Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Hanged Men's Ball

        Up on the one-armed black gibbet,
        These paladin are dancing, dancing,
        The thin, Devil's paladins,
        The skeletons of Saladins.

Sir Beelzebub yanks his wee black puppets
By the scruff—they grimace at the sky;
He slaps their heads with back-handers like kicks,
and sets them a-dance to some old Christmas carol.

The puppets, rattled, link their spindly arms:
Their chests, once snuggled against by genteel ladies,
Are skewered by light, like dark organ pipes,
And clatter together now in hideous orgy.

Hooray! You jolly dancers, you've lost your guts!
You can spring your caprioles on this long stage!
Hop! Who cares if it's really a fight or dance?
Beelzebub, maddened, scrapes his violins!

Oh horny heels! None here wears out his shoes!
They've almost all stripped off their shirts of skin;
What's left can't cause embarrassment or shame.
The snow crowns each bare skull with a white cap:

Crows add a plumed flourish to these cracked heads;
A scrap of skin dangles from each lean chin:
Seeing them spinning about in shadowy battle
You'd think them stiff knights clashing cardboard armour.

Hooray! The wind whistles up the Skeletons' Ball!
The black gallows croons iron organ notes!
The wolves howl back from violet forests:
A red glow from Hell burns the horizon...

Ho! Shake, rattle and roll those morbid loudmouths
Whose huge, broken digits craftily finger
The rosary of love along their pale
Spine-bones: this ain't no monastery, Dead Folk!

Look! A great red skeleton, mad, and hurtling
With his own impetus, leaps from the Dance of Death
Into the red sky, like a rearing horse:
And feeling the rope tighten again on his neck,

Clenches his knuckles, cracks them on his thigh bone,
Laughs mockingly, then skips back into the dance,
To the rhythm of the bones: a snake-oil salesman
Climbing into his booth to do the business.

        Up on the one-armed black gibbet,
        These paladin are dancing, dancing,
        The thin, Devil's paladins,
        The skeletons of Saladins.



—Arthur Rimbaud (translated PCS)

2 Comments:

Blogger NJH said...

Who is the translation by?

N

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9:57 pm  
Blogger Caratacus said...

Me, 'improving' Oliver Bernard.

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10:59 pm  

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