NaPoWriMo: Rimbaud

This is a poem all my children learnt by heart at primary school. And strangely enough, they all loved it. I don’t know much French verse but I do like this one. Here is the original poem, by Arthur Rimbaud, courtesy of Poésie française, followed by my attempt at a translation.

Le dormeur du val

C’est un trou de verdure où chante une rivière,
Accrochant follement aux herbes des haillons
D’argent ; où le soleil, de la montagne fière,
Luit : c’est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.

Un soldat jeune, bouche ouverte, tête nue,
Et la nuque baignant dans le frais cresson bleu,
Dort ; il est étendu dans l’herbe, sous la nue,
Pâle dans son lit vert où la lumière pleut.

Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant comme
Sourirait un enfant malade, il fait un somme :
Nature, berce-le chaudement : il a froid.

Les parfums ne font pas frissonner sa narine ;
Il dort dans le soleil, la main sur sa poitrine,
Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges au côté droit.

 

 

The sleeper in the valley

 

There’s a haven of green where the river loud,

Clasps raggedy banks and between them teams

Silver; where sun over mountains proud,

Shines: a small vale brimming bright with beams.

 

A young soldier, lips parted, cap in the grass,

His head bathed in the damp of blue cress stalks tall,

Sleeps in the dew while the white clouds pass,

Pale on his bed where the sunbeams fall.

 

His feet in the flowers, he smiles in his sleep,

As a sick child would smile, when he ceases to weep.

Coax the cold from his bones, Nature, with him bide.

 

No suave, wild scents disturb his rest;

He lies in the sun, one hand on his chest,

Quite peaceful. He has two red holes in his side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

9 thoughts on “NaPoWriMo: Rimbaud”

  1. I don’t know the poem. It is sort of haunting. It seems sort of an odd choice of poetry for children to learn by heart, perhaps. But then, I can’t think of any poem my children had to learn by heart. 🙂

    1. French schoolchildren learn an awful lot of poems by heart. I say they all learned this one, but the youngest didn’t—she has had all her schooling in the south. The north of France has been a battle ground for centuries, and in the seventy years between 1870 and 1940 the north was invaded and occupied by the Germans three times. The people who live there still feel the scars of war very deeply.

  2. I think you did that so beautifully and sensitively, just as it needs to be. A sad war poem. Not what I expected small children to learn, or love. Kids constantly surprise us.

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