The Drunken Boat, poem by the year-old French poet Arthur Rimbaud, written in as “Le Bateau ivre” and often considered his finest poem. The poem. The Drunken Boat by Arthur I drifted on a river I could not control No longer guided by the bargemens ropes. They were captured by howling. Old mill at Charleville on the river Meuse around the turn of the century. To the right is quai Madeleine where Rimbaud lived with his mother, brother, and sisters .

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Old mill at Charleville on the river Meuse around the turn of the century.

To drunoen right is quai Madeleine where Rimbaud lived with his mother, brother, and sisters until Verlaine invited him to Paris. As I came floating down impassive rivers I felt myself no longer guided by the bargemen’s hands Howling natives hauled them up for targets Nailed them naked onto painted poles. What did I care I for any crew?

Traders of Flemish wheat or English cotton When they were through with all their noisy grief The rivers let me wander where I would. Out on the angry splash of winter tides Emptier than children’s minds I ran!

Babel Web Anthology :: Rimbaud, Arthur: The Drunken Boat (Le Bateau Ivre in English)

And no unmoored peninsula ever knew More triumphant uproar than I made Sweeter than sour apples to a child Green water seeping through my battered hull Cleansing the stains of vomit and the wine Tearing apart my anchor and my keel. Light as a cork I danced upon the waves, ten nights And never missed the lantern’s idiot eyes And since then, I’ve been bathing in the Poem of the Sea, Milk-white, infused with stars I know the sky split wide by lightning, tides, And surf, and waterspouts; I know the night, And dawn exalted like a flock of doves And sometimes I have seen what man has thought he’s seen!


I’ve seen the setting sun light up the shiv’ring purple waves Like actors in some ancient tragedy I’ve dreamed the evening green with dazzled snow and singing phosphor And kisses rising slowly on the eyelids of the sea I’ve touched the shores of Floridas where flowers mingle With the eyes of panthers in the skins of men And monstrous serpents eaten up with lice Drop down from trees entwined with black perfume I’ve seen sidereal archipelagoes and islands Ecstatic skies thrown open to the traveller on the wave Is it in these endless nights you sleep in exile O million golden birds, o future strength?

I’d like to show to children these dolphins on the wave These fish of gold, these singing fish These flowers of foam that lulled my scudding course Until I rested like a woman on her knees.

There were times I’d list, almost an island, Beneath the quarrels and droppings of the barking blond-eyed birds And there were times when past my fragile bow A pensive corpse came floating backwards by. Lost beneath the estuary’s long and trailing hair Jettisoned by hurricane into the birdless ether There’s neither shipbuilder nor sailor Would salvage my water-drunken carcass now I who rose from violet fog and ran Steaming and free, stained with electric crescents Herds of black seahorses by my side I who trembled, fifty leagues away From groans of gathering storms and rutting whales I long for Europe with its ancient parapets True, I’ve wept too much.


Dawns are heartbreaking Every sun is agonizing, every moon is cruel Acrid love has swollen me with drunken torpors Split apart my keel!

The Drunken Boat: Arthur Rimbaud – Poems

Let me go to the sea! If I do desire any European water It’s the cold black pond at twilight Where a lone child crouches, eyes full of sorrow, Drrunken sets sail a boat frail as a butterfly in May.

Sodden with weary waves I can no longer sail against the cotton-trader’s wake Nor cross the pride of flags and blazing banners Nor swim beneath the prison-ship’s frunken eyes. In adapting “The Drunken Boat” for performance, I cut the original twenty-five stanzas down to seventeen. In order to keep the wave shape I’ve cobbled several verses together and moved the “O million golden birds” verse from its original place four verses from the end.

Carlile, and Wyatt Mason. Washhouse at Roche photo credit: What do we care, my heart Holly Tannen teaches folklore and anthropology, and has lectured on contemporary magic at U. Berkeley and at Yale University. drunkeh