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Towns I (Villes I)
by Arthur Rimbaud (1872-75); translated by Helen Rootham (1938).

These are towns! It is for the inhabitants of towns that these dream Alleghanies and Lebanons have been raised. Castles of crystal and wood move on rails and invisible pulleys. Old craters, encircled with colossal statues and palms of copper, roar melodiously in their fires. Festivals of love sound upon the streams which seem to hang in the mid-air, behind the chalets. The chimes, in full cry, chase their echoes in the gorges. Multitudes of giant singers flock together, their garments and oriflammes shining like the light on the mountain-tops. On platforms overhanging the gulfs, Rolands proclaim their prowess on horns. On the foot-bridges of the abyss, and on the roofs of the inns, the burning sky clings to the masts in little flags of shimmering heat. By the falling of the apotheoses the fields are united to the heights where seraphic centauresses wind amongst the avalanches. Above the level of the highest crests is a sea troubled by the eternal birth of Venus, and covered with choric fleets and the distant murmurs of pearls and rare sinuous shells. Sometimes the sea grows dark with mortal thunders. On the slopes there bellow harvests of flowers as big as our goblets. Corteges of Queen Mabs in robes red and opaline, climb the ravines. Up there, their hoofs in the cascades and the briars, the stags give Diana suck. Bacchantes of the suburbs weep, and the moon burns and howls. Venus enters the caves of the blacksmiths and hermits. Groups of bell-towers sing aloud the ideas of the people. From castles built of bones proceeds unknown music. In the boroughs legends are born, and sudden transports spring to life in the streets. The paradise of the thunders bursts and falls. Savages dance unceasingly the Festival of the Night. And for one hour I descended into the stir of a Baghdad street where groups of people sang the joy of new work; moving about in a dull breeze, unable to elude the fabulous phantoms of the mountains to which one must return.

What kindly arms, what good hour, will restore to me those regions from which come my slumbers and the least of my movements?


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