A Season in Hell

Arthur Rimbaud

Translated by Bertrand Mathieu
 

A while back, if I remember right, my life was one long party where all hearts were open wide, where all wines kept flowing.

One night, I sat Beauty down on my lap.—And I found her galling.—And I roughed her up.

I armed myself against justice.

I ran away. O witches, O misery, O hatred, my treasure's been turned over to you!

I managed to make every trace of human hope vanish from my mind. I pounced on every joy like a ferocious animal eager to strangle it.

I called for executioners so that, while dying, I could bite the butts of their rifles. I called for plagues to choke me with sand, with blood. Bad luck was my god. I stretched out in the muck. I dried myself in the air of crime. And I played tricks on insanity.

And Spring brought me the frightening laugh of the idiot.

So, just recently, when I found myself on the brink of the final squawk! it dawned on me to look again for the key to that ancient party where I might find my appetite once more.

Charity is that key.—This inspiration proves I was dreaming!

"You'll always be a hyena etc. . . ," yells the devil, who'd crowned me with such pretty poppies. "Deserve death with all your appetites, your selfishness, and all the capital sins!"

Ah! I've been through too much:-But, sweet Satan, I beg of you, a less blazing eye! and while waiting for the new little cowardly gestures yet to come, since you like an absence of descriptive or didactic skills in a writer, let me rip out these few ghastly pages from my notebook of the damned.

 
From A Season in Hell & Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Bertrand Mathieu (BOA Editions, 1991). Used by permission.

Poems by This Author

Antique by Arthur Rimbaud
Graceful son of Pan! Around your forehead crowned
Hellish Night by Arthur Rimbaud
I've swallowed a terrific mouthful of poison
Novel by Arthur Rimbaud
No one's serious at seventeen.
The Seekers of Lice by Arthur Rimbaud
When the boy's head, full of raw torment
Waifs and Strays by Arthur Rimbaud
Black in the fog and in the snow


Further Reading

Related Poems
The Practice
by Aaron Shurin
Poems About Hell
The Aeneid, Book VI, [First, the sky and the earth]
by Virgil
A Myth of Devotion
by Louise Glück
Canto XIV
by Ezra Pound
Descriptions of Heaven and Hell
by Mark Jarman
Hellish Night
by Arthur Rimbaud
How Can It Be I Am No Longer I
by Lucie Brock-Broido
I Am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra
by Ishmael Reed
Medusa
by Patricia Smith
Orfeo
by Jack Spicer
Proverbs of Hell
by William Blake
Silence Raving
by Clayton Eshleman
Slim Greer in Hell
by Sterling A. Brown
Song of Devils
by Thomas Shadwell
Strange Meeting
by Wilfred Owen
Styx
by Dana Levin
The Bistro Styx
by Rita Dove
The Dead
by Mina Loy
The Philosophy of Pitchforks
by Sue Owen
The Pomegranate
by Eavan Boland
Worst Things First
by Mark Bibbins