The Seekers of Lice

By Arthur Rimbaud 1854–1891 Arthur Rimbaud

Translated By Wallace Fowlie

When the child's forehead, full of red torments,
Implores the white swarm of indistinct dreams,
There come near his bed two tall charming sisters
With slim fingers that have silvery nails.

They seat the child in front of a wide open
Window where the blue air bathes a mass of flowers
And in his heavy hair where the dew falls
Move their delicate, fearful and enticing fingers.
 
He listens to the singing of their apprehensive breath.
Which smells of long rosy plant honey
And which at times a hiss interrupts, saliva
Caught on the lip or desire for kisses.

He hears their black eyelashes beating in the perfumed
Silence; and their gentle electric fingers
Make in his half-drunken indolence the death of the little lice
Crackle under their royal nails.

Then the wine of Sloth rises in him,
The sigh of an harmonica which could bring on delirium;
The child feels, according to the slowness of the caresses
Surging in him and dying continuously a desire to cry.

Arthur Rimbaud, "The Seekers of Lice" from Complete Works, Selected Letters. Copyright © 2005 by Arthur Rimbaud.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Source: Complete Works, Selected Letters (University of Chicago Press, 2005)

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Poet Arthur Rimbaud 1854–1891

POET’S REGION France

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, Youth

Poetic Terms Quatrain

 Arthur  Rimbaud

Biography

It would be difficult to overestimate the influence of Arthur Rimbaud’s poetry on subsequent practitioners of the genre. His impact on the Surrealist movement has been widely acknowledged, and a host of poets, from André Breton to André Freynaud, have recognized their indebtedness to Rimbaud’s vision and technique. He was the enfant terrible of French poetry in the second half of the nineteenth century and a major figure in . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, Youth

POET’S REGION France

Poetic Terms Quatrain

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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