Arthur Rimbaud: On War – Cento Poem

The assignment this week asked to create a cento, a poetry form that uses lines from other poems. The “stolen” lines, can come from any number of sources – I chose to use a the collected works of a single author, but others could also opt to use lines from any number of authors.

I had originally hoped to use a collection of Dylan Thomas poetry that I bought at my library, but realized that I had left it at my home. Instead, I looked around the library at Philo to find some books of poetry. I found a book of the complete poems of Arthur Rimbaud, which I decided to use. The book was donated to the library last year by a graduating member, and while I wished that I could read the inscription to write it out here, her handwriting was almost entirely illegible.

Arthur Rimbaud: On War

This man, pale, walks the flowering lawns,
Marvelously pale in the sun’s
Love-provoking light.
Along the banks of yellowed ponds,
Across the infinite expanse of day
A small green valley where a slow stream runs.
While the red-stained mouths
Seeing the world through rosy-colored glasses.
As I put out a candle – softly, politely…
He sleeps in the sunlight, one hand on his breast,
In a dawn that was meant for us alone.
Have they crumpled flowers of gold?
The brilliance of these hands in love
The Poet speaks: “Great is the sight of your Beauty!”

This poem used lines selected from different poems about war. I wanted to rearrange the lines to make a semi-erotic poem, which emphasizes the romantic nature of Rimbaud’s language choice (and, additionally, the language choices made in the translation by Paul Schmidt). I find that Rimbaud’s poetry is incredibly beautiful, even when discussing complex and grotesque matters.


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