Chris Clarke translating Arthur Rimbaud

Drunken Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Who took flight, lit up with electric lunulae,
A moonstruck needle led by darkest pterippi,
As July strove to pull down, with thunderous claps
Skies of cerulean blue and their tattered clouds;

I a-tremble, a hundred and more miles off, felt
The screech of an iron Behemoth’s rutting, and
His funnel of steam, smoke twisting into still blue,
How I miss the grand halls of Callet’s Orléans!

I have seen vast networks of streets! and great highways
Whose unbounded paths are free to all wanderers:
Do you sleep, self-exiled within these endless nights,
The strength of thirty gilt horses, o future Haste?

Translator's Note:
Arthur Rimbaud’s Le Bateau ivre was heavily influenced by his reading of Jules Verne’s Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), which was published by Pierre-Jules Hetzel in 1870, the year before Rimbaud sent his Bateau to Paul Verlaine. In this excerpt, I have attempted a little semantic transposition, wondering how things would have worked out if Rimbaud, as a 17-year-old, had instead attended a pre-pre-screening of the 1987 John Hughes film Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

Chris Clarke

Translator Bio:
Chris Clarke is a PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center and lives in Brooklyn, NY.  His translations include work by Pierre Mac Orlan (Brooklyn Rail), Raymond Queneau (New Directions) and Oulipo member Olivier Salon (Words without Borders).