WARNING: In a comment attached to this post, my friend Corina has pointed out that the subject of the present article is possibly a literary fraud, perpetrated by a self-declared hoaxer. So, maybe I was naive in believing immediately what I read on the Internet. If so, mea culpa!
Literary historians were aware that the French poet Arthur Rimbaud [1854-1891] had thought of working as a journalist when he was an adolescent, but nobody had ever unearthed any specimens of such activity. This changed recently with the discovery of a short article signed Jean Baudry [a nom de plume employed by Rimbaud] in an ephemeral newspaper dated November 1870.
The article—a kind of mini prose poem—evokes a dream of France's enemy: the Prussian chief Bismarck.
Insofar as it's rare to come upon an unpublished text by a celebrated 19th-century author, I seize with joy this exceptional opportunity of translating Rimbaud's article into English.
It is nightfall. Beneath his tent, full of silence and reverie, Bismark is meditating, a finger on the map of France. A blue wisp escapes from his pipe.
Bismark is meditating. His tiny bent index finger traces a path on the fine paper, from the Rhine to the Moselle, and from there to the Seine. His finger nail scratches the paper imperceptibly around Strasbourg. He steers clear.
At Sarrebruck, Wissembourg, Woerth and Sedan, he trembles, along with his small hooked finger. He caresses Nancy, lacerates Bitche and Phalsbourg, obliterates Metz and draws short dashes along the frontier. Then he stops.
In triumph, Bismark has stamped his index finger upon Alsace and Lorraine! Ah, beneath his yellowy skull, what miserly joy! What delicious clouds of smoke spread out from his happy pipe! Bismark is meditating. Hey! A big black dot seems to halt his nervous index finger. It is Paris.
So, the nasty little finger nail scratches. It scratches the paper with rage, from one side to the other, then it halts. The finger remains there, half hooked and frozen.
Paris! Paris! Then the fellow has dreamed so much, without closing an eyelid, that somnolence overcomes him. His forehead leans towards the paper. The smoldering rage of his pipe, fallen from his lips, drops geometrically upon that nasty black dot...
Hi, povero*! Detached from his paltry head, his nose—the nose of Sir Otto de Bismarck—fell into the burning mass. Hi, povero! Va povero! Into the incandescent furnace of the pipe. Hi, povero! His index finger was posed upon Paris! His glorious dream was ended!
The nose of the aging first diplomat had been so splendid, so spiritual and so happy! Hide it, hide that nose! Well, my dear friend, when you return to the palace to partake of the royal sauerkraut...
[a couple of missing lines]
There you go! You shouldn’t have succumbed to dreaminess!
* Italian: Hey, poor fellow! Maybe an evocation of Garibaldi.