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from A Season in Hell

Once, if my memory serves me well, my life was a banquet where every heart revealed itself, where every wine flowed.

One evening I took Beauty in my arms – and I thought her bitter – and I insulted her.

I steeled myself against justice.

I fled. O witches, O misery, O hate, my treasure was left in your care!

I have withered within me all human hope. With the silent leap of a sullen beast, I have downed and strangled every joy.

I have called for executioners; I want to perish chewing on their gun butts. I have called for plagues, to suffocate in sand and blood. Unhappiness has been my god. I have lain down in the mud, and dried myself off in the crime-infested air. I have played the fool to the point of madness.

And springtime brought me the frightful laugh of an idiot.

Now recently, when I found myself ready to croak! I thought to seek the key to the banquet of old, where I might find an appetite again.

That key is Charity. – This idea proves I was dreaming!

“You will stay a hyena, etc…,” shouts the demon who once crowned me with such pretty poppies. “Seek death with all your desires, and all selfishness, and all the Seven Deadly Sins.”

Ah! I’ve taken too much of that: – still, dear Satan, don’t look so annoyed, I beg you! And while waiting for a few belated cowardices, since you value in a writer all lack of descriptive or didactic flair, I pass you these few foul pages from the diary of a Damned Soul.

-Arthur Rimbaud

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Novel

I.

No one’s serious at seventeen.

–On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade

And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need

–You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.

Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!

Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;

The wind brings sounds–the town is near–

And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .

II.

–Over there, framed by a branch

You can see a little patch of dark blue

Stung by a sinister star that fades

With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .

June nights! Seventeen!–Drink it in.

Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . .

The mind wanders, you feel a kiss

On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .

III.

The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels

–And when a young girl walks alluringly

Through a streetlamp’s pale light, beneath the ominous shadow

Of her father’s starched collar. . .

Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,

She turns on a dime, eyes wide,

Finding you too sweet to resist. . .

–And cavatinas die on your lips.

IV.

You’re in love. Off the market till August.

You’re in love.–Your sonnets make Her laugh.

Your friends are gone, you’re bad news.
–Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .!

That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;

You order beer or lemonade. . .

–No one’s serious at seventeen

When lindens line the promenade.

-Arthur Rimbaud

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