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Monday, 17 August 2009



Mammatocumulus clouds, Iraq: photo by Mbga9pgf, 2007

In my youth I thought I possessed a magic touch.

Now, though I can't feel anything, the grey bulbous numbness of the sky makes me oddly uncomfortable.


Sometimes in the the heavens I see endless beaches swelling with white nations of joy. A great golden ship high above me flies its multicolored flags upon the morning sky.

I've created celebrations, dramas, festivals; new flowers, new stars, new tongues and new kinds of bodily tissue.

I called myself magician and angel, exempt from all the rules of common sense. I thought I'd acquired supernatural powers.

Instead here I am back on the ground, with work to do, and a shriveled reality to embrace.

Was I an idiot?'

Did charity, upon her visitation to me, switch identities with the sister of death?

Now, for having swallowed lies, I beg forgiveness. Let things go at that.

Yet no friend extends a hand. Without it, how can I go on?

File:Arthur Rimbaud by Vallotton.jpg
Arthur Rimbaud: Félix Valloton, c. 1878 (from Remy de Gourmont: Le Livre des Masques (Vol. II, 1898)

"Quelquefois je vois au ciel des plages sans fin...": Adieu, from Une Saison en Enfer: Arthur Rimbaud, 1873


Pinkerbell said...

"shriveled reality to embrace" - this says so much. There is such a gulf between dreams and reality, but isn't that why they qualify as dreams, because they cannot be?

This one sounds terribly melancholy... hope you're ok :-)

Of course, it's fine to not be "ok" and to show it. I know that letting out intense feelings usually makes their wounds a little duller inside, so it's a good thing to be honest about these things.

TC said...


Thanks for caring.

In this series of three posts, the italicized text passages are my translations of bits from two prose poem sequences by Arthur Rimbaud. "Night in Hell" and "Mage" derive from Rimbaud's Une Saison en Enfer and "After the Deluge" from his Illuminations.

(Each of the three posts also contains a couple of lines not in italics, which are not by Rimbaud but by me.)

The sequence seems to descend from a sort of tranquil heaven at the top post down through a sort of purgatory to a sort of hell... a passage that seems to happen to some of us almost every day, in the small space of our lives.

Any day that contains at least a moment or two of the top part seems worth whatever portion is spent in the lower ones, but then we don't get to choose and aren't allowed to take back the days we don't like and return them for newer, better ones.

Anonymous said...

What is an idiot? I feel blessed when magic lands on my path and I am "exempt from all the rulles of common sense".

I like it here up the hill. =)

Pinkerbell said...

Oh right TC, I get it now. I'll try reading it all again. I fear I was rather receptive to the melancholy last night...

TC said...


That's all right, my nights tend to the melancholy (and too long) likewise, so we make a reasonable pair.


I think Rimbauud was feeling a bit of a personal backlash against his own fool on the hill period, trying to gird himself up to face "the real world" (which of course he was soon to do, running guns in Africa -- rather an extreme reversal after shacking up with the delicate lyric poet Verlaine in Camden Town).

By the by, my choices of "common sense" and "idiot" might be thought by some more conservative translators to be a bit out on a limb (beyond the pale?), but the asynchronic contemporizing catches his basic meaning, I think.

Actually I sympathize to an extent with his longing to stop being an idiot and use some common sense,but am afraid that, at an age well advanced beyond that at which he dropped poetry like bad habit, I'm still working on it.

TC said...

By the by, in case it's not made obvious by the little Mickey Mouse hand that appears when you drag the cursor over them, the two big images of mammatus clouds in this post can be made into very impressive jpegs by clicking on them.

The lower shot by Mila Zinkova is of particular interest as these cloud formations, named for their peculiar resemblance to human mammaries, and rare enough to start with (they are usually associated exclusively with extreme temperature and pressure gradient transitions connected with tornados and tropical storms), had previously been virtually unseen in these parts.

Like the bizarre display of mammatus in New York in late June, documented by the photos in the post (Night in Hell) just beneath this one, this type of freakish cloud development is thought by some to be related to climate change; like the amazing asperatus cloud formations seen recently in New Zealand, these sky displays may one day not far from now be seen as early heralds of the new Science Fiction Weather of Earth.

(A private note, my favorite lucky detail in the post is the way Rimbaud's left eyebrow, in the drawing, almost seems to detach and remove itself a few inches south to become its close rhyme, that black seabird hanging on an air current above the Bay.)