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

Should the world be reduced to one black forest before our four astonished eyes—to one stretch of sand for two faithful children—to one house of music to hold our perfect sympathy—I would find you.

Should there be here below but one old man, calm and beautiful, and surrounded with incredible luxury—I would be at your feet. Should I realize all your thoughts of the past—should I be the one who knows how to bind you—I will strangle you.

When we are strong, who recoils? When we are gay, who falls through ridicule? When we are wicked, does anything happen to us? Deck yourselves, dance, laugh. Never could I send Love out through the window.

My comrade—beggar, monstrous child! These unhappy ones, these manœuvres and my misery, alike leave you unmoved. You bind yourself to us with your voice—that voice which feeds our despair.

It is an oppressive morning in July. A taste of ashes is in the air, an odour of resinous wood is in the hearth—the flowers are sodden—the promenades are laid waste. A thin mist rising from the canals invades the fields—why are there no playthings and no incense?

I have hung ropes from bell-tower to bell-tower; garlands from window to window; golden chains from star to star—and I dance.

A vapour eddies up continually from the mere. What sorceress will rise up against the white sunset? What fretted violet shapes will descend?

While the public funds are being spent in festivals of brotherhood, a ball of rosy fire rings up in the clouds.

Awakening an agreeable odour of Chinese ink, a black rain falls gently on my reverie. I lower the lamps and go to bed, and turning my face to the shadows, I see you—my girls, my queens!


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