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Fairy Tale (Conte)
by Arthur Rimbaud (1872-75); translated by Helen Rootham (1938).

Once upon a time there was a prince, who was angry because he did nothing but ordinary gracious acts in a perfect manner. He foresaw that there would be astonishing revolutions in love, and suspected his wives (he had many) of being capable of something else than the well-behaved and well-dressed complaisance they showed to him. He wished to know the truth, the hour of desire, and the satisfaction of desire. This might be disloyalty to higher and nobler instincts, but he wished it, and he was certainly possessed of great worldly power.

All the women he had loved were assassinated by his orders: cruel havoc was wrought in the Garden of Beauty! Under the sabre they blessed him. He did not order others to be brought to him. Those who were dead reappeared.

After he had hunted or had drunk, he killed all his followers. They followed him anew.

He amused himself by killing all costly beasts; he set fire to the palaces. He hurled himself upon his people and cut them to pieces. Still the crowd, the gilded roofs and the beautiful beasts remained. Can one by destruction fill the soul with rapture, or find one's youth again in cruelty! His people did not murmur. None opposed his wishes.

One evening he was galloping proudly along, when a Genie appeared, of ineffable, incredible beauty. In his face and bearing was the promise of a marvellous love, of a happiness beyond words and almost too great to bear. The Prince and the Genie were lost in each other—were eclipsed, it was thought, in the bliss of perfect being. How could they help dying? Together then they died.

But this Prince died in his palace at the usual age. The Prince was the Genie; the Genie was the Prince. The most correct music can never satisfy our heart's desire.


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AUTHOR: Arthur Rimbaud (1872-75); translated by Helen Rootham (1938).
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