Oisive jeunesse

Today, I have chosen a poem by Arthur Rimbaud, “Chanson de la plus haute tour”, A Song from the Highest Tower. It seems to be looking back at his experiences and sensations as a young man – and since all his poetry was written when he was still quite a young man, this perhaps has an intensity which you would not find in an older poet.

Chanson de la plus haute tour

Oisive jeunesse
A tout asservie,
Par délicatesse
J’ai perdu ma vie.
Ah ! Que le temps vienne
Où les coeurs s’éprennent.

Je me suis dit : laisse,
Et qu’on ne te voie :
Et sans la promesse
De plus hautes joies.
Que rien ne t’arrête,
Auguste retraite.

J’ai tant fait patience
Qu’à jamais j’oublie ;
Craintes et souffrances
Aux cieux sont parties.
Et la soif malsaine
Obscurcit mes veines.

Ainsi la prairie
A l’oubli livrée,
Grandie, et fleurie
D’encens et d’ivraies
Au bourdon farouche
De cent sales mouches.

Ah ! Mille veuvages
De la si pauvre âme
Qui n’a que l’image
De la Notre-Dame !
Est-ce que l’on prie
La Vierge Marie ?

Oisive jeunesse
A tout asservie,
Par délicatesse
J’ai perdu ma vie.
Ah ! Que le temps vienne
Où les coeurs s’éprennent !

From <http://www.poetica.fr/poeme-648/arthur-rimbaud-chanson-de-la-plus-haute-tour/&gt;

The first stanza is repeated as the final stanza, topping and tailing the poem and accentuating the intention of the poet to convey a sense of a wasted youth – “oisive jeunesse”, “J’ai perdu ma vie”, and a longing for a time when his life will have some purpose, by contrast.

I find the intermediate stanzas to be more impressionistic of a mood of a drifting, purposeless existence, rather than giving specific details of the poet’s life or state of mind. He uses allusive metaphors and what at first sight seem like they may be half-formed impressions to convey this sense of life passing him by.

In formal terms, there is a regular rhyme scheme, repeated in each stanza, but the line lengths are somewhat variable, although all are fairly short, giving plenty of space on the page to let the words be appreciated.

The Poetry Dude


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