Look back with longing eyes and know that I will follow,
Lift me up in your love as a light wind lifts a swallow,
Let our flight be far in sun or blowing rain—
But what if I heard my first love calling me again?
Hold me on your heart as the brave sea holds the foam,
Take me far away to the hills that hide your home;
Peace shall thatch the roof and love shall latch the door—
But what if I heard my first love calling me once more?
I. No one's serious at seventeen. —On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need —You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade. Lindens smell fine on fine June nights! Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes; The wind brings sounds—the town is near— And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . . II. —Over there, framed by a branch You can see a little patch of dark blue Stung by a sinister star that fades With faint quiverings, so small and white. . . June nights! Seventeen!—Drink it in. Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . . The mind wanders, you feel a kiss On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . . III. The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels —And when a young girl walks alluringly Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow Of her father's starched collar. . . Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping, She turns on a dime, eyes wide, Finding you too sweet to resist. . . —And cavatinas die on your lips. IV. You're in love. Off the market till August. You're in love.—Your sonnets make Her laugh. Your friends are gone, you're bad news. —Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .! That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés; You order beer or lemonade. . . —No one's serious at seventeen When lindens line the promenade.
29 September 1870
From Rimbaud Complete by Arthur Rimbaud; translated, edited, and introduced by Wyatt Mason. Copyright © 2002 by Wyatt Mason. Reprinted by permission of the Modern Library. All rights reserved.
See your God in the jelly-fish, Sucking salty food. See Him drift in the gulf-weed, In shark-bellies brood. See Him feed with the gull there, In a grey ship's wake. Feel Him afresh In your own hot flesh When into lust you break. Hear His wrath in the hurricane, Hushing a hundred lives. Hist His heave in the earthquake, In volcano hives. Hark His stride in the plague-wind, Over a sterile shore: Down in a mine Behold what wine Of coal-damp He will pour. Aye, and there in the ribaldry Of a night-wench's song Hear Him—or on a child's lips Cursing a slum-mate's wrong. Stark He starves in the street there, Or, full-fed, will go: He, your God, In every clod Or clot of human woe. And—in every infamy Loathed by you with shame. Clear of the saddest soul-stench None can keep His name. Man's, you may say, all crime is, But Who gave man birth? Spawn of the years Is he—with tears And strife to give him worth. Spawn of the Universes, God's great flesh and bone. Stars are the cells that float there, Through lymph-ether strown. Dying, living, and dead there, Coming again to birth Out of a Womb That was their Tomb Are they—and is our earth. Such is your Immanent God—yea, Evil as well as good, Vileness even as beauty Holds His strange Godhood. Great He seems in the sea's surge, Fair in a woman's face, Yet with the worm He feeds a term On every goodly grace. Spirit, then, you may hold Him, High of plan and hope. But world-flesh does He strive with, Yearn like us—and grope; So must ever and oft seem Avid to escape From the hid yeast That moulds the least Of all things to His shape. Spirit, may be—or haply We had known no growth, But in a slime primeval Still would dwell in sloth. Yet if such is His Being, Finite is His need. To the same ends As earth He wends And journeying must bleed.
This poem is in the public domain.