Arthur Rimbaud

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

What One Says To The Poet On The Subject Of Flowers - Poem by Arthur Rimbaud

I

Thus, ever, towards the azure night
Where there quivers a topaz sea,
Will function in your evening light
The Lilies, those clysters of ecstasy!

In our own age of sago, as they must,
Since all the Plants are workers first,
The Lilies will drink a blue disgust,
From your religious Prose, not verse!

– The Lily of Monsieur de Kerdrel
The sonnet of eighteen thirty, the plant,
That Lily, they bestow on ‘The Minstrel’
With the carnation and the amaranth!

Lilies! Lilies! You see never a one!
Yet in your Verses, like the Sinners’
Sleeves, those of soft-footed women,
Always those white flowers shiver!

Always, Dear, when you take a bathe,
Your Shirt with yellow armpits rots
Swells to the breeze of rising day,
Above the soiled forget-me-nots!

Love, only, through your nets
Smuggles Lilies – O unequal!
And the Woodland Violets,
The dark Nymphs’ sugary spittle!...


II

O Poets, if you could but own
To the red on the laurel’s firm stem
To the Roses, the Roses, blown,
With a thousand octaves swollen!

If BANVILLE could make them snow,
Blood-stained, whirling in gyrations,
Blacking the eye of that stranger so,
Who sees wicked interpretations!

In your forests, by your paths,
O so placid photographers!
Like the stoppers on carafes,
The Flora’s more or less diverse!

Always the vegetables, French,
Absurd, consumptive, up for a fight,
Bellies of basset hounds they drench,
Peacefully passed in evening light;

Always, after fearful drawings
Of blue Lotus or that Sunflower,
Pink prints, subjects befitting
Girls in communion’s sweet hour!

The Asoka Ode agrees with the
Loretto window stanza; showers
Of bright butterflies, heavy, flutter,
Dunging on the daisy flowers.

Old verdures, old braided ribbons!
O vegetable biscuit bakes!
Fantastic flowers of old Salons!
– For cockchafers, not rattlesnakes,

Those vegetable dolls in tears
Grandville would have mislaid
In the margin, sucking colours
From spiteful stars with eye-shades!

Yes, the drooling of your flutes
Produces precious sugar!
– Heaps of fried eggs in old boots,
Lily, Lilac, Rose, Asoka!...


III

O white Hunter, running through,
Stocking-less, the Panic field,
Shouldn’t you, couldn’t you
Acquire a little botany?

You’d have succeed, I’m afraid,
To russet Crickets, Spanish Fly,
Rio golds to Rhine blue, Norway
To Florida, in the blink of an eye:

But, Dear, art cannot, for us,
– It’s true – permit, it’s wrong,
To the astounding Eucalyptus,
Boa-Constrictors, hexameter-long;

There…! As if Mahogany
Served, even in our Guiana,
Only the Capuchin monkey
To ride the mad weight of liana!

– In short, a single Flower: is it,
Lily or Rosemary, live or dead,
Worth a spot of sea-gull’s shit,
Worth a candle drip, I said?

– And I mean what I say, mind!
Even you, squatting there, in one
Of those bamboo-huts – blind
Shut, behind brown Persian curtain –

You’d scrawl about things floral
Worthy of some wild Oise department!...
– Poet, yet that’s a rationale
No less laughable than it’s arrogant!


IV

Speak, not of pampas in the spring,
Black with terrible rebellions,
But of tobacco, cotton growing!
Speak of exotic harvest seasons!

Speak, white brow that Phoebus tanned,
Of how many dollars Pedro
Velasquez of Havana earned;
En-shit the Bay of Sorrento

Where in thousands rest the Swans;
Let your stanzas undertake
The draining of the mangrove swamps,
Filled with hydras, water-snakes!

Your quatrains plunge in blood-wet groves
Return, bringing Humanity
Diverse offerings, sugars, cloves,
Lozenges and rubber-trees!

Let us know if the yellowness
Of snowy Peaks, near the Tropic,
Is prolific insect’s nests
Or lichens microscopic!

Seek, O Hunter, our wish what’s more,
Diverse fragrant madders,
That, for our Army, Nature
Might cause to bloom in trousers!

Seek, beside the slumbering Glades,
Flowers that look like muzzles, oh,
Out of which drip gold pomades,
On the dark hide of the buffalo!

Seek wild fields, where in the Blue
Trembles the silver of pubescence,
Calyxes of fiery eggs that brew
Steeped in burning oily essence!

Seek the Thistle’s cotton-bin,
Whose downy wool ten asses
With ember eyes toil to spin!
Seek flowers which are chassis!

Yes, seek at the heart of black seams
Nigh-on stone-like flowers – marvels! –
That near their hard pale ovaries
Bear soft gemmiferous tonsils!

Serve us, O Crammer, as you can,
On a fine vermilion platter
Stews of syrupy Lilies, plan
To corrode our German silver!


V

Many will sing of Love sublime,
The thief of sombre Indulgence:
Not Renan, nor Murr the cat, I’m
Sure, know Thyrsi, blue, immense!

You’ll quicken, in our torpors,
Hysterias, through your fragrances;
Exalt us towards candours
Purer than Marys’ whitenesses…

Colonist! Trader! Medium!
Your Rhyme, pink, white, will be
A welling ray of sodium,
A well-tapped dripping rubber-tree!

From your dark Poems – Juggler!
Let dioptric white, green, red,
Burst out like strange flowers,
Electric butterflies instead!

See! It’s the Century of hell!
Telegraph poles will honour
– A lyre, where steel songs swell,
Your magnificent shoulder!

Rhyme us above all a version
On the ills of potato blight!
– And to aid the composition
Of Poems of mysterious light

To be read from Tréguier
To Paramaribo, don’t forget
To buy Tomes by Monsieur Figuier,
– Illustrated – from Monsieur Hachette!


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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 3, 2010



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