Arthur Rimbaud – The First Evening

23 Apr

Spring upon spring, I find myself deeply in love with Rimbaud’s poetry over and over again! This poem in particular I’ve loved for years and have fond memories of reading it while sitting by my windowsill, at dusk, and inhaling the dazzling perfume of the lilac trees in bloom, raising my head from the book at times only to hear the secret whispers exchanged by the blooming apple trees dressed in splendid whiteness.

Egon Schiele, Blondes Mädchen im Unterhemd, 1913, gouache and pencil on paper

Her clothes were almost off;
Outside, a curious tree
Beat a branch at the window
To see what it could see.

Perched on my enormous easy chair,
Half nude, she clasped her hands.
Her feet trembled on the floor,
As soft as they could be.

I watched as a ray of pale light,
Trapped in the tree outside,
Danced from her mouth
To her breast, like a fly on a flower.

I kissed her delicate ankles.
She had a soft, brusque laugh
That broke into shining crystals –
A pretty little laugh.

Her feet ducked under her chemise;
“Will you please stop it!…”
But I laughed at her cries –
I knew she really liked it.

Her eye trembled beneath my lips;
They closed at my touch.
Her head went back; she cried:
“Oh, really! That’s too much!

“My dear, I’m warning you…”
I stopped her protest with a kiss
And she laughed, low –
A laugh that wanted more than this…

Her clothes were almost off;
Outside, a curious tree
Beat a branch at the window
To see what it could see.

I found this translation on this website where you also have the original in French, but there is also a different translation by Oliver Bernard from “Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems” (1962) which you can read here.

*All pictures of blossoms by Denny Bitte.

8 Responses to “Arthur Rimbaud – The First Evening”

  1. Lautreamont 24th Apr 2018 at 10:09 pm #

    Sounds like Arthur was “pursuing the magic lore of happiness which no one escapes” Ha! Haven’t read Rimbaud for a long time but I still remember a lot of his stuff. Your post got me thinking about translations and how bad they can be. One of my favourite poets is Holderlin . My copies of his stuff are old and I actually remember a lot by heart,,however the other day I looked up some of his stuff on the net,and the translations were appalling. Anybody coming to him for the first time could be forgiven for thinking he was shit! Same thing has happened with a few Italian poets that I like! Some of the translations into English were gobbledygook! Still we persevere! Best A.


    • Byron's Muse 25th Apr 2018 at 9:04 pm #

      If only we could know all the languages and read the poetry in original 😉


      • Lautreamont 26th Apr 2018 at 2:39 pm #

        Yeah,that’d be good. Joyce’s Ulysses is said to be impossible to translate.l love Proust but he’s supposed to be way better in French.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. kizitovalentine 10th Feb 2021 at 11:57 am #

    who is the translator of Holderlin you got?


    • Byron's Muse 10th Feb 2021 at 5:26 pm #

      I found all of his poems online

      Liked by 1 person

      • kizitovalentine 11th Feb 2021 at 5:11 am #

        Is Byron your favourite poet?


        • Byron's Muse 11th Feb 2021 at 9:41 am #

          No, I actually prefer Percy Shelley, but it was a good name for the blog and also for what Byron stands for. I can’t chose a single favourite poet because there are so many great ones.

          Liked by 1 person

          • kizitovalentine 11th Feb 2021 at 10:23 am #

            I can’t choose a favorite either, especially in poetry being a poet myself, maybe in other art forms I could like in Music Chopin is yours (who am currently reading his biography btw, beautiful book) and Beethoven is mine.

            Liked by 1 person

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