Voyelles

Original Text: 

Representative French Poetry, ed. Victor E. Graham, 2nd edn. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965): 102-03.

2Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes:
3A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
4Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,
5Golfes d'ombre; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
6Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d'ombelles;
7I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
8Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes;
9U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
10Paix des pâtis semés d'animaux, paix des rides
11Que l'alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;
12O, suprême Clairon plein de strideurs étranges,
13Silences traversés des Mondes et des Anges:
14-- O l'Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux!

Notes

1] A great deal has been written concerning various interpretations of this poem. The theories are: (1) Rimbaud is seriously exploiting the Baudelairian doctrine of correspondances (synaesthesia). (2) In his use of colours associated with letters, Rimbaud is subconsciously recalling an alphabet book he used as a child. (3) The actual shapes of the letters suggested the objects and their related colours (A -- a fly, black; U -- waves, green; O -- eyes, violet; E, I -- on their sides the objects and colours cited, with rois a misprint for rois). (4) The sequences of letters (A, E, I, U, O) and colours (black to blue) are precisely those of the alchemical process whose mastery reveals the secret of life. Rimbaud knew alchemical literature and is here referring to its doctrines. (5) The poem is a tour de force with no particular meaning at all! Whatever the explanation of its origin, the sonnet is an excellent example of Rimbaud's technique. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 

"Voyelles" was first published in 1883.
 

RPO poem Editors: 
Victor E. Graham
Digital editor: Ian Lancashire
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2012
Form: 
Special Copyright: 

Second edition copyright © 1965 University of Toronto Press.
    Reprinted with permission of the publisher, from which written permission must
    be obtained for any other edition or other means of reproduction.