Ophelia

Call it vanity, Ophelia is Shakespeare’s famous female character who died of her madness – I see myself in the art made round her.  Maybe most women do. Maybe we’re all mad. I just got caught. Or maybe I’m just not as good at hiding it as you are, dear reader.

For, if you are reading this journal, you too, are a little mad.

.

I

On the calm black water where the stars sleep
White Ophelia floats like a great lily;
Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils…
– In the far-off woods you can hear them sound the mort.

Sad Ophelia for more than a thousand years
Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.
For more than a thousand years her sweet madness
Has bewitched its ballad to the evening breeze.

The wind kisses her breasts and unfolds in a wreath
Her great veils rising and falling with the waters;
Shivering willows weep on her shoulder,
Rushes lean over her wide, dreamer’s face.

The ruffled water-lilies are sighing around her;
At times she rouses, in a slumbering alder,
Some nest from which escapes a small rustle of wings;
– A mysterious anthem falls from the golden stars.

II

O pale Ophelia! beautiful as snow!
Yes child, you died, carried off by a river!
– It was the winds descending from the great mountains of Norway
That spoke to you in low voices of better freedom.

It was a breath of wind, that, twisting your great hair,
Brought strange rumors to your dreaming mind;
It was your heart listening to the song of Nature
In the groans of the tree and the sighs of the nights;

It was the voice of mad seas, the great roar,
That shattered your child’s heart, too human and too soft;
It was a handsome pale knight, a poor madman
Who one April morning sat silent at your knees!

Heaven! Love! Freedom! What a dream, you poor, crazed seer!
You melted to him as snow does to a fire;
Your soaring visions choked your power of speech
– And terrible Infinity terrified your blue eye!

III

– And the poet says that by starlight
You come seeking, in the night, the flowers that you picked
And that he has seen on the water, lying in her long veils
White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.

Arthur Rimbaud

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