The Sleeper in the Valley by Arthur Rimbaud translated by William Jay Smith


Summary: The Sleeper in the Valley is a poem by the Symbolist, Arthur Rimbaud, is about a young soldier who has made it into a beautiful sunlit valley to never awaken again.

Characters: A youthful soldier.

Section 1:
  • Arthur Rimbaud invites one into a beautifully descriptive valley and the mind's eye captures the sound when he mentions the river chanting, the sights of the sunlight and the silvery sparkling of the river,"silver tatters"
  • The "youthful soldier" is described with his mouth open, water cress under the back of his neck and "sleeping" in the grass surrounded by green plants and light that comes in drops under a cloud
  • The "youthful soldier" "naps", his feet are on the herb of "iris roots" and smiling like a "sickly child"
  • He is cold so the audience knows that he has been dead for some time and yet the author asks to make the ground around him warm
  • Nothing will wake him
  • Because he is dead, he has no heartbeat and he "sleeps" in the sun and the evidence of his demise is located where there are "two spots of red", blood, on a side of his body
Other Notes:
  • Arthur Rimbaud was a Symbolist who tried to evoke emotions and ideas from people using symbols
  • "Iris" is a flowering plant which in Greek means "rainbow" and hosts a wide array of colors for the species
  • "Nape" is the back of a neck and "agape" means "wide open"
  • Arthur Rimbaud covers the "cold" of death with the warmth of the sun and the growth and existence of plants in his poem

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