Friday, October 31, 2008

Poem of the Week 9/16/2008: A Season in Hell

A Season in Hell

A while back, if I remember right, my life was one long party where all hearts were open wide, where all wines kept flowing.

One night, I sat Beauty down on my lap.—And I found her galling.—And I roughed her up.

I armed myself against justice.

I ran away. O witches, O misery, O hatred, my treasure's been turned over to you!

I managed to make every trace of human hope vanish from my mind. I pounced on every joy like a ferocious animal eager to strangle it.

I called for executioners so that, while dying, I could bite the butts of their rifles. I called for plagues to choke me with sand, with blood. Bad luck was my god. I stretched out in the muck. I dried myself in the air of crime. And I played tricks on insanity.

And Spring brought me the frightening laugh of the idiot.

So, just recently, when I found myself on the brink of the final squawk! it dawned on me to look again for the key to that ancient party where I might find my appetite once more.

Charity is that key.—This inspiration proves I was dreaming!

"You'll always be a hyena etc. . . ," yells the devil, who'd crowned me with such pretty poppies. "Deserve death with all your appetites, your selfishness, and all the capital sins!"

Ah! I've been through too much:-But, sweet Satan, I beg of you, a less blazing eye! and while waiting for the new little cowardly gestures yet to come, since you like an absence of descriptive or didactic skills in a writer, let me rip out these few ghastly pages from my notebook of the damned.

Arthur Rimbaud Translated by Bertrand Mathieu

Happy Halloween*
There were a lot of choices for this week's PotW--many writers have treated of Hell, of course (think Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Blake, Joyce--indeed all great epics following the Western tradition ought by right to have a passage to the underworld)... there could be an entire anthology of Hell, perhaps put together by a Beat or a Blakean? It would be a fabulous anthology.

At any rate, I picked this one because it treats a sort of interior Hell, addressed to the devil, yes, but it is remarkable that the narrator discusses his own abuse of his life. It also includes, darkly, some hope, which is perhaps an older meaning of Halloween; to enter the darkness in order to purge and to balance. The same thing happens in The Orestia. At the end (stop here if you haven't read it), Athena orders mankind to pay its debt to the Furies, to treat them properly, to give them some life still.

* (the posting date, not the fake chronological one)

No comments: