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Three Poems by Arthur Rimbaud

translated by Paul Schmidt and Peter Bauer

ETERNITY

It is discovered.
What? Eternity.
In the whirling light
Of sun become sea.

O my sentinel soul,
Let us always desire
The nothing of night
And the day on fire.

From the voice of the World
And the striving of Man
You must set yourself free;
You must fly as you can.

For out of you only,
Soft silken embers,
Duty arises
Nor surfeit remembers.

Then shall all hope fail…
Nul orietur.
Science with patience,
The torment is sure.

It is discovered.
What? Eternity.
In the whirling light
Of sun become sea.

VOWELS

Black A, white E, red I, green U, blue O—vowels,
Some day I will open your silent pregnancies:
A, black belt, hairy with bursting flies,
Bumbling and buzzing over stinking cruelties.

Pits of night; E, candor of sand and pavilions,
High glacial spears, white kings, trembling Queen-Anne’s lace;
I, bloody spittle, laughter dribbling from a face
In wild denial or in anger, vermilions;

U,…divine movement of viridian seas,
Peace of pastures animal-strewn, peace of calm lines
Drawn on foreheads worn with heavy alchemies;

O, supreme Trumpet, harsh with strange stridencies,
Silences traced in angels and astral designs:
O…OMEGA…the violet light of His Eyes!

AFTER FRANCOIS COPPEE

I sat in a third-class railway car; an old priest
By the window took out his pipe—antique, at least—
And leaned against the window an old chin stained puce.
Then this christian, ignoring insulting abuse,
Turning to me, made a request, forceful, but sad,
For some tobacco—which, as it happened, I had—
He was once, it appeared, chaplain and confessor
To a proscribed nobleman and his successor—
To while away the length of a tunnel—dark vein
Laid open for travelers—by Soissons, near Aisne.

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