A Rimbaud Holiday Message
AT THE AGE of 22, my life path was given a shake when a roommate spontaneously recited a few poignant passages of a book he was reading. The title was The Day on Fire and the author, James Ramsey Ullman, had fictionalized the life of a great poet. Arthur Rimbaud was the enfant terrible of French Poetry; he was only 17 when he arrived in Paris, and by the time he turned 21 he had shocked the literary world. He shocked my world, too.
He wrote things powered by vision and imagination–and their impact was not overly weakened by filter of translation:
As soon as the idea of the Deluge had subsided, a hare stopped in the clover amid the swaying bluebells, and said a prayer to the rainbow through the spider’s web.
His writings defied gravity, glowed from their own light.
“my eternal soul, redeem your vow, despite the night alone and the day on fire.” (Eterntiy)
Sometimes, he reordered the senses. In Voyelles, he assigned colors to each of the vowels. the letter “E” became: “whiteness of vapors and of tents, lances of proud glaciers, white kings…”
Sometimes, he reordered the senses. In Voyelles, he assigned colors to each of the vowels. The letter “E” became:
“whiteness of vapors and of tents, lances of proud glaciers, white kings…”
So you can imagine that his idea of Christmas would be, well, out of the ordinary, iconoclastic–or as the French might say, sans pareil. Many years, I made seasonal cards with the gif of a bleak landscape and Rimbaud’s more aspirational, if heretical verse:
From the same desert, in the same night,
always my tired eyes awaken to the silver star—always;
but the Kings of Life are never moved, the three magi,
Mind and Heart and Soul.
When shall we go beyond the mountains and the shores
to greet the birth of new toil and wisdom,
the fleeting of tyrants, the end of superstition,
to adore –the first to adore, Christmas on the Earth.
–Arthur Rimbaud from “Une Saison d’Enfer: Matin (in translation)”
Du même désert, à la même nuit,
Toujours mes yeux las se réveillent à l’étoile d’argent, toujours,
Sans que s’émeuvent les Rois de la vie, les trois mages,
Le coeur, l’âme, l’esprit.
Quand irons-nous, par-delà les grèves et les monts,
Saluer la naissance du travail nouveau, la sagesse nouvelle,
La fuite des tyrans et des démons, la fin de la superstition,
Adorer – les premiers ! – Noël sur la terre !
So here’s to 2021, fleeting of tyrants, the new toil….