Rolf Stenersen on Rimbaud

I think I’ll choose a short poem, which might be badly recited by myself, but which is typical of Rimbaud. It’s not just the images, it’s also about the colours – all the colours in the world. And it’s extraordinary that the poem contains all so many things. It begins with a kind of idyll, with a man lying among green leaves in a flowery meadow, and ends quite surprisingly.

ASLEEP IN THE VALLEY from Premiers Vers (1870-1872)

A small green valley where a slow stream runs
And leaves long strands of silver on the bright
Grass; from the mountaintop stream the sun’s
Rays; they fill the hollow full of light.

 A soldier, very young, lies open-mouthed,
A pillow made of ferns beneath his head,
Asleep; stretched in the heavy undergrowth,
Pale in his warm, green, sun-soaked bed. 

His feet among the flowers, he sleeps. His smile
Is like an infant’s—gentle, without guile.
Ah, Nature, keep him warm; he may catch cold.

 The humming insects don’t disturb his rest;
He sleeps in sunlight, one hand on his breast,
At peace. In his side there are two red holes.

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