Rimbaud’s Ur Language

6:00AM. In the cool morning, a soft sea breeze in my hair… Faraway a dove coos. Farther still the wild parakeets plan a conspiracy that doesn’t include me. 

I walk toward the beach, a cold coffee in my hand.

On the sidewalk colored chalk drawings… a stick-figure family holding hands (Mom, Dad, a little girl with pigtails, a dog)… a silver moon, a sunburst amidst clouds, secret passwords in blue, green, vermillion… fragments of a mystical initiation… the blurred yellow outlines of hopscotch squares and the beginnings of an alphabet in child scrawl. I imagine a little tow-head girl, maybe five or six, practicing her letters. All different sizes…some tilt to the left, others turn almost inside out. Beautiful unruly letters! She begins in red, A B c, then switches to green, d, F, then purple, G…she stops. Her eyes get big and she darts after a crow that has just landed on the lawn.

Rimbaud dreamt of an alphabet with vowels corresponding to colors, a language immediately accessible to all the senses, the whole man all at once. He would recover the ur-language spoken once below a time by man and all the animals, a universal alphabet that would restore the cool of the evening in the Garden.

 A black,
 E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:
A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies
which buzz around cruel smells,

Gulfs of shadow; E, whiteness of vapours and of tents,
lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of cow-parsley;

I, purples, spat blood, smile of beautiful lips
in anger or in the raptures of penitence;

U, waves, divine shudderings of viridian seas,
the peace of pastures dotted with animals, the peace of the furrows
which alchemy prints on broad studious foreheads;

O, sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds,
silences crossed by [Worlds and by Angels]:
O the Omega! the violet ray of [His] Eyes!


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