Classic and Contemporary Poetry
OPHELIA, by ARTHUR RIMBAUD Poet's Biography
First Line: On the calm black wave where the stars sleep
Last Line: White ophelia floating, like a great lily.
On the calm black wave where the stars sleep
Floats white Ophelia like a great lily,
Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils . . .
-From the distant woods, the flourish of the kill.
For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
White phantom, passes, on the long black river.
For more than a thousand years her sweet obsession
Whispers her love to the evening breeze.
The wind embraces her breasts and unfolds her great veils
In a corolla gently rocked by the waters;
Trembling willows weep on her shoulder,
Reeds lean on her lofty pensive brow.
Bruised water lilies sigh about her;
Sometimes in a sleeping alder tree she awakens
A nest; a tiny wing-flutter escapes;
Mysterious sounds fall from the golden stars.
O pale Ophelia! fair as snow!
You died, child, yes, carried off by a river!
Because the winds falling from the great cliffs of Norway
Spoke low to you of fierce freedom;
Because a wind, tearing your long hair,
Bore strange shouts to your dreaming spirit;
Because your heart listened to the strains of Nature
In the wails of the tree and the sighs of the nights.
Because the voice of mad seas, immense rattle,
Bruised your child's heart, too sweet and too human;
Because on an April morning, a handsome pale courtier,
A sorry fool, sat mutely at your feet!
Heaven! Love! Freedom! What a dream, O Foolish girl!
You melted toward him as snow near flame:
Your words were strangled by your great visions
-And the terrible Infinite frightened your blue eyes!
And the Poet says you come at night
To gather flowers in the rays of the stars;
And he has seen on the water, lying in her long veils,
White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.
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