To Music

Place de la Gare, in Charleville.

On the square which is chopped into mean little plots of grass,
The square where all is just so, both the trees and the flowers,
All the wheezy townsfolk whom the heat chokes bring
Each Thursday evening, their envious silliness.

- The military band, in the middle of the gardens,
Swing their shakos in the Waltz of the Fifes:
Round about, near the front rows, the town dandy struts;
- The notary hangs like a charm from his own watch chain.

Private incomes in pince-nez point out all false notes:
Great counting-house desks, bloated, drag their stout spouses
Close by whom, like bustling elephant keepers,
Walk females whose flounces remind you of sales;

On the green benches, retired grocers' clubs,
Poking the sand with their knobbed walking canes,
Gravely discuss trade agreements,
And then take snuff from silver boxes, and resume: "In short!..."

Spreading over his bench all the fat of his rump,
A pale-buttoned burgher, a Flemish corporation,
Savours his Onnaing, whence shreds of tobacco hang loose
You realize, it's smuggled, of course; -

Along the grass borders yobs laugh in derision;
And, melting to love at the sound of trombones,
Very simple, and sucking at roses, the little foot-soldiers
Fondle the babies to get round their nurses...

- As for me, I follow, dishevelled like a student,
Under the green chestnuts, the lively young girls:
Which they know very well, and they turn to me,
Laughing, eyes which are full of indiscreet things.

I don't say a word: I just keep on looking at
The skin of their white necks embroidered with stray locks:
I go hunting, beneath bodices and thin attire,
The divine back below the curve of the shoulders.

Soon I've discovered the boot and the stocking...
- I re-create their bodies, burning with fine fevers.
They find me absurd, and talk together in low voices...
- And my savage desires fasten on to their lips...

Arthur Rimbaud

- As translated by Oliver Bernard: Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (1962)

French version