Sunday, June 25, 2006

Winter Dream

One winter, we'll take a train, a little rose-coloured car
Upholstered blue.
We'll be so comfortable. A nest
Of wild kisses awaits in every cushioned corner.

You'll close your eyes to shadows
Grimacing through windows
This belligerent nocturnal realm, inhabited
By black demons and black wolves.

Then you'll feel a tickle on your cheek...
A little kiss like a crazed spider
Fleeing down your neck...

Bending your head backwards, you'll say: "Get it!"
- And we'll take our time finding the beast
- While it roams...

- Arthur Rimbaud, 'Winter Dream' (translated from the French by Wyatt Mason)

The original:

L'hiver, nous irons dans un petit wagon rose
Avec des coussins bleus.
Nous serons bien. Un nid de baisers fous repose
Dans chaque coin moelleux.

Tu fermeras l'oeil, pour ne point voir, par la glace,
Grimacer les ombres des soirs,
Ces monstruosites hargneuses, populace
De demons noirs et de loups noirs.

Puis tu te sentiras la joue egratignee...
Un petit baiser, comme une folle araignee,
Tu courra par le cou...

Et tu me diras: <>, en inclinant la tete;
- Et nous prendrons du temps a trouver cette bete
- Qui voyage beaucoup...

One of the joys of being home for a while is that I finally have the leisure to catch up with books that I bought but never quite got around to reading, or read only cursorily, and left behind in India when I moved to the US. It's amazing how much you can discover in your book shelves when you go looking.

Like this delightful little Rimbaud poem. I'm not, in general, a huge Rimbaud fan. I bought his Collected Poems a while ago, and skimmed it at the time, but on the whole I find his insistence on being outrageous very juvenile. He comes up with some beautiful lines, but there's this nagging sense of his being constantly out to shock, and that, for me, detracts greatly from what would otherwise be an exceedingly interesting set of poems.

Of course, the whole point about Rimbaud is that he is a teenager (the poem above, for instance, was written when he was 16) and given his age his poems are, it must be said, unbelievably good. But while I see why that makes him a heroic figure, I don't see that that's reason enough to actually want to read his poems. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that he's a bad poet, I'm only saying that in my opinion he's as interesting a poet as say, Matthew Arnold.

This poem though, which I don't remember reading before, is pure pleasure. It's a lighthearted, playful poem, and the one dark stanza in the centre only serves as an effective counterpoint to the souffle like sweetness of the rest. What I love about the poem is how cinematic it is - like a scene from a Truffaut film starring (ideally) Jean-Pierre Leaud and Anna Karina. (Though that's hardly a coincidence - there is, after all, good reason to suspect a cause and effect relationship between Rimbaud and the French New Wave).

Now why can't I ever have train journeys like this? Every time I travel by train I end up stranded among a boisterous family who spends the entire day playing Antakshari and then quarrels with me at night when I want to keep my reading light on.


Babitha said...

This is so beautiful. I dont have any other word i could use.

And yeah, now that am midway, I see your point about "line of beauty"

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