National Poetry Month 2015: Day 18, Rimbaud

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“Ophelia”

By Arthur Rimbaud
Translated by Paul Schmidt

I

Where the stars sleep in the calm black stream,
Like some great lily, pale Ophelia floats,
Slowly floats, wound in her veils like a dream.
– Half heard in the woods, halloos from distant throats.

A thousand years sad Ophelia gone
Glimmering on the water, a phantom fair;
A thousand years her soft distracted song
Has waked the answering evening air.

The wind kisses her breasts and shakes
Her long veils lying softly on the stream;
The shivering willows weep upon her cheeks;
Across her dreaming brows the rushes lean.

The wrinkled water lilies round her sigh;
And once she wakes a nest of sleeping things
And hears the tiny sound of frightened wings;
Mysterious music falls from the starry sky.

II

O pale Ophelia, beautiful as snow!
Yes, die, child, die, and drift away to the sea!
For from the peaks of Norway cold winds blow
And whisper low of bitter liberty;

For a breath that moved your long heavy hair
Brought strange sounds to your wandering thoughts;
Your heart heard Natures singing everywhere,
In the sighs of trees and the whispering of night.

For the voice of the seas, endless and immense,
Breaks your young breast, too human and too sweet;
For on an April morning a pale young prince,
Poor lunatic, sat wordless at your feet!

Sky! Love! Liberty! What a dream, poor young
Thing! you sank before him, snow before fire,
Your own great vision strangling your tongue,
Infinity flaring in you blue eye!

III

And the Poet says that by starlight you came
To pick the flowers you loved so much, at night,
And he saw, wound in her veils like a dream,
Like some great lily, pale Ophelia float.

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