Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Arthur Rimbaud

Arthur Rimbaud provided perhaps as interesting a life as did poetic output. For having had such a short creative life, it is quite astounding the legacy he left. He for all intensive purposes gave up poetry in his early twenties. He then travelled widely before establishing himself as a merchant trader in Africa.

Rimbaud's fame as a poet was in many respects facilitated by his relationship to the fellow poet Paul Verlaine. Verlaine welcomed Rimbaud when he arrived in Paris and took him under his wing. Rimbaud was heralded as the 'new genius', and Verlaine was keen to expedite his rise. What was to follow would shock the literary world at the time.

Verlaine and Rimbaud began a romantic relationship. Verlaine was married. Homosexuality at the time was outlawed and frowned upon, and so their relationship courted not only controversy, but the law. They travelled to England together, and wrote and taught poetry under each others influence. It was when they returned from England that one of the more famous episodes in French literature took place.

One afternoon, Verlaine had purchased a pistol before meeting Rimbaud, and had been drinking heavily. They had always had a stormy relationship, and Verlaine's temper was well known. In their hotel room, Verlaine pointed the pistol at Rimbaud and fired two shots. The second missed, but the first struck Rimbaud in the wrist. Rimbaud went to hospital and was treated. He then re-united with Verlaine, but the later was still drunk. Verlaine threatened Rimbaud again, and this time Rimbaud found a near by police officer and reported the incident.

Verlaine was charged. Rimbaud, perhaps feeling for his friend, withdrew the charge. Put for Verlaine it was too late. He was imprisoned for 2 years.

Rimbaud, perhaps as a result of this incident was to give up poetry entirely. He moved to Africa, and as was mentioned, became a trader. He was even at one point to become an arms dealer to a local King.

The high point of Rimbaud's poetry would have to be Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell). In it, Rimbaud cast aside traditional poetic devices and structures, and wrote poetry that was to cement his place in literary history.

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