The Drunken Boat – Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891)


Arthur Rimbaud

Caricature of Rimbaud drawn by Verlaine in 1872

As I drifted on a river I could not control,
No longer guided by the bargemen’s ropes.
They were captured by howling Indians
Who nailed them naked to coloured posts.

I cared no more for other boats or cargoes:
Flemish wheat or English cottons, all were gone
When my bargemen could no longer haul me
I forgot about everything and drifted on.

Amid the fury of the loudly chopping tides
Last winter, deaf as a child’s dark night,
Ah, how I raced! And the drifting Peninsulas
Have never known such conquering delight.

Lighter than cork, I revolved upon waves
That roll the dead forever in the deep,
Ten days, beyond the blinking eyes of land!
Lulled by storms, I drifted seaward from sleep.

Sweeter than apples to a child its pungent edge;
The wash of green water on my shell of pine.
Anchor and rudder went drifting away,
Washed in vomit and stained with blue wine.

Now I drift through the poem of the sea;
This gruel of stars mirrors the milky sky,
Devours green azures; ecstatic flotsam,
Drowned men, pale and thoughtful, sometimes drift by.

Staining the sudden blueness, the slow sounds,
Deliriums that streak the glowing sky,
Stronger than drink and the songs we sing,
It is boiling, bitter, red; it is love!

I know how lightening split the sky apart,
I know the surf and waterspouts and evening’s fall,
I’ve seen the dawn arisen like a flock of doves;
I’ve seen what men have only dreamed they saw!

I saw the sun with mystic horrors darken
And shimmer through a violet haze;
With a shiver of shutters the waves fell
Like actors in ancient, forgotten plays!

I dreamed of green nights and glittering snow,
Slow kisses rising in the eyes of the sea,
Unknown liquids flowing, the blue and yellow
Stirring of phosphorescent melody!

For months I watched the surge of the sea,
Hysterical herds attacking the reefs;
I never thought the bright feet of Mary
Could muzzle up the heavy-breathing waves!

I have jostled – you know? – unbelievable Floridas
And seen among the flowers the wild eyes
Of panthers in the skins of men! Rainbows
Birdling blind flocks beneath the horizons!

In stinking swamps I have seen great hulks:
A Leviathan that rotted in the reeds!
Water crumbling in the midst of calm
And distances that shatter into foam.

Glaciers, silver suns, waves of pearl, fiery skies,
Giant serpents stranded where lice consume
Them, falling in the depths of dark gulfs
From contorted trees, bathed in black perfume!

I wanted to show children these fishes shining
In the blue wave, the golden fish that sing –
A froth of flowers cradled my wandering
And delicate winds tossed me on their wings.

Sometimes, a martyr of poles and latitudes,
The sea rocked me softly in sighing air,
And brought me dark blooms with yellow stems –
I remained there like a woman on her knees.

Almost an island, I balanced on my boat’s sides
Rapacious blond-eyed birds, their dung, their screams.
I drifted on through fragile tangled lines
Drowned men, still staring up, sank down to sleep.

Now I, a little lost boat, in swirling debris,
Tossed by the storm into the birdless upper air
– All the Hansa Merchants and Monitors
Could not fish up my body drunk with the sea;

Free, smoking, touched the violet haze above,
I, who the lurid heavens breached like some rare wall
Which boasts – confection that the poets love –
Lichens of sunlight, and snots of bright blue sky;

Lost branch spinning in a herd of hippocamps,
Covered over with electric animals,
An everlasting July battering
The glittering sky and its fiery funnels;

Shaking at the sound of monsters roaring,
Rutting Behemoths in thick whirlpools,
Eternal weaver of unmoving blues,
I thought of Europe and its ancient walls!

I have seen archipelagos in the stars,
Feverish skies where I was free to roam!
Are these bottomless nights your exiled nests,
Swarm of golden birds, O Strength to come?

True, I’ve cried too much; I am heartsick at dawn.
The moon is bitter and the sun is sour…
Love burns me; I am swollen and slow.
Let my keel break! Oh, let me sink in the sea!

If I long for a shore in Europe,
It’s a small pond, dark, cold, remote,
The odour of evening, and a child full of sorrow
Who stoops to launch a crumpled paper boat.

Washed in your languors, sea, I cannot trace
The wake of tankers foaming through the cold,
Nor assault the pride of pennants and flags,
Nor endure the slave ship’s stinking hold.


Robert Frost – Directive

Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there’s a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods’ excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone’s road home from work this once was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.
First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
Weep for what little things could make them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
Your destination and your destiny’s
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,
So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.
(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.


