Here’s a translation of mine of ‘The Bridges’, one of Arthur Rimbaud’s late poems. Taken from his posthumous collection Illuminations, this prose poem was written in London, and I can’t help thinking that’s it’s set on the Regent’s Canal in Camden. Rimbaud lived there briefly with Paul Verlaine, his partner in poetry and crime.
by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Robin Boothroyd
Grey crystal skies. A weird backdrop of bridges, some straight, some arched, others slanting down, or angled obliquely to the first, and these patterns reproduced in pools of light further along the canal, but all of them so long and slight that the banks, laden with domes, shrink and subside. Some bridges still foster hovels. Others support masts, signals, frail parapets. Minor chords intersect, dissolve. Ropes climb up from the banks. We make out a red coat, maybe some other costumes, and musical instruments. Are these popular tunes, fragments of stately recitals, remnants of public hymns? The water is grey and blue, wide as an arm of the sea. ––A ray of white light, falling from the top of the sky, obliterates this comedy.