ARTHUR RIMBAUD – OPHELIA
Introduction OPHELIA by Arthur Rimbaud.
“Ophélie” was written by Arthur Rimbaud in 1870 and accompanied a letter sent to the poet and critic Théodore de Banville, who was an important figure of the Parisian literary scene and whom Rimbaud admired and imitated, even if he soon began to satirise this kind of poetry.
Although this poem, among the first we know of Rimbaud’s, is a little schoolboyish (Arthur Rimbaud was 16 when he wrote it) and considerably less personal than his later poetry, essential features and themes can be found in this adaptation of the myth of Hamlet.
On the calm black water where the stars are sleeping
White Ophelia floats like a great lily;
Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils…
– In the far-off woods you can hear them sound the mort.
For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.
For more than a thousand years her sweet madness
Has murmured its ballad to the evening breeze.
The wind kisses her breasts and unfolds in a wreath
Her great veils rising and falling with the waters;
The shivering willows weep on her shoulder,
The rushes lean over her wide, dreaming brow.
The ruffled water-lilies are sighing around her;
At times she rouses, in a slumbering alder,
Some nest from which escapes a small rustle of wings;
– A mysterious anthem falls from the golden stars.
O pale Ophelia! beautiful as snow!
Yes child, you died, carried off by a river!
– It was the winds descending from the great mountains of Norway
That spoke to you in low voices of better freedom.
It was a breath of wind, that, twisting your great hair,
Brought strange rumors to your dreaming mind;
It was your heart listening to the song of Nature
In the groans of the tree and the sighs of the nights;
It was the voice of mad seas, the great roar,
That shattered your child’s heart, too human and too soft;
It was a handsome pale knight, a poor madman
Who one April morning sate mute at your knees!
Heaven! Love! Freedom! What a dream, oh poor crazed Girl!
You melted to him as snow does to a fire;
Your great visions strangled your words
– And fearful Infinity terrified your blue eye!
– And the poet says that by starlight
You come seeking, in the night, the flowers that you picked
And that he has seen on the water, lying in her long veils
White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.
Arthur Rimbaud – Ophelia
Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (20 October 1854 – 10 November 1891) was a French poet who is known for his influence on modern literature and arts, which prefigured surrealism. Born in Charleville-Mézières, he started writing at a very young age and was a prodigious student, but abandoned his formal education in his teenage years to run away from home amidst the Franco-Prussian War. During his late adolescence and early adulthood he began the bulk of his literary output, but completely stopped writing at the age of 21, after assembling one of his major works, Illuminations.
Arthur Rimbaud was known to have been a libertine and a restless soul, having engaged in an at times violent romantic relationship with fellow poet Paul Verlaine, which lasted nearly two years. After the end of his literary career, he traveled extensively on three continents as a merchant before his death from cancer
just after his thirty-seventh birthday. As a poet, Rimbaud is well known for his contributions to Symbolism and, among other works, A Season in Hell, which was a significant precursor to modernist literature. (wikipedia)
Works published before 1891
Les Étrennes des orphelins (1869) – published by Rimbaud in 1870
Comédie en trois baisers (1870) – published by Rimbaud in 1870
Le Dormeur du val (1870) – (The Sleeper in the Valley) poem published in Anthologie des poètes français (1888)
Voyelles (1871) – poem published in 1883
Le Bateau ivre (1871) – poem published by Paul Verlaine in Les Poètes maudits (1884)
Une Saison en Enfer (1873) – poem in prose published by Rimbaud himself as a small booklet in Brussels. “A few copies were distributed to friends in Paris … Rimbaud almost immediately lost interest in the work.”
Illuminations (1874) – published in 1886
Rapport sur l’Ogadine (1883) – published in 1884
Prologue. Le Soleil était encore chaud … (c. 1864-1865) – prose published by Paterne Berrichon in 1897
Lettre de Charles d’Orléans à Louis XI (1870) – prose published in 1891
Un Coeur sous une soutane (1870) – prose published in 1924
Soleil et chair (1870) – poem published in 1895 (Poésies complètes)
Album Zutique (1870) – parodies
Lettre du Voyant (15 May 1871) – letter to Paul Demeny published in 1895 (Poésies complètes)
Les Déserts de l’amour (c. 1871–1872) – (Deserts of Love) prose published in 1906
Proses “évangeliques” (1872–1873) – prose published in 1897 and 1948 (no title is given by Arthur Rimbaud)
Reliquaire – Poésies – published by Rodolphe Darzens in 1891
Poésies complètes (c. 1869–1873) – published in 1895
Lettres de Jean-Arthur Rimbaud – Égypte, Arabie, Éthiopie (1880–1891) – published by Paterne Berrichon in 1899