Charlotte Mandell translating Arthur Rimbaud



Who kept running, spangled with electric lunes,
Crazy plank, with escort of black seahorses,
When all the Julys with their cudgels have crushed
Ultramarine skies into burning craters;

I who trembled, and could feel the moans a hundred miles away
Of rutting behemoths and sluggish maelstroms,
Eternal spinner of blue immobilities,
I miss the Europe of ancient parapets!

I have seen sidereal archipelagos! and islands
Whose delirious skies open up for a drifter:
— Is it in these bottomless nights you sleep in exile,
You million golden birds, o Power yet to come? —

Translator's Note:
“Le Bateau ivre” was written in the traditional French form of rhyming alexandrines. I chose not to keep the rhyme but to translate it into free verse, since (a) I’m not a poet and (b) I find rhyme distracts from meaning — it becomes gimmicky in English, and the weird imagery is what I find most interesting in The Drunken Boat. I have a feeling that if Rimbaud were writing today, he’d write in free verse — but that’s just a hunch…  —But then again, he did have a fondness for stunts.

Charlotte Mandell

Translator Bio:
Charlotte Mandell has translated over 30 books, including work by Blanchot, Flaubert, Proust, Genet, Mathais Enard, and Jonathan Littell.  Her translation of Apollinaire's "Zone" is here. An excerpt from her translation of Enard's _Zone_ is here. She lives in the Hudson Valley with the poet Robert Kelly. Her website is

Author Bio:
No one knows why Rimbaud stopped writing.  Blanchot wrote an interesting essay about it in Faux Pas called "After Rimbaud."