Le Bateau Ivre : The Drunken Boat|
Translated, edited, and adapted for performance by Holly Tannen,
assisted by Lydia Rand, Lynne Abels, and Dennis J. Carlile
|Old mill at Charleville on the river Meuse around the turn of the century. To the right is quai Madeleine where Rimbaud lived with his mother, brother, and sisters until Verlaine invited him to Paris.|
As I came floating down impassive rivers|
I felt myself no longer guided by the bargemen's hands
Howling natives hauled them up for targets
Nailed them naked onto painted poles.
What did I care I for any crew?
Out on the angry splash of winter tides
Sweeter than sour apples to a child
Light as a cork I danced upon the waves, ten nights
...And since then, I've been bathing in the Poem of the Sea,
I know the sky split wide by lightning, tides,
I've seen the setting sun light up the shiv'ring purple waves
I've touched the shores of Floridas where flowers mingle
I've seen sidereal archipelagoes and islands
I'd like to show to children these dolphins on the wave
There were times I'd list, almost an island,
Lost beneath the estuary's long and trailing hair
I who rose from violet fog and ran...
I who trembled, fifty leagues away
True, I've wept too much. Dawns are heartbreaking
If I do desire any European water
It's the cold black pond at twilight
Where a lone child crouches, eyes full of sorrow,
And sets sail a boat frail as a butterfly in May.
Sodden with weary waves
Note: In adapting "The Drunken Boat" for performance, I cut the original twenty-five stanzas down to seventeen. In order to keep the wave shape I've cobbled several verses together and moved the "O million golden birds" verse from its original place four verses from the end. For more complete versions, see the translations by Louise Varèse, Wallace Fowlie, Oliver Bernard, Paul Schmidt, Dennis J. Carlile, and Wyatt Mason.
Washhouse at Roche
photo credit: Alain Grillon
back to the Prologue Poem of the Sea
translations next poem: What do we care, my heart...
Mistress of Folklore|
|Holly Tannen teaches folklore and anthropology, and has lectured on contemporary magic at U.C. Berkeley and at Yale University. Her recordings include "Invocation", "Between the Worlds", and "Rime of the Ancient Matriarch"|
Mistress of Folklore|
|updated 4 April 2002 : 10:25 Caspar (Pacific) time|
All text, translations, and songs copyright © 2002 by Holly Tannen