VOYELLES VOWELS
Arthur Rimbaud trans. Martin Bennett
A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes:
A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,




Golfes d'ombre; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers, rois blancs, frissons d'ombelles;
I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes;




U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d'animaux, paix des rides
Que l'alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;




O, suprême clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
Silences traversés des Mondes et des Anges:
- O l'Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux!
A:...Are you a Hillbilly or an upside-down flower?
.......On the tongue you are sweet vermouth,
.......To the eye a wigwam initialling catatonic plains.
.......To think you started as a fly escaping some ogre's mouth;
.......Look how you have changed.

E:...The bird is green. With jet-black eyes
.......It peers out from a backdrop of sunburned yellow
.......A continent of grass ago -
.......O aerials, derricks, smokestacks,
.......Or are you a Martian's hat perhaps,
.......The tresses of Mimi?

I:....'s the colour of railroad tracks,
.......A robot's cryptic smile. Bold as a tree
.......In whose branches a phone rings forever and a day.
.......Striped with rain, it stands at attention,
.......Cap an inky extra that sometimes disappears.

O:...The mouth monocled, shape and essence of surprise itself,
.......Where would we be without you?
.......Exit and mysterious entrance, so large, so small,
.......Porthole onto all our words cannot say.

U:...Owl's favourite, this one conjures foghorns,
.......A cavern's gape, sagacious beards -
.......Brightly-scarfed skaters flashing across lakes in Finland -
.......Turquoise twisting in the dark ...

Click here 3 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. copyright © Martin Bennett 2005; publ. Modern Poetry in Translation III.4



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