Au Cabaret-Vert, cinq heures du soir

This is the way I like it. Near the end of Season One of the French TV series Chefs, there is a culinary show-down, Iron Chefs style, which turns around a 1870 sonnet by the prodigy Arthur Rimbaud, written when he was turning 17.  I had always loved this poem, simplicity itself, Rimbaud’s point.

After I woke up this morning my rhymed translation fell into place before lunch, the last rhyme knitting together during my post-prandial nap. [And thanks to J.A. for a deft suggestion.]


For a whole week I’d been wearing out my soles
tramping down rocky paths. When I got home
I headed to the Cabaret-Vert, ordering rolls
with butter and a slab of lukewarm ham. 

At peace, I stretched my legs out, admired
the simple patterns on tapestry hung
on the wall. Then the girl served up the desired
buns, her tits big, bright eyes so young 

— not likely would she shy away from a peck!
The pink ham with its rim of white fat bedecked
with pungent garlic sat on a fancy dish.

With it she brought a stein topped with froth,
spume glistening in the sun. In truth,
there was little more I could ever wish. 


Depuis huit jours, j’avais déchiré mes bottines
Aux cailloux des chemins. J’entrais à Charleroi.
– Au Cabaret-Vert : je demandai des tartines
Du beurre et du jambon qui fût à moitié froid.

Bienheureux, j’allongeai les jambes sous la table
Verte : je contemplai les sujets très naïfs
De la tapisserie. – Et ce fut adorable,
Quand la fille aux tétons énormes, aux yeux vifs,

– Celle-là, ce n’est pas un baiser qui l’épeure ! –
Rieuse, m’apporta des tartines de beurre,
Du jambon tiède, dans un plat colorié,

Du jambon rose et blanc parfumé d’une gousse
D’ail, – et m’emplit la chope immense, avec sa mousse
Que dorait un rayon de soleil arriéré.

“Le Cabaret-Vert”, du peintre ardennais Jean-Paul Saurin













Yours truly at Rimbaud’s tomb, Charleville, 1988