ARTHUR RIMBAUD´S SLEEPER CELL
by Comandante Chispas
"Rimbaud's where it's at.
That's the kind of stuff
[that] means something.
That's the kind of writing
I'm gonna do."
-- Bob Dylan –-
“I am Rimbaud in a leather jacket.”
-- Jim Morrison, The Doors –-
Hands down, Arthur Rimbaud´s (1854-1891) most famous poem internationally is “The Drunken Boat.” I suspect Dylan and Morrison were drawn to it as the best portrayal yet of a drug trip.
Another Rimbaud poem is far more popular in his native land. “Le Dormeur du val” – “The Sleeper of The Valley” -- is the second most downloaded poem in France. The first is by Victor Hugo (“Demain dès l'aube”). The poems are quite similar in structure and theme.
Rimbaud wrote “The Sleeper of The Valley” in 1870, when he was 16 years old. For more on Rimbaud, see our Ello post "Arthur Rimbaud."
“The Sleeper of the Valley”
There's a green hollow where a river sings
Silvering the torn grass in its glittering flight,
And where the sun from the proud mountain flings
Fire and the little valley brims with light.
A soldier young, with open mouth, bare head,
Sleeps with his neck in dewy water cress,
Under the sky and on the grass his bed,
Pale in the deep green and the light's excess.
He sleeps amid the iris and his smile
Is like a sick child's slumbering for a while.
Nature, in thy warm lap his chilled limbs hide!
The perfume does not thrill him from his rest.
He sleeps in sunshine, hand upon his breast,
Tranquil with two red holes in his right side.
The Poets of Modern France, trans. Lugwig Lewisohn. New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1918. 81. Internet Archive.
The poem apparently is about a beautiful, bucolic valley. A lullaby, it rocks you to sleep. If you re-read it you will see how, one drop of poison at a time, Rimbaud sneaks in the foundation for the climax.
The result is the last line hits with the full force of revelation. You become aware of what you already know.
Le Dormeur du val
C'est un trou de verdure où chante une rivière
Accrochant follement aux herbes des haillons
D'argent ; où le soleil, de la montagne fière,
Luit : c'est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.
Un soldat jeune, bouche ouverte, tête nue,
Et la nuque baignant dans le frais cresson bleu,
Dort ; il est étendu dans l'herbe, sous la nue,
Pâle dans son lit vert ou la lumière pleut.
Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant comme
Sourirait un enfant malade, il fait un somme :
Nature, berce-le chaudement : il a froid.
Les parfums ne font pas frissonner sa narine ;
Il dort dans le soleil, la main sur sa poitrine
Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges au côté droit.
#ArthurRimbaud #Thesleeperofthevalley #Bobdylan #Jimmorrison #Thedoors