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Rimbaud: Evil

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

French writers on war and peace

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Arthur Rimbaud
Evil (1870)
Translated by Paul Schmidt

While the red-stained mouths of machine guns ring
Across the infinite expanse of day;
While red or green, before their posturing King,
The massed battalions break and melt away;

And while a monstrous frenzy runs a course
That makes of a thousand men a smoking pile –
Poor fools! – dead, in summer, in the grass,
On Nature’s breast, who meant these men to smile;

There is a God, who smiles upon us through
The gleam of gold, the incense-laden air,
Who drowses in a cloud of murmured prayer,

And only wakes when weeping mothers bow
Themselves in anguish, wrapped in old black shawls –
And their last small coin into his coffer falls.

Le Mal

Tandis que les crachats rouges de la mitraille
Sifflent tout le jour par l’infini du ciel bleu;
Qu’écarlates ou verts, près du Roi qui les raille,
Croulent les bataillons en masse dans le feu;

Tandis qu’une folie épouvantable, broie
Et fait de cent milliers d’hommes un tas fumant;
– Pauvres morts dans l’été, dans l’herbe, dans ta joie,
Nature, ô toi qui fis ces hommes saintement !… –

– Il est un Dieu qui rit aux nappes damassées
Des autels, à l’encens, aux grands calices d’or;
Qui dans le bercement des hosanna s’endort,

Et se réveille quand des mères, ramassées
Dans l’angoisse et pleurant sous leur vieux bonnet noir,
Lui donnent un gros sou lié dans leur mouchoir!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 30, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Hold Jehovah, those souls are not thine –
    I, Mars, God of War, claim them mine.
    For me, says Odin they died gloriously
    But they were fools, says Loki, taken by my tricks
    They are mine entire, said Pluto, because they’re simply dead

  2. richardrozoff
    March 30, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Are the verses yours? If so, they are very good.

  3. March 31, 2011 at 3:04 am

    I will call those lines The Dogs of War Contend for the Dead
    Your praise is excessive when we are in the company of Rimbaud.

  4. kwibono
    June 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    The first two lines are superb, as is the underlying idea. but the succeeding lines need work.

    After the rhyming first pair, it is a letdown to find that the rest do not rhyme. And that you apparently didn’t notice it.

    For instance, the last line could be improved simply by switching “said” and “Pluto”. I myself would insert a couple syllables to preserve the meter, maybe something like
    All are mine entire, Pluto said; please observe, they’re simply dead.

    that doesn’t earn a stogie either, does it. oh well. but do keep working on it, you may have something. Maybe just eliminate the rhyme in the first two which would recast the whole thing.

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