by Arthur Rimbaud
Hell with Lizzy Mercier Descloux translation

As I was descending cold-faced rivers,
I realized I had lost my guides:
Yelping Redskins are taking them for targets,
They've nailed them naked to painted poles.

I didn't give a fuck about the crew or cargo
Of Flemish wheat and English cotton.
When the screams of my haulers had finally ended,
The rivers let me go where I wanted.

In furious tongues of surf last winter
I, being deffer than a child's brain,
Ran! And the peninsula took off
Unused to such triumphant noise.

The storm has blessed my awakening.
More light than a cork I dance on the waves
That are called the eternal rollers of victims,
Ten nights, without missing the inane look of the lanterns.

More sweet than the flesh of sour apples to boys
The green water entered my hull of fir
And washed the vomit and blue wine
Off me, scattering rudder and grappling hook.

And from then on I bathed in the Poem
Of the Sea, star-soaked, milk radiant, gulping
Down the green sky-blue; where the pallid debris
Is stirred by the drowned man's passing thoughts.

Where all of a sudden the blueness is dyed: madness
And slow rhythms under the gleam of day,
Stronger than alcohol, more vast than our song,
The bitter red dots of love ferment!

I know the skies bursting with lightning, and the waterspout
And the undertow and the currents: I've been the evening,
The Dawn, as elated as the nation of doves,
And at times I've seen what man believes he's seen!

I've seen the setting sun, stained with mystical horror,
Light up the long purple jellies
Like actors of ancient dramas
The waves roll away their quivering shutters!

I've dreamed the green night of dazzling snows,
A kiss wells up slowly to the eyes of the sea,
The circulation of previously unimaginable saps,
And the yellow and blue dawn of crooning phosphor!

I have followed for many ripe months the cowish
Hysterical pounding of swells on the reefs,
Without supposing that the glowing feet of the Marys
Could kick in the face of the wheezing seas!

I have hit upon, understand, unbelievable Floridas
Mingling with flowers the eyes of panthers-in-
Man-skin! The rainbows tight as reins
Beneath the oceans to some glaucous flocks!

I have seen the enormous swamp ferment, fish-net
Where in the rushes rots a prehistoric whale!
Water collapse cascading in the midst of calm,
And distances that lead to a torrential emptiness!

Glaciers, silver suns, nacreaous waves, glowing embers of sky!
Hideous wreckage on the floor of brown gulfs
Where the giant snakes devoured by bugs
Sink, like torn trees, in black perfumes!

I would have loved to show the children these gilt-heads
From the ocean blue, these fish of gold, these fish that lyricize.
--Flower foam rocks my formless drift
And ineffable breezes make wings of me at times.

Sometimes, a martyr weary of zones and poles,
The sob of the seas gentled my rocking,
Lifting its flowers of shadow on yellow suction pads
And I stayed there, like a kneeling woman...

Nearly an island, tossing around my banks the quarrels
And dung of blond-eyed birds.
And I sailed along, as across my frail lines
Drowned men sank to sleep backwards!

Thus I, boat lost beneath the hair of coves,
Thrown by the storm into birdless ether,
I, the ruin drunk with water, would not
Have been rescued by the Monitors of Hanseatic caravelles;

Free, smoking, lifted by the purple mist,
I who pierced the smoldering sky like a wall
Which offers good poets that exquisite jam
The lichen of the sun and infinite-blue mucous;

Who ran, stained by electric half-moons,
Loony board, escorted by black sea-horses,
When the Julys were thrashing and smashing
The sea-blue skies of burning funnels;

I who was shaking, feeling fifty miles away the moan
Of the rutting Hippos and the thick Maelstroms,
I the eternal plyer of the blue immobilities,
I miss the Europe of ancient parapets!

I've seen sidereal archipelegos! and islands
The delerious skies of which are open to the wanderer
--Is it in these ancient nights that you sleep and exile yourself,
Millions of golden birds, oh future Strength?--

But really, I cry too much! The Dawns are beyond hope.
Any moon is atrocious and any sun bitter:
The acrid love inflated me with its heady torpors.
Oh that my keel explode! Oh that I'm all the sea!

If I desire the waters of Europe, it's the puddle
Black and cold, where towards fragrant twilight
A squatting child full of sadnesses, releases
A boat as frail as a butterfly.

I can't anymore, bathed in your languors, oh waves,
Erase the traces of your cotton carriers,
Nor traverse the arrogance of flags and flames,
Nor swim beneath the horrible eyes of slave ships.



Lizzy M. D. on bed

photo: Richard Hell         

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