Arthur Rimbaud

(20 October 1854 – 10 November 1891 / Charleville, Ardennes)

The Sisters Of Charity - Poem by Arthur Rimbaud

That bright-eyed and brown-skinned youth,
The fine twenty-year body that should go naked,
That, brow circled with copper, under the moon,
An unknown Persian Genie would have worshipped;

Impetuous with virginal sweetnesses,
And dark, proud of his first obstinacies,
Like tears of the summer night’s distresses,
That turn on beds of diamond, young seas;

The youth, faced with this world’s ugliness,
Shudders in his heart, wounded deeply,
And, full of profound eternal emptiness,
Begins to long for his sister of charity.

But, O Woman, heap of entrails, pitying, sweet,
You are never the Sister of charity, never,
Dark gaze, belly where rose shadows sleep,
Splendidly formed breasts, slender fingers.

Blind un-awakened one, with eyes enormous,
Our every embrace is merely a question:
Bearer of breasts it’s you who hang on us,
We who nurse you, charming and grave passion.

Your hatreds, your dumb torpors, your weaknesses,
And your brutalisation suffered long ago,
You give back, O Night, like an excess,
Un-malevolent, of blood, each month or so.

– When Woman, borne for an instant, taken on,
Terrifies Love, life’s call and song of action,
The green Muse and burning Justice come
To dismember him with their august obsession.

Ah! Endlessly thirsting for splendours and calms,
Forsaken by both implacable Sisters, whimpering
With tenderness for the science of soothing arms,
He brings his blood-stained brow to Nature’s flowering.

But, wounded, sacred studies, shadowy alchemy
Are repugnant to the proud sombre scholar;
He feels the atrocious advance of all that’s solitary.
So, still handsome, without disgust for the bier,

Let him, traversing all the nights of Truth,
Credit vast ends, Dreams, immense Journey,
And in his soul and sick limbs call on you,
O mysterious Death, O sister of charity!

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 3, 2010

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