Pablo Neruda : Ode to Arthur Rimbaud

Ode to Jean Arthur Rimbaud

Poetry by Pablo Neruda

Chicago Review, Vol. 17, No. 1 (1964)

Now, this October,

you would be

a hundred years old,

heart-breaking friend.

Will you permit

me to speak to you ?

I am alone,

against my window the Pacific breaks

its eternal dark thunder.

It is night.

Against the oval

of your old portrait

the burning wood hurls

a passing gleam. You are a child

with twisted tufts of hair,

half-closed eyes, bitter mouth.

Forgive me

for talking to you

as I do, as I believe

you would now,

for talking to you of sea water

and wood that burns,

of simple things and simple beings.

They tortured you

and burned your soul,

they shut you up

in the walls of Europe

and frantically

you beat the doors.

And when

you were able to leave

you went wounded,

wounded and mute,


Well then, other poets left

a raven, a swan,

a willow,

a petal on the lyre;

you left a heart-broken

ghost who curses

and spits;

and you go about


without definite residence,

without number ?

along the streets of Europe,

returning to Marseille with African sand

in your shoes,


like a shiver,



with your pockets torn,




It isn't true

that you stole the fire,

that you ran

with celestial fury and with the ultra-violet

precious stones of hell.

It isn't so,

I don't believe it;

they refused you

simplicity, home,


they rejected you,

closed their doors to you,

and then, irate archangel,

you would fly

to the dwellings of remoteness

and coin by coin,

sweating and bleeding

your stature,

you wanted

to accumulate the gold


for simplicity, for the key,

for the quiet wife,

for the son,

for your own chair,

for your bread and beer.

In your day

above the cobwebs,


like an umbrella,

dusk closed up and

the gaslight flickered


Through the Commune you passed,

red child,

and your poetry shoot out


which still rise punishing the walls

of the executions.

With dagger eye

you pierced the wormeaten


the war, the roving

cross of Europe.

Because of that, today, at a hundred years


I invite you

to the simple

truth your wrathful brow

never reached;

to America I invite you,

to our rivers,

to our moon mist

above the cordilleras,

to the emancipation

of workers,

to the Volga electrified, to the extended homeland

of the peoples

of clusters and wheat,

to all that man

conquered without mystery,

with strength

and blood,

with one hand and another,

with millions

of hands.

They drove you mad,

Rimbaud; they condemned you

and hurled you into hell.

You deserted the cause

of the origin, discoverer

of fire; you buried

the flame

and in the deserted solitude

you served

your sentence.

Today it is simpler, we are

countries, we are


who guarantee

the growth of poetry,

the distribution of bread, the patrimony

of the neglected.


you would not be


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