'd stick out his tongue, both fists
At his crotch. and in his clenched eyes saw spots.
A door opened on evening: by lamplight
You'd see him, gagging, hanging over the
Stairs up high, engulfed in the skylight's glow.
Above all in summer, stupefied, beat,
He'd hide in the coolness of the privy;
At peace with his thoughts, sniffing deeply.


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And when, in the little garden out back,

In winter, moonlit, washed of daily smells,
Stretched out under a wall, buried in clay
And scrunching his dazzled eyes for visions,
He'd listen to the blighted shrub-trees creak.
Compassion! His only pals were puny,
Bare-faced kids who, fading eyes down their cheeks,
Hiding thin yellow fingers black with mud
Under old clothes that stank of runny shit,
Communed with the sweetness of idiots.


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And if, having caught him at these unclean

Compassions, his mother was horrified;
His tender feelings overthrew her surprise.
It was good. She had the blue gaze - that lies!


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At seven, he made up novels of life

In the wilderness, where joyous Freedom shines,
Forest, sun, shore, savannah! He took to
Picture-magazines where, blushing, he's stare at
Fun-loving Spanish and Italian girls.
And when she came, dressed in calico, the
Brown-eyes crazy eight-year-old - the daughter
Of workers next door - the little bully,
She cornered him, jumped him, tossing her hair,
And pinned beneath, he bit her in the ass
Because she never wore any panties.
- And black and blue from her fists and heels, he
Savored the taste of her skin in his room.


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He dreaded glum December Sundays when,

Hair slicked, at mahogany bench, he read
A Bible thick with cabbage-green pages;
Dreams oppressed him every night in his bed.
He didn't love God; but the men he'd see
In the tawny dusk, dirty, in workshirts,
Heading home, where criers, to three drumrolls,
Make the crowds laugh and groan at their decrees.
- He dreamt of amorous prairie, where
Luminous billows, wholesome fragrance and
Golden pubic fluff calmly stir, take flight!


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And since he really relished somber stuff,

When closed up in his barren, shuttered room,
High and blue, stricken with humidity,
He'd read his novel, endlessly plotted,
Heavy with ochre skies and forests drowned,
Flowers of flesh in starry woods unfurled,
Vertigo, wreckage, mayhem and pity! --
Meanwhile, neighborhood noise ran on below
- Alone, and lying on raw linen sheets
While violently envisioning sails


Comedy of Thirst/ Comedie de la Soif

1. The Parents 

We are your Grandparents,   
The Grown-ups!   
Covered in the chilly sweats   
Of the moon and greenery.   
Our dry wines, they were hearty!   
Sunlit without illusion   
What's a man to do? drink up. 
ME: - Death is barbarous rivers. 
We are your Grandparents   
In the fields.   
The water is willow-deep:   
See it flowing in the moat   
Round the anchored castle keep.   
Let's go down to our cellars   
After cider and milk. 
ME: - Heading for where the cows drink. 
We are your Grandparents:   
Here, take it,   
The liquor in our cabinets;   
The Tea, the Coffee, so rare,   
Simmering in the samovars.   
- Look at the pictures, the flowers.   
We're back from the cemetery.   
 ME: - Ahh! Drinking up all the urns!

2. The Spirit
Everlasting Ondines,   
Divide the water clean.   
Sister of azure, Venus,   
Arouse the spotless billows. 
Wandering Jews from Norway,   
Tell me about the snow.   
Beloved ancient exiles,   
Tell me of their sea. 
ME: - Nope, no more of these pure drinks,   
These flowers in glasses of water.   
Neither legends nor shapes   
Quench my thirst! 
Singer of songs, it's your god-daughter,   
She's my thirst and craze,   
Mouthless hydra, my secret sharer,   
Who preys and desolates. 

3. Friends
Come! Wines head for the beach   
And billows by the millions!   
See the savage Bitters   
Rolling down from high mountains!   
Wise pilgrims, let us reach   
The green-pillared Absinthe... 
ME: - No more of these landscapes.   
Friends, what is drunkenness? 
I'd as soon, rather, should,   
Putrefy in the pond   
Under the creamy scum   
Near the floating driftwood. 

4. The Poor Man Dreams

Maybe a Night awaits me   
Where I can drink in peace   
In some old-fashioned Town,   
And die the more content:   
Seeing that I'm patient! 
If my ills were put on hold,   
If I ever get some gold,   
Will I choose to go North   
Or to the Land of the Vine?...   
- Ah! Dreaming's a waste of time 
Since it's pure disaster!   
And if again I'd be   
The olden traveler,   
The green inn will never   
Open its doors to me. 

5. Conclusion
The pigeons fluttering on the prairie,   
The game that sees in the dark, pursued,    
The water-animals, the beast enslaved,   
The last butterflies . . . they're thirsty too. 
But to melt where that wandering cloud melts,   
- Oh! lifted up by that cool refreshment!   
To die among those humid violets   
Whose golden mornings command these forests?   


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