No Comment — January 9, 2008, 12:01 am

Rimbaud’s ‘Righteous Man’

Le Juste restait droit sur ses hanches solides :
Un rayon lui dorait l’épaule ; des sueurs
Me prirent : « Tu veux voir rutiler les bolides ?
Et, debout, écouter bourdonner les flueurs
D’astres lactés, et les essaims d’astéroïdes ?

« Par des farces de nuit ton front est épié,
Ô Juste ! Il faut gagner un toit. Dis ta prière,
La bouche dans ton drap doucement expié ;
Et si quelque égaré choque ton ostiaire,
Dis : Frère, va plus loin, je suis estropié ! »

Et le Juste restait debout, dans l’épouvante
Bleuâtre des gazons après le soleil mort :
« Alors, mettrais-tu tes genouillères en vente,
Ô vieillard ? Pèlerin sacré ! Barde d’Armor !
Pleureur des Oliviers ! Main que la pitié gante !)

« Barbe de la famille et poing de la cité,
Croyant très doux : ô cœur tombé dans les calices,
Majestés et vertus, amour et cécité,
Juste ! plus bête et plus dégoûtant que les lices !
Je suis celui qui souffre et qui s’est révolté !

« Et ça me fait pleurer sur mon ventre, ô stupide,
Et bien rire, l’espoir fameux de ton pardon !
Je suis maudit, tu sais ! Je suis soûl, fou, livide,
Ce que tu veux ! Mais va te coucher, voyons donc,
Juste ! Je ne veux rien à ton cerveau torpide.

« C’est toi le Juste, enfin, le Juste ! C’est assez !
C’est vrai que ta tendresse et ta raison sereines
Reniflent dans la nuit comme des cétacés !
Que tu te fais proscrire et dégoises des thrènes
Sur d’effroyables becs de can(n)e fracassés !

« Et c’est toi l’œil de Dieu ! le lâche ! quand les plantes
Froides des pieds divins passeraient sur mon cou,
Tu es lâche ! Ô ton front qui fourmille de lentes !
Socrates et Jésus, Saints et Justes, dégoût !
Respectez le Maudit suprême aux nuits sanglantes ! »

J’avais crié cela sur la terre, et la nuit
Calme et blanche occupait les Cieux pendant ma fièvre.
Je relevai mon front : le fantôme avait fui,
Emportant l’ironie atroce de ma lèvre…
— Vents nocturnes, venez au Maudit ! Parlez-lui !

Cependant que, silencieux sous les pilastres
D’azur, allongeant les comètes et les nœuds
D’univers, remuement énorme sans désastres,
L’ordre, éternel veilleur, rame aux cieux lumineux
Et de sa drague en feu laisse filer les astres !

Ah ! qu’il s’en aille, lui, la gorge cravatée
De honte, ruminant toujours mon ennui, doux
Comme du sucre sur la denture gâtée.
— Tel que la chienne après l’assaut des fiers toutous,
Léchant son flanc d’où pend une entraille emportée.

…………………………………………………………

The righteous man sat upright on his solid haunches:
A golden ray attired his shoulder; some sweat
Came over me: “Do you want to see the glowing of meteors?
And, standing, hear the humming influence of
Milky white stars, the bands of asteroids?

“In nocturnal farces, your face is spied upon,
O righteous one! You need to find a shelter. Recite your prayer,
With your mouth in the sheet, just a mild atonement;
And if some stray knocks against your bones,
You will say: Brother, be on your way, for I am a cripple!”

And the righteous man still stands, in the fearful
Blue of lawns beyond the dying sun:
“Old man, tell me, would you sell your kneecaps?
You holy pilgrim! You bard of Brittany!
You weep olive trees! Your hand is gloved with pity.

“Beard of the family and fist of the city,
You gentle believer: o heart fallen into chalices,
Majesties and virtues, love and blindness,
Righteous one! Dumber and more revolting still than a hunting bitch!
I am the one who suffers and who rebels against you!

“And it makes me weep on my stomach, you fool,
And laugh, at the celebrated hope of your pardon!
I’m cursed, you know! I am inebriated, stupid, livid,
You pick the phrase! But just go ahead and lay down,
Righteous man! I want nothing from your torpid brain.

“You are, after all, the righteous man, yes righteous! That’s enough!
And it’s true that your tenderness and your serene reason
Spout through the night, like whales,
That you have yourself proscribed and declaimed funereal lamentations
On frightfully smashed up duck bills!

“And you, who are the eye of God! The coward! When the cold
Soles of divine feet tread upon my neck,
You are a coward! Oh your face teams with gnats!
Socrates and Jesus, hold and righteous, are revolted!
Respect the supremely accursed, he of the bloody nights.”

I had cried this upon the land, and the night
Calm and white occupied the skies during my fever.
I raised my countenance: the phantom had fled,
Taking with it the atrocious irony from my lips. . .
–Nocturnal winds, come to the accursed one! Speak with him,

While silently under the pillars
Azure blue, passed by the comets and the star clusters
Of the universe, stirring massively without disaster,
Order, that eternal watchman, rows in the luminous skies
And from this dragnet of flames it allows stars to shoot.

Oh, be off with him, with that cravat around his throat,
Of shame, ruminating still upon my boredom, sweet
As sugar on rotting teeth,
–Like the bitch who has been torn by proud poodles,
Licking her flank from which dangles a disengorged entrail.

Arthur Rimbaud, L’homme juste (fragment – the placement of the last stanzas is unclear, they might go at the beginning, together with some stray incomplete lines)(1871) Œuvres complètes, p. 93 (Pléiade ed. 1954)(S.H. transl.)

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I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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