Ethiopia Saluting the Colors

“…Me master years a hundred since from my parents sunder’d,
A little child, they caught me as the savage beast is caught,
Then hither me across the sea the cruel slaver brought…”

Walt Whitman
817. Ethiopia Saluting the Colors


Arthur Rimbaud in Abyssinia (as Ethiopia was known then), 1883

Radio Ethiopia

Arthur Rimbaud in Harar, c. 1883


“Oh I’ll send you a telegram

Oh I have some information for you

Oh I’ll send you a telegram

Send it deep in the heart of you

Deep in the heart of your brain is a lever

Oh deep in the heart of your brain is a switch

Oh deep in the heart of your flesh you are clever

Oh honey you met your match in a bitch

Deep in the heart of

Deep in the heart of

[ ]

There will be no famine in my existence

I merge with the people of the hills

Oh people of Ethiopia

Your opiate is the air that you breathe

All those mint bushes around you

Are the perfect thing for your system

Aww clean clean it out

You must rid yourself from these, these animal fixations

You must release yourself

From the thickening blackmail of elephantiasis

You must divide the wheat from the rats

You must turn around [and look oh God]

When I see Brancusi

His eyes searching out the infinite abstract spaces

In the [radio] rude hands of sculptor

Now gripped around the neck of a [duosonic]

[ ]

[I swear on your eyes no pretty words will sway me]

[ ]

Oh look at me aah

[ ] cannot move ahh so much aahh everything I am

[ ] possible

Aah [ ]

Feel so fucked up

[ ]

much too

I know I know [ ]

[ ]

[ ]

[ ]


Constantin Brancusi’s Grave. Photo by Patti Smith, circa 2007


tell him to get out of here

go down to the sea

[ ] if he would just tell me

he appreciates Brancusi’s [ ] space

the sculptor’s mallet has been taken in place

[ ]

every time I see [ ]”

Patti Smith


The album’s cover photograph is by Judy Linn, the back of the album features a photo by Lynn Goldsmith. The album was dedicated to Arthur Rimbaud and Constantin Brâncuși.


Radio Ethiopia was the follow-up record to Patti Smith‘s widely acclaimed debut Horses. In interviews surrounding the album’s release, Smith explained that she chose producer Jack Douglas in hopes of making the album a commercial success. The album was negatively received when it was released and Smith was attacked by critics for what they perceived to be laziness, self-indulgence and selling out.

The title track of the album is one of Smith’s most notorious songs, almost legendary for appearing to be “10 minutes of noise”. Critics often described live renditions of the song as negative moments of Smith’s concerts. Patti herself spoke highly of the track and of how the lyrics refer to Arthur Rimbaud‘s dying wishes. Arguments both for and against the song have been advanced by critics, fans and music listeners over whether the song truly is an example of the Patti Smith Group’s boundary-pushing or merely self-indulgence. Critics in negative reviews cited that Douglas’ production placed more emphasis on creating a heavy sound through numerous guitar parts which smothered Smith’s vocals and, at times, lamented that all of the album’s songs were originals of the group (Smith co-wrote much of the album with bassist Ivan Kral, the band member keenest for commercial success ). Ain’t It Strange and Distant Fingers, the latter co-written with Smith’s long-time boyfriend Allen Lanier, had both been staples of the Group’s concerts long before the recording of Horses.

A Horse Takes Off

Self-portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe in front of his cover for Patti Smith’s Horses, c. 1975




Les calculs de côté, l’inévitable descente du ciel, et la visite des souvenirs et la séance des rythmes occupent la demeure, la tête et le monde de l’esprit.

– Un cheval détale sur le turf suburbain, et le long des cultures et des boisements, percé par la peste carbonique. Une misérable femme de drame, quelque part dans le monde, soupire après des abandons improbables. Les desperadoes languissent après l’orage, l’ivresse et les blessures. De petits enfants étouffent des malédictions le long des rivières. –

Reprenons l’étude au bruit de l’oeuvre dévorante qui se rassemble et remonte dans les masses.

Arthur Rimbaud

Illuminations XLI: Jeunesse






Problems aside, the inevitable descent from the sky and the visit of memories and the gathering of rhythms occupy the dwelling, the head and the world of the mind.

– A horse takes off on the suburban turf past the fields and woodlands, riddled with carbonic plague. A wretched woman in some drama, somewhere in the world, sighs for improbable abandonment. Desperadoes long for storms, drunkenness and wounds. Little children stifle curses beside the rivers.

