Rimbaud: Sensation (From French)

By Arthur Rimbaud
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Through evenings blue with summer, pricked by wheat,
I’ll roam the roads and crush the grass I tread,
Will dream and feel its coolness underfoot,
Will let the breezes bathe my naked head.

I will not speak, I will not think a thing,
Yet infinite love will rise up in me.
Far, far I will wander like a vagabond
In Nature like a woman's company.

The Original:

Par les soirs bleus d'été, j'irai dans les sentiers,
Picoté par les blés, fouler l'herbe menue :
Rêveur, j'en sentirai la fraicheur à mes pieds.
Je laisserai le vent baigner ma tête nue.

Je ne parlerai pas, je ne penserai rien :
Mais l'amour infini me montera dans l'âme,
Et j'irai loin, bien loin, comme un bohémien,
Par la Nature, -- heureux comme avec une femme.


  1. Vincent van StrienMarch 23, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    Being a native speaker of French I can only compliment you for this translation, although 'crush' seems to me a little too strong a word for 'fouler'. But the nuance is quite subtle.

    Also I have to praise your reciting of the poem, it flows the way you would expect from someone who would have spent many, many years in France. Here and there I can hear you're trying really hard to avoid stressing syllables, but on the whole it sounds really good.

    I was wondering, how many of the numerous languages from which you translate did you learn as a child?

  2. I am impressed. I especially like your rendering of the first line: "blue with summer", and like that you avoided the "blue summer evenings". My interested in your work here is not from the perspective of one who, at one point (and i was) was a first-language French speaker, but from that of an anthropologist and writer deeply obsessed with the problem of language, and the problem of translation. I have made some radical epistemological shifts of late, and decided to leave behind all my anxieties about the metonymic (at best) relationship between the word and the world, and the subsequent utter and fatal impossibility of translation. Simply put, honest attempts at translation do offer windows into "other" (for some) epistemologies, other planes of consciousness, many other things. So what I try to do these days is attempt translations that flirt with the literal and invite readers into unfamiliar structures of language that compel them to approach the aesthetic from different angles, in different orders; in unsettling, and ultimately enriching ways. 
    Here is my translation of Sensation (I only found yours later, as I had forced myself not to look at any English translations before embarking on the project.)

    By the evenings, blue, in
    the summer, I will go on the trails, tingled by the

    wheatgrass, treading on
    the slim grass: a dreamer, I will feel it, the chill, on

    my feet. I will let the
    wind bathe my head, bare.

    I will speak nothing, I
    will think nothing.

    But infinite love will
    rise in my soul, And I will go far, oh, so

    far, like a Gypsy, into
    the Wild—happy just like

    with a woman.  

  3. SPLV, your translation is a bit insistent on very abrupt line breaks. Why?

  4. I think you missed a word in the last line...The last two lines should read, in my opinion, 'Far, far I will wander through Nature like a bohemiam---happy as if with a woman' or some other phrase that includes that the wanderer will feel happy as if he was in the company of a woman. That's my view. Thank you for your job! Great translation!