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Oraison du Soir : Evening Prayer
Translated by Holly Tannen
assisted by Lydia Rand
     with a second translation for comparison

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I live sitting down, like an angel in the hands of a barber,
Grasping a heavily fluted mug,
My belly and my neck are bent, a cheap pipe in my teeth
Beneath air swollen with impalpable clouds.
A thousand dreams within me burning painfully and sweet,
Like steaming heaps of birdshit in some old pigeon coop;
And sometimes my sad heart is like the sapwood
Bloodied by the young and somber gold of falling fruit.
Then when I've carefully gulped down my dreams,
And drunk my thirty, maybe forty mugs,
I rouse myself to ease my bitter need:
Sweet as the Saviour of cedar and of hyssops
I piss towards the dark heavens, very high and very far
With the assent of the large heliotropes.

hyssops: herb used in biblical times for ceremonial sprinkling

Rimbaud with mug - sketch by Verlaine
Rimbaud with mug - sketch by Verlaine

Oraison du Soir
Je vis assis, tel qu'un ange aux mains d'un barbier,
Empoignant une chope à fortes cannelures,
L'hypogastre et le col cambrés, une Gambier
Aux dents, sous l'air gonflé d'impalpables voilures.
Tels que les excréments chauds d'un vieux colombier,
Mille Rêves en moi font de douces brûlures :
Puis par instants mon coeur triste est comme un aubier
Qu'ensanglante l'or jeune et sombre des coulures.
Puis, quand j'ai ravalé mes rêves avec soin,
Je me tourne, ayant bu trente ou quarante chopes,
Et me recueille, pour lâcher l'âcre besoin :
Doux comme le Seigneur du cèdre et des hysopes,
Je pisse vers les cieux bruns, très haut et très loin
Avec l'assentiment des grands héliotropes.

For fun, here's a translation by another translator. I wonder where he got the ferns.

Evening Prayer
Translated by Paul Schmidt

I spend my life sitting, like an angel in a barber's chair
Holding a beer mug with deep-cut designs
My neck and gut both bent, while in the air
A weightless veil of pipe smoke hangs.
Like steaming dung within an old dovecote
A thousand Dreams within me softly burn:
From time to time my heart is like some oak
Whose blood runs golden where a branch is torn.
And then, when I have swallowed down my Dreams
In thirty, forty mugs of beer, I turn
To satisfy a need I can't ignore,
And like the Lord of Hyssop and of Myrrh
I piss into the skies, a soaring stream
That consecrates a patch of flowering fern.

(Arthur Rimbaud: Complete Works. Translated from the French by Paul Schmidt. Harper Colophon, 1976)

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     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"

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All text, translations, and songs copyright © 2002 by Holly Tannen

Michael Potts, webster updated 3 January 2002 : 00:32 Caspar (Pacific) time