Waifs and Strays
Black in the fog and in the snow,
Where the great air-hole windows glow,
With rounded rumps,
Upon their knees five urchins squat,
Looking down where the baker, hot,
The thick dough thumps.
They watch his white arm turn the bread,
Ere through an opening flaming red
The loaf he flings.
They hear the good bread baking, while
The chubby baker with a smile
An old tune sings.
Breathing the warmth into their soul,
They squat around the red air-hole,
As a breast warm.
And when, for feasters' midnight bout,
The ready bread is taken out,
In a cake's form;
And while beneath the blackened beams,
Sings every crust of golden gleams,
While the cricket brags,
The hole breathes warmth into the night,
And into them life and delight,
Under their rags,
And the urchins covered with hoar-frost,
On billows of enchantment tossed
Their little souls,
Glue to the grate their little rosy
Noses, singing through the cosy
But with low voices like a prayer,
Bending down to the light down there,
Where heaven gleams.
—So eager that they burst their breeches,
And in the winter wind that screeches
Their linen streams.
After Arthur Rimbaud's "Les Effarés." Translated in 1912. This poem is in the public domain.