Poem a Day 2014: Arthur Rimbaud’s “Crows” (#19)

NICE ART (France) - Bath (via photograffcollectif.blogspot.com)

NICE ART (France) – Bath (via photograffcollectif.blogspot.com)

This pout-mouthed youth is the French decadent Arthur Rimbaud, a poetic prodigy whose entire output was written before the age of twenty, one of the literary descendents of Baudelaire, and the original enfant terrible of French letters.

This photo is a nice bit of symmetry, since I chose today’s selection, translated by Paul Schmidt, because of a line from a Shakespeare play I’m currently working on, in which an enraged and heartbroken loyal friend of a queen admonishes her king for causing his beautiful queen’s death, exclaiming in rage that by comparison to this crime she considers “The casting forth to crows thy baby daughter to be little or none” (3.2.210-211).


Lord, when the open field is cold,
When in the battered villages
The endless angelus dies–
Above the dark and drooping world
Let the empty skies disclose
Your dear, delightful crows.

Armada dark with harsh cries,
Your nests are tossed by icy winds!
Along the banks of yellowed ponds,
On roads where crumbling crosses rise,
In cold and gray and mournful weather
Scatter, hover, dive together!

In flocks above the fields of France
Where yesterday’s dead men lie,
Wheel across the winter sky;
Recall our black inheritance!
Let duty in your cry be heard,
Mournful, black, uneasy bird.

Yet in that oak, you saints of God,
Swaying in the dying day,
Leave the whistling birds of May
For those who found, within that wood
From which they will not come again,
That every victory is vain.

NPM from feministing

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