• Email
  • Print

After the Flood

translated by John Ashbery

No sooner had the notion of the Flood regained its composure,

Than a hare paused amid the gorse and trembling bellflowers and said its prayer to the rainbow through the spider’s web.

Oh the precious stones that were hiding,—the flowers that were already peeking out.

Stalls were erected in the dirty main street, and boats were towed toward the sea, which rose in layers above as in old engravings.

Blood flowed in Bluebeard’s house,—in the slaughterhouses,—in the amphitheaters, where God’s seal turned the windows livid. Blood and milk flowed.

The beavers built. Tumblers of coffee steamed in the public houses.

In the vast, still-streaming house of windows, children in mourning looked at marvelous pictures.

A door slammed, and on the village square, the child waved his arms, understood by vanes and weathercocks everywhere, in the dazzling shower.

Madame xxx established a piano in the Alps. Mass and first communions were celebrated at the cathedral’s hundred thousand altars.

The caravans left. And the Splendide Hotel was built amid the tangled heap of ice floes and the polar night.

Since then the Moon has heard jackals cheeping in thyme deserts,—and eclogues in wooden shoes grumbling in the orchard. Then, in the budding purple forest, Eucharis told me that spring had come.

—Well up, pond,—Foam, roll on the bridge and above the woods;—black cloths and organs,—lightning and thunder,—rise and roll;—Waters and sorrows, rise and revive the Floods.

For since they subsided,—oh the precious stones shoveled under, and the full-blown flowers!—so boring! and the Queen, the Witch who lights her coals in the clay pot, will never want to tell us what she knows, and which we do not know.


—From Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations

  • Email
  • Print