Robert Frost

Zone by Guillaume Apollinaire

Giorgio de Chirico, Portrait prémonitoire de Guillaume Apollinaire
(Premonitory Portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire), 1914

You are weary at last of this ancient world
Shepherdess O Eiffel tower whose flock of bridges bleats at the morning
You have lived long enough with Greek and Roman antiquity
Here even automobiles look old
Only religion stays news religion
As simple as hangars at the airfield
Alone in Europe you Christianity are not antique
The one modern European is you Pope Pius X
And you whom windows watch what shame keeps you
From entering a church and confessing your sins this morning
Handbills catalogues advertisements that sing overhead
Furnish your morning’s poetry for prose there are newspapers
Dime detective novels packed with adventure
Biographies of great men a thousand and one titles
This morning I saw a fine street whose name slips my mind
New and bright the sun’s clarion
Where executives and workers sweet stenographers
Hurry every weekday dawn and dusk
Three times a morning sirens groan
A choleric bell barks at noon
Billboards posters and
Doorplates twitter like parakeets
There is charm to this Paris factory street
Between rue Aumont-Thiéville and the avenue des Ternes
Here is the young street and you still a baby
Dressed by your mother only in blue and white
A pious child with your oldest friend René Dalize
You like nothing so much as church ceremonies
Nine o’clock the gas turns blue you slip out of bed
To pray all night in the school chapel
While an eternal adorable amethyst depth
Christ’s flaming halo revolves forever
He is the lovely lily we all worship
He is the red-haired torch no wind may blow out
Pale and scarlet son of the sorrowful mother
Tree hung with prayer
Twofold gallows of honor and eternity
Six-pointed star
God who dies Friday and rises on Sunday
Christ who flies higher than the aviators
And holds the world’s record
Christ pupil of the eye
Twentieth pupil of the centuries he knows his business
And changed to a bird this century ascends like Jesus
Devils in hell raise their heads to stare
They say it imitates Simon Magus in Judea
They say if it lifts to call it a lifter
Angels soar past the young trapeze artist
Icarus Enoch Elijah Apollonius of Tyana
Hover near the original airplane
Or give place to those whom the Eucharist elevates
Priests rising continuously as they raise the Host
At last the plane lands with wings outspread
Through heaven come flying a million swallows
At full speed crows owls falcons
Ibises flamingoes storks from Africa
Roc so celebrated in song and story
Clutching Adam’s skull the original head
Eagle from the horizon pounces screaming
Hummingbird arrives from America
From China long supple phis
Who have only one wing and fly in couples
Here comes the dove immaculate spirit
Escorted by lyrebird and ocellated peacock
That funeral pyre the phoenix engendering himself
Momentarily veils all with his ardent ash
Sirens quit their perilous perches
And arrive each singing beautifully
Everyone eagle phoenix phis
Fraternizes with the flying machine
Now you stride alone through the Paris crowds
Busses in bellowing herds roll by
Anguish clutches your throat
As if you would never again be loved
In the old days you would have turned monk
With shame you catch yourself praying
And jeer your laughter crackles like hellfire
Its sparks gild the depths of your life
Which like a painting in a dark museum
You approach sometimes to peer at closely
Today in Paris the women are bloodstained
It was as I would rather forget it was during beauty’s decline
From fervent flames Our Lady gazed down on me in Chartres
Your Sacred Heart’s blood drowned me in Montmartre
I am sick of hearing blessed words
My love is a shameful disease
You are sleepless anguished but possessed by an image
Which hovers never distant
By the Mediterranean
Under lemon trees that flower the year long
You take ship with friends
One from Nice one from Menton two from La Turbie
Terrified we see in the depths giant squid
And fish the Savior’s symbols gliding through seaweed
In a tavern garden near Prague
You are content instead of writing your stories
To watch a rose on the table and
A rosebug asleep in the rose’s heart
Agahst you trace your likeness in the mosaics at Saint Vitus
And that day almost died of grief to see yourself portrayed
As Lazarus distracted by daylight
The hands of the ghetto clock run backward
You also creep slowly backward through life
Climbing to the hradchen listening at twilight
To Czech songs from the taverns
You in Marseilles among piles of watermelons
You in Coblenz at the Giant’s hotel
In Rome sitting under a Japanese medlar tree
In Amsterdam with a girl you find pretty but who is ugly
And engaged to a student from Leyden
One can rent rooms there in Latin Cubicula locanda
I remember three days there and three at Gouda
You are in Paris arrainged before the judge
Arrested like a criminal
You went on sad and merry journeys
Before growing aware of lies and old age
Love made you unhappy at twenty again at thirty
I have lived like a fool and wasted my youth
You no longer dare examine your hands and at any moment I could weep
Over you over her whom I love over all that has frightened you
With tears in your eyes you see the shabby refugees
Who have faith in God and pray the mothers nurse their children
Their smell fills the waiting room at the gare St. Lazare
Like the three kings they believe in a star
Hoping to strike it rich in Argentina
And return home wealthy
One family carries a crimson quilt as you your heart
Quilt and our dreams are equally unreal
Some of these refugees stay on and lodge
In slums on the rue des Rosiers or the rue des Écouffes
They keep close to home like chessmen
And are mostly Jewish their wives wear wigs
Pallid they sit at the back of little shops
You stand at the counter of a dirty bar
Taking a café for two sous among the wretched
You are in a huge restaurant at night
These women are not evil only careworn
Each has tortured her lover even the ugliest
Who is the daughter of a Jersey policeman
Her hands which I had not noticed are calloused and cracked
Pity fills me for the scars on her belly
Now I humble my mouth to a poor creature with a horrible laugh
You are alone morning comes
Milkmen clink bottles along the street
Night leaves like a lovely Métive
Ferdine the false or watchful Lea
You sip a liquor as burning as your life
Your life you drain like an eau-de-vie
And stride home to Auteil
To sleep among your fetish from Oceania or Guinea
Other forms of Christ and other faiths
Lesser Christs of dim aspirations
Farewell Farewell

Sun slit throat