Arthur Rimbaud - A Season in Hell



Human labor! That explosion lights up my abyss from time to time.

"Nothing is vanity; on toward knowledge!" cries the modern Ecclesiastes, which is Everyone. And still the bodies of the wicked and the idle fall upon the hearts of all the rest... Ah! quick, quick, quick there; beyond the night... that future reward, that eternal reward... will we escape it?

- What more can I do? Labor I know; and science is too slow. That praying gallops and that light roars... I'm well aware of it. It's too simple, and the weather's too hot; you can all do without me. I have my duty; but I will be proud, as others have been, to set it aside.

My life is worn out. Well, let's pretend, let's do nothing! oh, pitiful! And we will exist, and amuse ourselves, dreaming of monstrous loves and fantastic worlds, complaining and quarreling with the appearances of the world, acrobat, beggar, artist, bandit, - priest! On my hospital bed, the odor of incense came so strongly back to me; guardian of the holy aromatics, confessor, martyr...

There I recognize my filthy childhood education. Then what!... Turn twenty: I'll do my twenty years, if everyone else does...

No! No! Now I rise up against death! Labor seems too easy for pride like mine: To betray me to the world would be too slight a punishment. At the last moment I would attack, to the right, to the left...

- Oh! - poor dear soul, eternity then might not be lost!

- As translated by Paul Schmidt, and published in 1976 by Harper Colophon Books, Harper & Row.

French version