Paul Verlaine’s “Green” is part of our summer poetry series, dedicated to making the season of vacation lyrical again. The poem, first published in his 1874 collection Romances sans paroles (Ballads Without Words), is a tender account of the author returning home to his lover from an early-morning walk.
Besides being one of the most influential French poets of his time, and a leading—if not the leading—proponent of Symbolism, Paul Verlaine is also well-known for his fiery relationship with Arthur Rimbaud. The collection of poetry in which “Green” was published was written during their tumultuous escape to England and Belgium in 1872-1873 (which ended in July 1873 in Brussels, with Verlaine shooting at Rimbaud and getting imprisoned for it).
This particular poem is a testament to the tenderness of their relationship, as well as Verlaine’s immense talent. He juxtaposes a very nature-filled morning with the intense, and seemingly calm, passion felt for his still-sleeping lover. Although the translation can unfortunately only fail at rendering the poet’s aptitude for language, it should give you an idea of it:
Green by Paul Verlaine (translator unknown)
See, blossoms, branches, fruit, leaves I have brought,
And then my heart that for you only sighs;
With those white hands of yours, oh, tear it not,
But let the poor gift prosper in your eyes.
The dew upon my hair is still undried,–
The morning wind strikes chilly where it fell.
Suffer my weariness here at your side
To dream the hour that shall it quite dispel.
Allow my head, that rings and echoes still
With your last kiss, to lie upon your breast,
Till it recover from the stormy thrill,–
And let me sleep a little, since you rest.