Lord, when a chill is in the meadows,
When in exhausted hamlets
Perpetual prayer-times are silent...
Down on defoliated tracks of wildness
Let them fall from vast fuming skies
The beloved, delicious crows.
Bizarre shock-troops that rasp and shriek,
Biting winds attack your rookeries!
Along jaundiced rivers,
Over roads of decrepit calvaries,
Over ditches and pits
Scatter and surge for victory!
In your thousands, swallow the fields of France
Where the past days dead lie sleeping.
Twist in your sharp winter throng,
Just sono wanderer will fail to notice,
None will forget; call us to pay our respects,
O funereal black bird of the elect.
Yet, saints of the firmament,
Haunt the heights of the oak tree,
Lost mast absorbed by twilights mystery,
Abandon the warblers of May to those who inhabit
Imprisoning grass in dark forest greenery,
Those chained by defeat without destiny.
(translated from the French
by John Kinsella)
Arthur Rimbaud was born in
provincial France in 1854. The enfant terrible of the symbolist
movement, he wrote some of the 19th centurys most visionary
and influential poetry and prose before abandoning writing at
the age of 19. He died in Marseilles in 1891.
John Kinsella is author of
more than 20 books of poetry, most recently Peripheral
Light: Selected and New Poems. He teaches at Kenyon College
and is a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University.
Originally published in the December
2003/January 2004 issue of Boston Review