Introduction

This poem, originally titled Le Dormeur le Val in French, is from Arthur Rimbaud’s poetry collection called Poesis(1872). It explores the inherent futility of war. This theme is expressed in the contrasting images beauty and death. We see a bountiful scene of nature as the background and then face the tragic death of a young soldier in the midst of nature’s splendour.

About the Poet

Jean Nicholas Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891) was a French poet from the nineteenth century. He started writing poetry even before he reached his teens. He stopped writing poetry at the age of nineteen. His major works include To Music, Evening Prayer.

Theme

The theme of this poem is the cruelty and futility of war. It comments on all the lives lost in war, and especially the young soldiers who are cut down at the very prime of their lives.

Line 1 – 8

A small green valley where a slow stream flows
And leaves long strands of silver on the bright
Grass; from the mountaintop stream the Sun's
Rays; they fill the hollow full of light.
A soldier, very young, lies open-mouthed,
A pillow made of fern beneath his head,
Asleep; stretched in the heavy undergrowth,
Pale in his warm, green, sun-soaked bed.

The poet tells us about a small green valley where a slow stream flows. The water from the stream makes it look like there are long strands of silver on the bright grass. From the mountaintop, the un’s rays shine down and fill the hollow with light. A very young soldier lies open-mouthed here. There is a pillow made of fern beneath his head. He is asleep, stretched in the heavy undergrowth. The young soldier looks pale in his warm, green, sun-soaked bed.

Line 9 – 14

His feet among the flowers, he sleeps. His smile
Is like an infant's - gentle, without guile.
Ah, Nature, keep him warm; he may catch cold.
The humming insects don't disturb his rest;
He sleeps in sunlight, one hand on his breast;
At peace. In his side there are two red holes.

The young soldier’s feet lie among the flowers as he sleeps. His smile is like an infant’s- gentle, without any kind of deception. The poet asks Nature to keep him warm because he may catch a cold. The humming insects don’t disturb his rest. He sleeps peacefully in the sunlight with one hand on his breast. In his side, there are two red holes. Therefore, the young soldier is actually dead, not asleep.