Let us resume our studies to the sound of the all-consuming work that gathers and rises among the masses.

Twenty Years


From the series Rimbaud in New York, David Wojnarowicz, 1978-79



Les voix instructives exilées… L’ingénuité physique amèrement rassise… – Adagio – Ah ! l’égoïsme infini de l’adolescence, l’optimisme studieux : que le monde était plein de fleurs cet été ! Les airs et les formes mourant… – Un choeur, pour calmer l’impuissance et l’absence ! Un choeur de verres de mélodies nocturnes… En effet les nerfs vont vite chasser.


Tu en es encore à la tentation d’Antoine. L’ébat du zèle écourté, les tics d’orgueil puéril, l’affaissement et l’effroi.
Mais tu te mettras au travail : toutes les possibilités harmoniques et architecturales s’émouvront autour de ton siège. Des êtres parfaits, imprévus, s’offriront à tes expériences. Dans tes environs affluera rêveusement la curiosité d’anciennes foules et de luxes oisifs. Ta mémoire et tes sens ne seront que la nourriture de ton impulsion créatrice. Quant au monde, quand tu sortiras, que sera-t-il devenu ? En tout cas, rien des apparences actuelles.

Arthur Rimbaud

Illuminations XLI: Jeunesse (Excerpt)





 The instructive voices exiled…physical ingenuousness bitterly stale…Adagio. Ah, the infinite egoism of adolescence, the studious optimism: how full the world was of flowers, that summer! The airs and the forms dying…A choir, to calm impotence and absence! A choir of glass with nocturnal melodies…Indeed the nerves will soon be on the hunt.


You are still at the temptation of Anthony. The antics of curtailed zeal, the tics of puerile pride, weakening, and terror.
But you will set yourself to this work: all the harmonic and architectural possibilities will stir round your perch. Perfect unforeseen beings will offer themselves to your experiments. Around you will gather dreamily the curiosity of ancient multitudes and idle wealth. Your memory and your senses will be simply the fodder for your creative impulse. As for the world, when you emerge, what will have become of it? Nothing, in any case, of its present seeming.

The Stolen Heart

From the series Arthur Rimbaud in New York, David Wojnarowicz, 1978-79



Mon triste cœur bave à la poupe,
Mon cœur couvert de caporal :
Ils y lancent des jets de soupe
Mon triste coeur bave à la poupe :
Sous les quolibets de la troupe
Qui pousse un rire général,
Mon triste coeur bave à la poupe,
Mon coeur couvert de caporal.

Ithyphalliques et pioupiesques
Leurs quolibets l’ont dépravé.
Au gouvernail, on voit des fresques
Ithyphalliques et pioupiesques.
O flots abracadabrantesques
Prenez mon cœur, qu’il soit lavé.
Ithyphalliques et pioupiesques
Leurs quolibets l’ont dépravé !

Quand ils auront tari leurs chiques
Comment agir, ô cœur volé ?
Ce seront des hoquets bachiques
Quand ils auront tari leurs chiques
J’aurai des sursauts stomachiques
Moi, si mon coeur est ravalé:
Quand ils auront tari leurs chiques,
Comment agir, ô cœur volé ?

Arthur Rimbaud

Mai 1871.




My sad heart leaks at the poop,

My heart covered in filthy shag:

They squirt it with jets of soup,

My sad heart leaks at the poop:

Under the jibes of that rough troop

Drowned in laughter, see them rag,

My sad heart leaks at the poop,

My heart covered in filthy shag!

Ithyphallic and coarse, their jests

They’ve corrupted it every way!

On the wheelhouse their grotesques,

Ithyphallic and coarse their jests.

O waves, abracadabrantesque,

Take my heart, wash all away!

Ithyphallic and coarse their jests,

They’ve corrupted it every way!

When they’ve finished chewing their plugs,

What shall we do O stolen heart?

Then Bacchic hiccups from ugly mugs:

When they’ve finished chewing their plugs:

My guts will heave, the filthy lugs,

If it’s swallowed outright, my heart:

When they’ve finished chewing their plugs

What shall we do O stolen heart?

English translation by A. S. Kline


In Roberto Bolaño‘s The Savage Detectives the character Ulises Lima claims that this Rimbaud poem is about how Rimbaud was raped.