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This poem is taken from PN Review 199, Volume 37 Number 5, May - June 2011.

from Illuminations (translated by John Ashbery) Arthur Rimbaud
Childhood

I
This idol, black eyes and yellow mane, without family or court, nobler than the fable, Mexican and Flemish; his domain, insolent azure and verdure, runs along beaches named by waves without ships, names that are ferociously Greek, Slavic, Celtic.

At the edge of the forest - dream flowers chime, burst, lighten, - the girl with the orange lip, her knees crossed in the clear deluge that wells up from the meadows, nakedness shaded, crossed and clothed by the rainbows, flora and sea.

Ladies who twirl on terraces near the sea, little girls and giantesses, superb black women in the grey-green moss, jewels erect on the fat soil of coppices and thawing flower beds - young mothers and older sisters whose eyes speak of pilgrimages, sultanas, princesses of tyrannical gait and costume, little foreign women and sweetly unhappy people.

How dull, the hour of 'dear bodies' and 'dear hearts'.

II
That's her, the dead little girl, behind the rosebushes. - The dead young mother descends the front steps - The cousin's open carriage squeaks on the sand - The little brother - (he's in India!) there, in front of the sunset, on the meadow of carnations. - The old people buried standing up in the rampart overgrown with wallflowers.

The swarm of golden leaves buzzes around the general's house. They're in the South. - You follow the red highway to arrive at the empty inn. The château is for sale; its shutters are dangling. - The vicar will have gone off with the church key. - Around the park, the caretakers' lodges are vacant. The palings are so high that you can glimpse only the rustling treetops. Besides, there's nothing to see inside.

The meadows climb toward hamlets without roosters, without anvils. The sluice gate is raised. O the wayside crosses and windmills of the desert, the islands and the haystacks.

Magical flowers were humming. The turf slopes cradled him. Beasts of a fabulous elegance were circulating. Storm clouds were piling up on the rising sea made of an eternity of hot tears.

III
In the wood there is a bird, his song stops you and makes you blush.

   There is a clock that doesn't strike.
   There is a pit with a nest of white creatures.
   There is a cathedral that sinks and a lake that rises.
   There is a little carriage abandoned in the thicket, or that
hurtles down the path, trimmed with ribbons.
   There is a troop of child actors in costume, seen on the
...


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