Thursday, October 13, 2011

Arthur Rimbaud

A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes:
[Black A, white E, red I, green U, bleu O: vowels
Someday I'll reveal the secret of your birth.]
From Arthur Rimbaud's Alexandrian sonnet, "Voyelles" ("Vowels"), which he wrote in 1870 or 1871 but which was not published until 1883.  (The translation is by Holly Tannen.)  I have no idea why the U comes before the O -- some crazy French thing, I'm sure.

The lines of a poem written using the Alexandrian meter consists of two half-lines of six syllables each.  (That is very different from saying that a Alexandrian poem consists of lines with twelve syllables each.)  The break between the half-lines -- that is, the break between the sixth and seventh syllables -- should be a major syntactic break. 

Rimbaud, who was a born in 1854, was a precocious student who published his first poem when he was only 15.  He moved to Paris at the invitation of symbolist poet Paul Verlaine just before his 17th birthday.  Rimbaud stopped writing poetry before he turned 21 and became a businessman.  He died of cancer when he was 37.

It's "French-day the 13th," and all this is about as French as it gets.  

So are you impressed that I was able to figure out how to make each vowel the right color?

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