“Ophelia’s Song”

Detail from Millais' "Ophelia" (1851-52)

Inspiration is a funny thing: I literally just clicked on a website devoted to the life and poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, and happened to see his poem, “Ophelia.” I read maybe three lines and suddenly felt the urge to poeticize my own depiction of the poor girl. I was not feeling in any way poetic before reading Rimbaud’s poem, but apparently all I needed to set me off was about twenty words.

In any event, here’s the finished product:


I wish to drift in reverie with lilies on my brow;

I wish to sing forever more if memory allows.

My father’s passed into the night,

My love has taken ill with fright,

My brother’s drunk on Gallic might;

There’s not a soul to set me right.

The rosemary has been forgot;

The pansy has abandoned thought;

The fennel’s flame has not been caught;

The columbine’s a toxic lot;

The rue’s sour taste has oft been sought;

The daisy’s sight’s reduced to naught;

The violet’s sweets have turned to rot.

A-down, a-down, a-down, a-down,

My love has gone a-down:

He’s gone off fighting demons nigh;

My love has gone a-down.

O tra-la-la-daisy; O tra-la-la-mazy!

And will he not come back again

Through Psyche’s labyrinth?

I fear he shan’t come back again;

He’s drunk on tart absinthe.

He’s now an h’orderve sweet for worms

(Yet do I mark the man?

Was he the one in secret burned

In my queen’s frying pan?)

O daddy-dear, O love of mine,

Thou art the selfsame man to me.

Thou shan’t come back to mine embrace,

So I shall swim in reverie.

Yes let me swim, the water’s cool:

It draws me down to thee.

The robin’s song is sung at last

The future’s mold has yet been cast

My true love has unfurled the mast

The countrymen look on aghast

My eyes are watering o’er fast

My country flows into the past.

I wish to drift in reverie with lilies on my brow;

I wish to sing forever more if memory allows.

(4/23/2010)

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