Classic and Contemporary Poetry
A SEASON IN HELL: ILL WILL; MAUVAIS SANG, by ARTHUR RIMBAUD Poet's Biography
First Line: I await god greedily. Now that I am accursed, I detest my country
Last Line: Hunger, thirst, shouts, dance, dance, dance, dance!
I await God greedily. . . . Now I am accursed, I detest my country. The best
thing is to sleep, dead drunk, on the beach.
As a child, I admired the intractable convict who is always being sent behind
bars; I would visit the inns and lodgings he might have hallowed with his
presence; I saw with his eyes the blue sky and the flourishing toil of the
countryside; I hounded his destiny into the cities. He had more strength than a
saint, more good sense than a traveler -and himself, himself alone! as witness
to his glory and his right.
As I trudged along the highways on winter nights, without shelter, clothes, or
food, a voice tugged at my frozen heart: "Weakness or strength: there you have
it, strength. You know not where you are going nor why, you enter everywhere,
and answer everything. No one will kill you any more than if you were a
corpse." In the morning I looked so lost and woebegone that those I met
perhaps did not see me.
In the cities the mud looked suddenly red and black, like a mirror when the
lamp shifts in the next room, like a treasure in the forest! Here's to luck, I
cried, and saw a sea of flame and smoke up in the sky; and right and left, all
kinds of riches flashing like a billion thunderbolts.
But to me the orgies and comradery of women were forbidden. Not even a
companion. I saw myself before an exasperated mob, facing the firing squad,
weeping over a misfortune they could never understand, and forgiving! -Like
Joan of Arc! -"Priests, instructors, schoolmasters, you are wrong to hand me
over to justice. I have never belonged to these people; I have never been a
Christian; I belong to the race that sang under torture; I do not understand
laws; I have no moral sense; I am a brute: you are mistaken . . ."
Yes, my eyes were shut in your light. I am a beast, a Negro. But I can be
saved. You, maniacs, butchers, misers, you are false Negroes. Merchant, you're
a Negro; judge, you're a Negro; general, you're a Negro; emperor, you scabby old
itch, you're a Negro: you have drunk contraband liquor from Satan's workshop.
-This people is inspired by fever and cancer. Cripples and old men are so
respectable that they ask to be boiled. -The smartest thing to do is to leave
this continent, where madness prowls in search of hostages for these wretches.
I enter the true kingdom of the sons of Ham.
Do I still know nature? Do I know myself? -Speak no more. I bury the
dead in my guts. Shouts, drum, dance, dance, dance, dance! I do not even see
the time when, as the white men disembark, I shall fall into nothingness.
Hunger, thirst, shouts, dance, dance, dance, dance!
Other Poems of Interest...