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Trilce from the Spanish of Cesar Vallejo



Rebecca Seiferle

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Rebecca Seiferle

The Drunken Boat

by Arthur Rimbaud

Translated by Rebecca Seiferle

As I descended impassible Rivers,
I felt no longer steered by bargemen;
they were captured by howling Redskins,
nailed as targets, naked, to painted stakes.

What did I care for cargo or crews,
bearers of English cotton or Flemish grain—
having left behind the bargemen and racket,
the Rivers let me descend where I wished.

In the furious splashing of the waves,
I — that other winter, deafer than the minds
of children — ran! And the unanchored Peninsulas
never knew a more triumphant brouhaha.

The tempest blessed my sea awakening.
Lighter than cork, I danced the waves
scrolling out the eternal roll of the dead—
ten nights, without longing for the lantern's silly eye.

Sweeter than the flesh of tart apples to children,
the green water penetrated my pine hull
and purged me of vomit and the stain of blue wines—
my rudder and grappling hooks drifting away.

Since then, I have bathed in the Poem
of the Sea, a milky way, infused with stars,
devouring the azure greens where, flotsam-pale
and ravished, drowned and pensive men float by.

Where, suddenly staining the blues, delirious
and slow rhythms under the glowing red of day,
stronger than alcohol, vaster than our lyrics,
ferment the red bitters of love!

I know heavens pierced by lightning, the waterspouts
and undertows and currents: I know night,
Dawn rising like a nation of doves,
and I've seen, sometimes, what men only dreamed they saw!

I've seen the sun, low, a blot of mystic dread,
illuminating with far-reaching violet coagulations,
like actors in antique tragedies,
the waves rolling away in a shiver of shutters.

I've dreamed a green night to dazzling snows,
kisses slowly rising to the eyelids of the sea,
unknown saps flowing, and the yellow and blue
rising of phosphorescent songs.

For months, I've followed the swells assaulting
the reefs like hysterical herds, without ever thinking
that the luminous feet of some Mary
could muzzle the panting Deep.

I've touched, you know, incredible Floridas
where, inside flowers, the eyes of panthers mingle
with the skins of men! And rainbows bridle
glaucous flocks beneath the rim of the sea!

I've seen fermenting— enormous marshes, nets
where a whole Leviathan rots in the rushes!
Such a ruin of water in the midst of calm,
and the distant horizon worming into whirlpools!

Glaciers, silver suns, pearly tides, ember skies!
Hideous wrecks at the bottom of muddy gulfs
where giant serpents, devoured by lice,
drop with black perfume out of twisted trees!

I wanted to show children these dorados
of the blue wave, these golden, singing fish.
A froth of flowers has cradled my vagrancies,
and ineffable winds have winged me on.

Sometimes like a martyr, tired of poles and zones,
the sea has rolled me softly in her sigh
and held out to me the yellow cups of shadow flowers,
and I've remained there, like a woman, kneeling . . .

Almost an island, balancing the quarrels,
the dung, the cries of blond-eyed birds on the gunnels
of my boat, I sailed on, and through my frail lines,
drowned men, falling backwards, sank to sleep.

Now, I, a boat lost in the hair of the coves,
tossed by hurricane into the birdless air,
me, whom all the Monitors and Hansa sailing ships
could not salvage, my carcass drunk with sea;

free, rising like smoke, riding violet mists,
I who pierced the sky turning red like a wall,
who bore the exquisite jam of all good poets,
lichens of sun and snots of azure,

who, spotted with electric crescents, ran on,
a foolish plank escorted by black hippocamps,
when the Julys brought down with a single blow
the ultramarine sky with its burning funnels;

I who tremble, feeling the moan fifty leagues away
of the Behemoth rutting and the dull Maelstrom,
eternal weaver of the unmovable blue—
I grieve for Europe with its ancient breastworks!

I've seen thunderstruck archipelagos! and islands
that open delirious skies for wanderers:
Are these bottomless nights your nest of exile,
O millions of gold birds, O Force to come?

True, I've cried too much! Dawns are harrowing.
All moons are cruel and all suns, bitter:
acrid love puffs me up with drunken slowness.
Let my keel burst! Give me to the sea!

If I desire any of the waters of Europe, it's the pond
black and cold, in the odor of evening,
where a child full of sorrow gets down on his knees
to launch a paperboat as frail as a May butterfly.

Bathed in your languors, o waves, I can no longer
wash away the wake of ships bearing cotton,
nor penetrate the arrogance of pennants and flags,
nor swim past the dreadful eyes of slave ships.