“Blackcurrant River” is a short poem, composed in May, 1872, that was not published by the author. It remained a manuscript until 1886, when it was published together with a number of other pieces, entirely without the poet’s knowledge. By the time “Blackcurrant River” appeared, Arthur Rimbaud had abandoned poetry and left Europe to live as a trader in Ethiopia.
The poem is composed of three rhyming six-line stanzas. In the French original, the lines are of unequal lengths, alternating eleven-syllable lines with lines of five to seven syllables. The rhyme scheme is also slightly irregular. While the rhymes of the first and third stanzas alternate in a simple ababab pattern, the second-stanza rhyme repeats a single nasalized vowel (revoltants, temps, importants, entend, errants, vent). Formal deviations such as these are difficult to render in a translation; their effect in the original French is considerable.
“Cassis” is a fruit, a popular flavor of sweetened syrup, and a liqueur. Thus the French title suggests a stream of sweet liquid, an inviting counterpart to the Big Rock Candy Mountain. When translated into English, the title contains a pun (currant-current) that is absent in French. Rimbaud spoke English, however, and may have been conscious of the possibility. In any case, the title helps establish a deceptively mild tone for the poem, although “black...
(The entire section is 525 words.)