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

There are very sturdy rogues. Many of them have made use of you and your like. Without wants, they are in no hurry to put into action their brilliant faculties and their experience of your consciences. What mature men! Here are sottish eyes out of a midsummer night's dream—red, black, tricoloured; eyes of steel spotted with golden stars; deformed faces, leaden-hued, livid, enflamed; wanton hoarsenesses. They have the ungainly bearing of rag dolls. There are youths among them—how would they regard Cherubim?—endowed with horrible voices and some dangerous resources. Dressed up with a disgusting richness, they are sent to exhibit themselves in the town.

It is a violent Paradise of mad grimaces. Your faquirs and your stage-clowns cannot compare with them. In improvized costumes of a nightmare taste, they play laments, tragedies of criminals and of demi-gods, more spiritual than history or religion has ever been. Chinese, Hottentots, gypsies, simpletons, hyænas, Molochs, old insanities, sinister demons, they alternate popular or maternal tricks with bestial poses and caresses. They can interpret modern plays or songs of a simple naivety at will. Master jugglers, they transform places and people, and make use of magnetic comedy. Eyes flame, blood sings, bones grow bigger, tears and slender red threads trickle down. Their raillery or their terror lasts a minute, or months.

I alone hold the key to this savage parade.


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