Christopher Mulrooney

Arthur Rimbaud
translated by Christopher Mulrooney


To Music

Place de la Gare, in Charleville.

In the town square trimmed stingily with lawns,
Plaza where all is correct, the flowers and the trees,
All the winded burghers, strangled by the heat
Wear, on Thursday evenings, their jealous-minded baubles.

—The military band, in the garden’s midst,
Sway their shakos all in time to the Fifers’ Waltz
—About them, in the front rows, the dandy lightsome trips;
The notary quite hangs from his fob’s monogrammed charms.

Pince-nez’d men of leisure underline each goose-note;
Great big puffy offices drag their great big wives
Around about whom go, unofficial mahouts,
Ladies whose skirt-flounces have an air of advertising.

Sitting on green benches, clubs of retired grocers
Poke away at the sand the while with knobby canes,
And argue treatises most intensely serious,
Then take snuff in silver, and resume: “In the end...”

Spreading out on his bench the roundness of his rear,
One bright-buttoned burgher, Flemish paunch in hand,
Savours his Onnaing whence tobacco-cheer
Spills out—because, you see, the stuff is contraband—

Along the swards of green snicker all the galoots;
And, made amorous by the song of the trombones,
Quite naďve, and smoking roses, young recruits
Caress the little babies so as their nannies to coax...

—Me, I follow, ragged like a very student,
Under the green chestnut-trees the alert girls:
They know it very well; and laughing turn around,
Toward me, their eyes quite full of things not fit for churls.

I do not say a word: I regard without fail
The flesh of their white necks with some stray hairs embroidered:
I follow, under the bodice and its finery frail,
The heavenly back after the curving of the shoulders.

Soon I have unearthed the buttonshoe, the stocking...
—I reconstruct the bodies, burned fair feverish.
They find me most amusing and softly they start talking...
—And my brutal desires fasten to their lips...

Arthur Rimbaud
tr. Christopher Mulrooney


Christopher Mulrooney has translations published in PusteblumeEzra, Drunken Boat, New Translations, and Terracotta Typewriter.