Italic text:"Rimbaud" redirects here. For other uses see Rimbaud (disambiguation)
|French literary history|
Arthur Rimbaud was born into the provincial middle class of Charleville (now part of Charleville-MÃ©ziÃ¨res) in the Ardennes dÃ©partement in northeastern France. As a boy he was a restless but brilliant student. By the age of fifteen he had won many prizes and composed original verses and dialogues in Latin.
In 1870 his teacher Georges Izambard became Rimbaud's literary mentor and his original verses in French began to improve rapidly. He frequently ran away from home and may have briefly joined the Paris Commune of 1871, which he portrayed in his poem L'orgie parisienne ou Paris se repeuple (The Parisian Orgy or, Paris Repopulates). He may have been raped by drunken Communard soldiers (his poem "Le cÅur suppliciÃ©" ["The Tortured Heart"] suggests so). By this time he had become an anarchist, started drinking and amused himself by shocking the local bourgeoisie with his shabby dress and long hair. At the same time he wrote to Izambard and Paul DÃ©meny about his method for attaining poetical transcendence or visionary power through a "long, immense and rational derangement of all the senses" ("Les lettres du Voyant" ["The Letters of the Seer"]). He returned to Paris in late September 1871 at the invitation of the eminent Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine (after Rimbaud had sent him a letter containing several samples of his work) and resided briefly in Verlaine's home. Verlaine, who was married, promptly fell in love with the sullen, blue-eyed, overgrown (5 ft 10 in), light-brown-haired young man. They became lovers and led a wild, vagabond-like life spiced by absinthe and hashish. They scandalized the Parisian literary coterie on account of the outrageous behaviour of Rimbaud, the archetypical enfant terrible, who throughout this period continued to write strikingly visionary verse.
In July 1873, Rimbaud committed himself to journey to Paris with or without Verlaine. In a drunken rage, Verlaine shot at him, one of the two shots striking the 19-year-old in the left wrist. Rimbaud considered the wound superficial and at first did not have Verlaine charged. After this, Verlaine and his mother accompanied Rimbaud to a Brussels train station where Verlaine "behaved as if he were insane". This made Rimbaud "fear that he might give himself over to new excesses", so he turned and ran away. In his words, "it was then I (Rimbaud) asked a police officer to arrest him (Verlaine)." Verlaine was arrested and subjected to a humiliating medico-legal examination, including his intimate correspondence with his lover and the accusations of Verlaine's wife about the nature of their relationship.
Rimbaud eventually withdrew the complaint, but the judge sentenced Verlaine to two years in prison. Rimbaud returned home to Charleville and completed his Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell) in prose, widely regarded as one of the pioneering instances of modern Symbolist writing and a description of that "drÃ´le de mÃ©nage" (odd partnership) life with Verlaine, his "pitoyable frÃ¨re" ("pitiful brother") and "vierge folle" ("mad virgin") to whom he was "l'Ã©poux infernal" ("the infernal husband"). In 1874 he returned to London with the poet Germain Nouveau and put together his pathbreaking Illuminations, including the first-ever two French poems in free verse.
Rimbaud and Verlaine met for the last time in March 1875, in Stuttgart, Germany, after Verlaine's release from prison and his conversion to Catholicism. By then Rimbaud had given up writing and decided on a steady, working life; some speculate he was fed up with his former wild living, while others suggest he sought to become rich and independent to afford living one day as a carefree poet and man of letters. He continued to travel extensively in Europe, mostly on foot. In the summer of 1876 he enlisted as a soldier in the Dutch Army to travel free of charge to Java (Indonesia) where he promptly deserted, returning to France by ship. At the official residence of the mayor of Salatiga, a small city 46 km south of Semarang, capital of Central Java Province, there is a marble plaque stating that Rimbaud was once settled at the city. He traveled to Cyprus and in 1880 finally settled in Aden as a main employee in the Bardey agency. He had several native women as lovers and for a while he lived with an Ethiopian mistress. Whether he had other types of love-interests has not, apparently, come down to us. In 1884 he quit the job at Bardey's and became a merchant on his own in Harar, Ethiopia. He made a small fortune as a gun-runner, but Rimbaud developed right knee synovitis which degenerated into a carcinoma and the state of his health forced him to return to France on May 9, 1891, where his leg was amputated on May 27. Rimbaud died in Marseille on November 10, 1891, at age 37.
Rimbaud influenced the following artists, among others: French poets in general, the Surrealists, the Beat Poets, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, William S. Burroughs, Bob Kaufman, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Hugo Pratt, MÃ¡rio Cesariny de Vasconcelos, SÃ©rgio Godinho, Klaus Kinski, Dwid Hellion of Integrity, Jack Kerouac, Philippe Sollers, Patti Smith, Bruce Chatwin, Penny Rimbaud, Jim Morrison, John Hall, Bob Dylan, Richard Hell, Joe Strummer, John Lennon, Rozz Williams, David Wojnarowicz, Alaternative TV and many more. Van Morrison wrote "Tore Down a la Rimbaud." Horror writer Thomas Ligotti has shown a fondness for Rimbaud's work.
The Italian gothic band Theatres des Vampires sing (in the original language, French) a sentence of "Jadis, si je me souviens bien...", in their song "Cursed". They also sing a sentence taken from the poem "Nuit de l'Enfer" ("Night of Hell") in their song "Lunatic Asylum", but in English this time.
Crass co-founder and drummer Penny Rimbaud named himself as a tribute to Arthur Rimbaud, the 'Penny' being a pun on the phrase "arfer (half a) penny", referring to the long discontinued British Ha'penny coin.
Bob Dylan refers to Rimbaud in his song "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" from Blood on the Tracks: "Situations have ended sad, / Relationships have all been bad. / Mine've been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud. / But there's no way I can compare / All them scenes to this affair, / You're gonna make me lonesome when you go."
French musician Hector Zazou's 1992 album Sahara Blue uses Rimbaud's poems as lyrics for 11 of the 12 tracks on the album, and features contributions from David Sylvian, Anneli Drecker, John Cale, GÃ©rard Depardieu, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Tim Simenon, and Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance.
British electronica duo Frou Frou take their name from a Rimbaud poem.
Welsh poet Dylan Thomas described himself as 'the Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive'
Jim Morrison is said to have described himself as "I am a Rimbaud with a leather jacket".
Benjamin Britten begun his settings of Les Illuminations in Suffolk in March 1939 and completed them a few months later in the USA. They were originally written for the soprano Sophie Wyss, although the work can, and often is, performed by a tenor. The work has alos been choreopgraphed by Sir Frederick Ashton and Richard Alston.
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