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The room is full of shadows; vaguely heard, The soft, sad whispers of two tiny babes. Their faces, heavy still with sleep, peck out Through long white curtains that shake and swirl ... -Outside, the shivering birds hop near; Their wings are numb beneath the dark gray sky; And New Year's Day, with all her foggy troop, Dragging along the folds of her snowy gown, Smiles through tears, and, shivering, sings her song.
And the little children behind the flapping curtainSpeak soft and low as in the dark of night.They listen, sunk in thought, to a distant hum ...They tremble often at the golden voiceOf the morning bell, which strikes and strikes againIts metal chime within a globe of glass ...And oh, the room is cold ... in heaps about the floorAround the bed, we see black mourning clothes:The bitter wind that howls before the doorSighs round about the house with gloomy breath!We feel, in all of this, a certain lack-Do these small children have no mother, then,No smiling mother, with triumphant eyes?She must that night have forgotten, bending alone,To blow the naked coals again to flame,To tuck the blanket and the quilt around themBefore she left them, saying "pardon me."Could she not have foreseen the morning's cold,Nor closed the door against the wintry blast? ...
A dream of mother is a cozy comforter,A cotton-covered nest where snuggling children lie,As pretty drowsing birds in swaying branchesSleep their sweet sleep, their soft white dreams!But here-this is some cheerless, featherless nestWhere the young are cold, afraid, and cannot sleep;A nest quite frozen by the bitter wind ...
Your heart tells you the truth-they have no mother. No mother in the house! And a father far away! An old housekeeper, then, took them in charge. The children are alone in the icy house: Orphans at four, now in their hearts and minds A happy memory by degrees revives, As bead by bead, we tell a rosary: Ah! What a wondrous morning, New Year's Day! Each one, that night, had dreamed a dream of gifts, The strangest dream, where he saw heaps of toys That whirled about, dancing a noisy dance, Then hid behind the curtain, then appeared once more! And in the morning they would hop from bed With a foretaste of sugarplums, rubbing their eyes ... They would go, hair tousled on their heads, Their eyes shining brightly, as on holidays, Their bare little feet skimming the floor, To tap very softly at their parents' door ... They let them in! Then came greetings, laughing loud, And kisses upon kisses, and happiness allowed!
Ah! How lovely, those words said over and over! But how that house of long ago has changed!
A huge fire once burned brightly on the hearth, And lit up every corner of the room; The red reflections coming from the fire Would dance upon the polished furniture ... The cabinet's keys were gone! No cabinet keys! They kept on glancing at its dark old doors ... No keys! How strange it was! They often thought Of mysteries waiting in its wooden heart And thought they heard, beyond the beckoning Keyhole, a distant sound, a distant happy hum ... Their parents' room is quite empty today: No red reflections come from beneath the door: There are no parents, hearth, or hidden keys, And hence no kisses and no sweet surprises! Oh, how sad their New Year's Day will be! And thoughtfully, while from their big blue eyes Begins to fall a silent bitter tear, They murmur: "When will we see our mother dear?"
Now the little ones are sadly fast asleep: You would say, to see them, that, slumbering, they wept. Their eyes are swollen so, their breathing heavy! The hearts of little children are so sensitive! -But a guardian angel wipes away their tears And to their heavy slumber brings a happy dream, A dream so happy that their parted lips, Smiling, seem to murmur something out loud ... They dream that from under their small round arms, -Sweet gesture of awakening-they peep out; Their sleepy eyes begin to look around themThey think they have slept in a rosy paradise! In the bright reflecting hearth a fire sings. Beyond the window shines a bright blue sky;
Nature awakes and bathes in shining rays ... The half-bare earth, happy to be revived, Shivers with joy at the kisses of the sun, And in the old house all is warm and red: The somber clothes no longer lie about, The biting wind has finally died awayYou would think a good fairy had just passed by! The children, happy, cried for delight, for there, Beside the bed, in a beautiful rosy light, There, on the carpet, something wondrous shone: Two silvery medallions, black and white, Of shining mother-of-pearl and glittering jet; Little black frames whose covers of glass unfold, And the words "To Our Mother" engraved in gold.Arthur Rimbaud: Complete Works. Copyright © by Arthur Rimbaud. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from Arthur Rimbaud: Complete Works by Paul Schmidt, Arthur Rimbaud
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