A Prince was annoyed at always being occupied with perfecting vulgar generosities. He foresaw amazing revolutions in love, and suspected that his wives could come up with something better than complacency adorned with sky and luxury. He wished to see the truth, the hour of essential desire and satisfaction. Whether or not this was an aberration of piety, he wanted it. He possessed at the very least a rather broad human power.

All the women who had known him were murdered. What wanton pillaging of the garden of beauty! Beneath the saber, they gave him their blessing. He ordered no new ones.—The women reappeared.

He killed his followers, after the hunt or after drinking.—They all followed him.

He amused himself with cutting the throats of thoroughbred animals. He torched palaces. He hurled himself on people and hacked them to pieces.—The crowds, the golden roofs, the beautiful beasts still lived.

Is it possible to become ecstatic amid destruction, rejuvenate oneself through cruelty! The people didn’t complain. No one offered the support of his own opinions.

One evening he was galloping fiercely. A Genie appeared, of an ineffable, even unavowable beauty. From his face and bearing sprang the promise of a multiple and complex love! of an unspeakable, even unbearable love! The Prince and the Genie probably disappeared into essential health. How could they not die of it? So they died together.

But this Prince passed away, in his palace, at a normal age. The Prince was the Genie. The Genie was the Prince.

Wise music is missing from our desire.

—From Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations

This Issue

January 13, 2011