Sunday, February 9, 2014

Arthur Ribaud - Poetry

Next up is a poem by Arthur Rimbaud, called 'The Drunken Boat'.  I haven't heard of either one before.  The introduction says that he wrote 'evocative dreamlike poems'.  Let's find out.

I felt my guides no longer carried me-
as we sailed down the virgin Amazon,
the redskins nailed them to their painted stakes
naked, as targets for their archery.

I carried Flemish wheat or Swedish wood,
but had forgotten my unruly crew;
their conversation ended with their lives,
the river let me wander where I would.

Surf punished me, and threw my cargo out;
last winter I was breaking up on land.
I fled. These floating river villages
had never heard a more triumphant shout.

The green ooze spurting through my centerboard
was sweeter than sour apples to a boy-
it washed away the stains of puke and rotgut,
anchor and wheel were carried overboard.

The typhoon spun my silly needle round;
ten nights I scudded from the freighters' lights;
lighter than cork, I danced upon the surge
man calls the rolling coffin of his drowned.

Then heaven opened for the voyager.
I stared at archipelagos of stars.
Was it on those dead watches that I died-
a million golden birds, Oh future Vigor!

I cannot watch these purple suns go down
like actors on the Aeschylean stage.
I'm drunk on water. I cry out too much-
Oh that my keel might break, and I might drown!

Shrunken and black against a twilight sky,
our Europe has no water. Only a pond
the cows have left, and a boy wades to launch
his paper boat frail as a butterfly.

Bathed in our languors, Waves, I have no wings
to cut across the wakes of cotton ships,
or fly against the flags of merchant kings,
or swim beneath the guns of prison ships.

Wow.  That's an aggressive poem.  The speaker is feeling a euphoria because he survived an attack that killed the rest of his crew.  Well, maybe some euphoria and some survivor guilt. 
The original poem is in French and I don't know how well it really translates.  The last two paragraphs, for instance.  I don't get 'em.  Maybe this is a great poem but if so, I'm not able to see it.

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