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Does anybody have a clue what this poem means? (homework help for my stepson)

The Drunken Boat (Arthur Rimbaud)

As I floated down impassable rivers,
I felt the boatmen no longer guiding me:
After them came redskins who with war cries
Nailed them naked to the painted poles.

I was oblivious to the crew,
I who bore Flemish wheat and English cotton.
When the racket was finished with my boatmen,
The Waters let me drift my own free way.

In the tide's furious pounding,
I, the other winter, emptier than children's minds,
I sailed! And the unmoored peninsulas
Have not suffered more triumphant turmoils.

The tempest blessed my maritime watches.
Lighter than a cork I danced on the waves,
Those eternal rollers of victims,
Ten nights without regretting the lantern-foolish eye!

Sweeter than the bite of sour apples to a child,
The green water seeped through my wooden hull,
Rinsed me with blue wine swim and vomit,
Broke apart grappling iron and rudder.

And then I bathed myself in the poetry
Of the star-sprayed milk-white sea,
Devouring the azure greens; where, pale
And ravished, a pensive drowned one sometimes floats:
Where, suddenly staining the blueness, frenzies
Stronger than alcohol, vaster than our lyres"
The russet bitterness of love ferments ...

I have dreamed of the green night bedazzled with snow,
A kiss climbing slowly to the eyes of the sea,
The flow of unforgettable sap,
And the yellow-blue waking of singing phosphorous!

Long months I have followed, like maddened cattle,
The surge assaulting the rocks
Without dreaming that the Virgin's luminous feet
Could force a muzzle on the panting ocean!

I have struck against the shares of incredible Floridas
Mixing panther-eyed flowers like human skins!

Rainbows stretched like bridle reins
Under the ocean's horizon, toward sea-green troops!

I'm a reasonably intelligent human being, but my stepson is supposed to write an essay on what this poem means, and I have no idea how to guide him. He's got Asperger's, so he tends to think very concretely anyway, so Symbolist poetry isn't his forte anyway.


Asked by Ballad at 4:08 PM on Feb. 24, 2013 in

Level 45 (193,996 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (10)

    this should help . Have fun. :-)

    Answer by LeJane at 4:45 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • Sorry, I don't do kids homework.

    Answer by funlovinlady at 4:23 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • Help him by reading it aloud or having him do so. If you read it aloud try having him close his eyes while your read one stanza. Then have him express what that one stanza (at a time) says to him.

    I do not do children's homework for them I am sorry.

    Beautiful poem however.

    Answer by Dardenella at 4:36 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • Google is your friend!

    of course you should read it and come up with your own or his own essay but this could guide you I am sure


    Answer by luvmygrandbaby at 4:16 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • Well, the boat is telling the story. I find the first part easy to understand but the last stanzas have tons of symbolism and your son has to interpret them in his own way. This does not appear to be the entire poem, BTW

    Answer by silverthreads at 4:23 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • uhmmm he needs to do his own homework... I work with SPED HS kids - it NEEDS to be HIS work, his understanding of the poem and NOT anyone else's!!! We have this problem all the time... parents doing the homework thinking it's helping the kids. Well it's not.. it makes things worse for them. Teachers think they understand the material when they don't!!! If he doesn't understand it then he needs to take it back to teacher and tell them!!

    Answer by Crafty26 at 4:29 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • I see why he asked for help. I have several degrees and can't figure it out! I got stumped at "floating down impassable rivers".....if they are impassable then how did he float down them? This is why I can't deal well with poetry. I need logical thought. I wish I could help. In all my educational endeavors I managed to steer clear of poetry classes. I wish him the best on this but I agree, check out that Google idea, read what that person wrote then go back and read the poem again and see if there is any clarification so he can attempt it again. Sometimes having a guide or translation of some type helps jiggle our own thought processes.

    Answer by admckenzie at 4:36 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • Reading it aloud is a great idea. I mentioned that it was not all there because sometimes it's harder to understand when you only have part of it and to be careful looking at any info online as it will address the entire thing. GL!!

    Answer by silverthreads at 5:09 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • I would wager a guess that the boat is symbolic of the minds of soldiers as they go into a losing battle. I as it speaks of being empty and floating along in the storm unmanned, perhaps it is speaking of a fallen soldier who is waiting to die, wondering if he is alone, if God is real and where was God during this battle. He is dreaming of heaven and longing for that peaceful rest that will come to release him from his nightmare of war and death but secretly wondering if he will reach that paradise or if he is instead just going to continue floating around in a dark and empty abyss of nothingness for all eternity.

    Answer by AnonNdrag at 7:51 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • That's all of the poem that was in the book. Maybe there's more. I'm really not trying to do my stepson's homework. He asked me for some guidance. If I don't give him any at all and tell him to do his own homework, he'll sit there at the kitchen table with a pencil in his hand till bedtime and not write anything. If we discuss the poem, he'll usually start thinking aloud and at least attempt to write. It's not up to me to do the essay, but I can help him grasp his own ideas; it's part of what parents do. I was just looking for ideas. I can't believe how snippy some of the mons on here can get!

    Comment by Ballad (original poster) at 5:04 PM on Feb. 24, 2013