Paul Verlaine

February 7, 2010 at 8:33 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) is probably best known today for his destructive relationship with Arthur Rimbaud. This is a great pity, as he was a very fine poet in his own right. True, he lacked  the fierce genius of the younger man, but he was still one of the more interesting poets of the Decadent movement. The turbulent years he spent with Rimbaud, while they nearly destroyed him, produced some of his greatest literature.

Paul Verlaine

It is only in recent years that his most remarkable (read: most purple) works have been published. This is one of my favourites.

A Bad Sleeper

He is a bad sleeper and it is a joy to me

To feel him well when he is the proud prey

And the strong neighbour of the best of sleep

Without false covers – no need – and without awakenings.

So near, so near to me that I believe he inflames me

In some way, with his overwhelming desire, that I feel

In my ravished and trembling body.

If we find ourselves face to face, and if he turns

Close to my side, as lovers are wont to do,

His haunches, deliriously dreamy or not,

Sudden, mutinous, malicious, stubborn, whorish,

In the name-of-God, his cravings, so gentle, will pierce my flesh,

And leave me girdled like a eunuch,

Or if I should turn to him with the wish

To sooth him; or, if peacefully we lie, his quietness,

Brutal and gentle, will suffuse my body in his;

And my spirit, out of happiness, will submerge and overwhelm him,

And prostrate him, infinite in that tack.

Am I happy? Totus in benigno positus!


Translated by Francois Pirou


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