Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday Poet: Arthur Rimbaud

Happy Birthday to my friend Hipster Law Prof. May he have many more happy years, and may we always exchange odd questions, moderately useful advice (well, his more useful than mine), ruminating thoughts, and good friendship. And some awesome care packages. And hi-fives.

HLP supposedly looked like Rimbaud as a young man. I can sort of see it. Or at least, say "sure, if you say so" in good humor. So in honor of his birthday, in light of the fact that I just saw Paris, je t'aime (and liked it much), and because it's Saturday, I give you poetry by Rimbaud and dedicate today's post to Hipster Law Prof. Rimbaud, brilliant Symbolist poet prodigy that he was, stopped writing entirely at the age of 19, and died at the age of 37. Only one year older than HLP is today! So by all accounts, HLP is doing good, and way better than his literary doppelganger.

Again, joyeux anniversaire Hipster Law Prof!

I am an ephemeral
and a not too discontented citizen
of a metropolis considered modern
because all known taste
has been evaded in the furnishings a
nd the exterior of the houses
as well as in the layout of the city.
Here you will fail to detect the least trace
of any monument of superstition.
Morals and language are reduced to their simplest expression,
at last! The way these millions of people,
who do not even need to know each other,
manage their education, business,
and old age is so identical
that the course of their lives
must be several times less long
than that which a mad statistics
calculates for the people of the continent.
And from my window I see new specters rolling through
the thick eternal smoke--
our woodland shade, our summer night!--
new Eumenides in front of my cottage
which is my country and all my heart
since everything here resembles it,--
Death without tears, our diligent daughter and servant,
a desperate Love, and a pretty
Crime howling in the mud in the street.


Nobody's serious when they're seventeen.
On a nice night, the hell with beer and lemonade
And the café and the noisy atmosphere!
You walk beneath the linden trees on the promenade.
The lindens smell so lovely on a night in June!
The air is so sweet that your eyelids close.
The breeze is full of sounds-- they come from the town--
And the scent of beer, and the vine, and the rose...


You look up and see a little scrap of sky,
Dark blue and far off in the night,
Struck with a lopsideded star that
drifts by With little shivers, very small and white...
A night in June! Seventeen! Getting drunk is fun.
Sap like champagne knocks your head awry...
Your mind drifts; a kiss rises to your lips
And flutters like a little butterfly...


Your heart Crusoes madly through novels, anywhere,
When through the pale pool beneath a street light,
A girl goes by with the most charming air,
In the grim shadows of her father's dark coat.
And since she finds you marvelously naïve,
While her little heels keep tapping along
She turns, with a quick bright look...
And on your lips, despairing, dies your song.


You are in love. Rented out till fall.
You are in love. Poetic fires ignite you.
Your friends laugh; they won't talk to you at all.
Then one night, the goddess deigns to write you!
That night... you go back to the café, to the noisy atmosphere;
You sit and order beer, or lemonade...
Nobody's serious when they're seventeen,
And there are linden trees on the promenade.


When the world is reduced to a single dark wood
for our four eyes' astonishment,-- a beach for two
faithful children,-- a musical house
for one pure sympathy,-- I shall find you.
Should there be here below
but a single old man, handsome
and calm in the midst of incredible luxury, I shall be at your feet.
Should I have realized all your memories,--
should I be the one who can bind you
hand and foot,-- I shall strangle you.
When we are very strong,-- who draws back?
very gay,-- who cares for ridicule?
When we are very bad,-- what would they do with us?
Deck yourself, dance, laugh.
I could never throw Love out of the window.
My comrade, beggar girl, monster child!
O it's all one to you these unhappy women,
these wiles and my discomfiture.
Bind yourself to us with your impossible voice, your voice!
sole soother of this vile despair.
An overcast morning in July. A taste of ashes flies through the air;--
an odor of sweating wood on the hearth,--
dew-ret flowers-- devastation along the promenades--
the mist of the canals over the fields-- why not incense and toys already?
I have stretched ropes from steeple to steeple;
garlands from window to window;
golden chains from star to star, and I dance.
The upland pond smokes continuously.
What witch will rise against the white west sky?
What violet frondescence fall?
While public funds evaporate in feasts of fraternity,
a bell of rosy fire rings in the clouds.
Reviving a pleasant taste of Indian ink,
a black powder rains on my vigil.
I lower the jets of the chandelier,
I throw myself on my bed,
and turning my face towards the darkness,
I see you, my daughters! my queens!