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Soir Historique (Soir historique)
by Arthur Rimbaud (1872-75); translated by Helen Rootham (1938).

On some evening, the naive tourist—retired from our economic horrors—hears the hand of a master touch the harpsichord of the meadows. Cards are being played at the bottom of the lake—that mirror which evokes images of queens and fleeting loves. Saints, veils, threads of harmony, and legendary scales of colour can be seen against the sunset.

The passing of huntsmen and of hordes of people make him tremble. Comedy drips down upon the grassy trestles. There are too many of the poor and the feeble upon this stupid design.

Before his slave's vision Germany piles itself up towards the moon; the Tartar deserts grow light; ancient rebellions stir and mutter in the centre of the Celestial Empire. Ascending rocky stairways, and sitting in chairs of stone, the little world of pale, dull peoples—Africa and the West—is going to be edified. Then there are sea-ballets and ballets of the night, and impossible melodies.

There is the same bourgeois magic at every place where the mail puts us down! The most elementary physician feels that it is no longer possible to submit to this personal atmosphere, this fog of physical remorse, of which even the declaration is an affliction.

No! Let us have the moment of vapour baths, of engulfing seas, of subterranean conflagrations, of fiery planets, and of consequent extermination; facts foretold with little malice in the Bible and by the Norns, and which some serious person will be able to supervise. And yet this will not be a legendary effect!


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