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October 15, 2017


As we wait for Ophelia, the silence thickens. Wales Online: Weather Warning




Ophelia, After Arthur




In the calm, black, evening where even stars are sleeping,

Pale Ophelia approaches like a shroud;

Floating on swift shoes made of cloud, flying in long veils…

In the nearby forest even death is quiet.


From before records began, Ophelia

Has been building her phantom out of castaway storms.

From before records began, her ravaging sadness

Has murmured its ballad to the trees.


The wind will kiss her as it rejects the world, unfolding in a wraith

From Irish seas, her raiment in the foam, rising,

42 feet above the air with waves sweeping on a distant shore,

Where silence watches and gathers no audience but an empty sky.


The still water holds its breath,

Time is roused to dam seconds from their song.

All nests are fragile, outside the bustle of waiting

- A silent anthem falling from an absent moon.




There is no beauty that a hurricane cannot defile,

No child who cannot be carried by the tide.

- The gale will descend on galloping hooves

With low voices, reciting verses from long ago.


Yet now, as she dresses, all is as hushed as the very first snow,

Bringing strange humour to dreaming minds

And an uneasy doom to shadows short and saddled.

The autumn has forgotten her complaint


And the maddened sea claws at her hair

With a pitiless cry, shattering the air, too domestic for war.

This handsome, deepest, night, but a poor messenger

For October’s fair.


What love could be lost? What liberation from the daily gaol,

We will blow into ash with one touch of her hand,

No great visions, words too faint

- And fearful of her impending eye.




- And the poet says that by lamplight

She will come seeking, without flowers but fragrant,

Watching in the red sun, her entourage at speed,

Pale Ophelia, sailing from the tropics; a siren of our time.



Ophelia, by Arthur Rimbald




On the calm black water where the stars are sleeping
White Ophelia floats like a great lily;
Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils...
- In the far-off woods you can hear them sound the mort.


For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.
For more than a thousand years her sweet madness
Has murmured its ballad to the evening breeze.


The wind kisses her breasts and unfolds in a wreath
Her great veils rising and falling with the waters;
The shivering willows weep on her shoulder,
The rushes lean over her wide, dreaming brow.


The ruffled water-lilies are sighing around her;
At times she rouses, in a slumbering alder,
Some nest from which escapes a small rustle of wings;
- A mysterious anthem falls from the golden stars.




O pale Ophelia! beautiful as snow!
Yes child, you died, carried off by a river!
- It was the winds descending from the great mountains of Norway
That spoke to you in low voices of better freedom.


It was a breath of wind, that, twisting your great hair,
Brought strange rumors to your dreaming mind;
It was your heart listening to the song of Nature
In the groans of the tree and the sighs of the nights;


It was the voice of mad seas, the great roar,
That shattered your child's heart, too human and too soft;
It was a handsome pale knight, a poor madman
Who one April morning sate mute at your knees!


Heaven! Love! Freedom! What a dream, oh poor crazed Girl!
You melted to him as snow does to a fire; 
Your great visions strangled your words
- And fearful Infinity terrified your blue eye!




- And the poet says that by starlight
You come seeking, in the night, the flowers that you picked
And that he has seen on the water, lying in her long veils
White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.



Source: Rimbald, 1967




















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