''Drunken boat': Samuel Beckett's Translation of Arthur Rimbaud's 'Le Bateau ivre''

Gerald Macklin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper examines in detail Samuel Beckett's translation of Arthur Rimbaud's famous poem 'Le Bateau ivre' in order to reveal the former's extraordinary linguistic skills and facility for moving between French and English. Beckett actually creates a new poem in its own right rather than simply producing a version or rendering of the Rimbaud text. Beckett's translation is remarkable for its verbal ingenuity, its rhythms and euphony and its endless flexibility which all set it apart from other stilted attempts to render 'Le Bateua ivre' in English. Beckett's work exposes salient features of Rimbaud's poetic expression while throwing light on his own linguistic inventiveness and amazing lexicon. The paper divides the translation into fours sections for the purpose of stanza by stanza analysis of its twenty five units - 'Setting Sail', 'The Voyage', 'Deceleration and Disenchantment', 'Closure'. Beckett shows a great receptivity to the entire tone of Rimbaud's work and his translation demands to be read aloud. It is remarkable for its fusion of accuracy and fidelity to the original with a flair that reflects both the Rimbaldian and the Beckettian aesthetic.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)141-166
    JournalStudies in 20th and 21st Century Literature
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2003

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: C Baudelaire Oeuvres complètes 1, texte établi, présenté et annoté par Claude Pichois, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Gallimard, Paris, 1975

    Samuel Beckett Cendres, Editions de Minuit, Paris, 1959

    Samule Beckett 'Drunken boat': A Translation of Arthur Rimbaud's Poem 'Le Bateau ivre' eds. James Knowlson and Felix Leakey, Whiteknights Press, Reading, 1976

    Peter Broome 'From Vision to Catastrophe in Rimbaud's Illuminations' FORUM FOR MODERN LANGUAGE STUDIES, vol 15, no 4, 1979, pp 361-379

    Brian T Fitch Beckett and Babel: An investigation into the Status of the Bilingual Work, University of Toronto, Toronto, 1988

    Ill Seen Ill sung, BBC Radio 3, Septmeber 5th 1999

    G.M. Macklin 'A Study of Beginnings and Finales in Rimbaud's Illuminations', NEOPHILOLOGUS, vol 68, 1984, pp. 22-36

    G.M.Macklin '"Finding the Formula": Perspectives on the One-Liner in Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations' FORUM FOR MODERN LANGUAGE STUDIES, vol 32, no 4, 1996, pp.329-342

    G.M.Macklin 'Perspectives on the Role of Punctuation in Rimbaud's Illuminations' JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES, vol 20, 1990, pp 59-72

    Rimbaud Oeuvres, Edition de Suzanne Bernard et André Guyaux, Classiques Garnier, Paris, 1987


    • translation
    • fidelity
    • ingenuity
    • poem


    Dive into the research topics of '''Drunken boat': Samuel Beckett's Translation of Arthur Rimbaud's 'Le Bateau ivre'''. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this