“Ophélie” by Arthur Rimbaud

[translated from the French by geul]




On the calm and black wave where the stars sleep

The white Ophelia floats like a great lily,

Floats languorously, lying on her long veils …

– One hears tallyhos in the far off woods.


Here more than a thousand years the sad Ophelia

Passes, white phantom, on the black river;

Here more than a thousand years her sweet madness

Murmurs its romance to the evening breeze.


The wind kisses her breasts and unfurls in a corolla

Her great veils, softly cradled by the waters;

The shivering willows weep on her shoulder,

The reeds bend over her great dreaming brow.


The water lilies, ruffled, sigh around her;

Sometimes she wakes some nest in a sleeping alder,

where a little fluttering of wing escapes:

– A mysterious song falls from the golden stars.




Oh pale Ophelia! lovely like the snow!

Yes, you died, child, carried off by a river!

– It’s that the winds falling from the great mountains of Norway

Had whispered to you of bitter liberty;


It’s that a gust, twisting your great tresses,

Carried strange sounds to your dreamer spirit;

That your heart listened to Nature’s song

In the tree’s laments and the nights’ sighs


It’s that the voice of the mad seas, huge groan,

Broke your child’s breast, too human and too tender;

It’s that one April morning, a handsome pale chevalier,

A poor madman, dropped mute at your knees!


Sky! Love! Liberty! What dream, oh poor mad girl!

You melted against him like snow to fire:

Your great visions strangled your speech

– And terrible infinity bewildered your blue eye!




– And the Poet says that under the rays of the stars

You come at night looking for flowers you gather

And that he saw on the water, lying on her long veils,

The white Ophelia, floating, like a great lily.



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