Biography of Famous French Poet Arthur Rimbaud Part 1

About the famous French poet Arthur Rimbaud, biography and history of his poetry.

Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

"The poet makes himself a 'seer' by a long, immense and rational derangement of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering, and madness. He exhausts all poisons in himself and keeps only their quintessences."

Arthur Rimbaud, born in 1854 in Charleville, France, was the son of Vitalie and Frederic Rimbaud. Frederic, a soldier, left Vitalie to raise her 4 children alone. Being a religious, practical woman of peasant stock, she had plans of respectability for Arthur. A child of extreme brilliance, Arthur won all the prizes in school. He was small and shy, with a delicate complexion and marvelous blue eyes.

No direct affection was expressed in the Rimbaud home, and when Arthur found that achievement in school could not win his mother's love, he turned to other diversions for fulfillment. His friendship with Izambard, a teacher at school, was his 1st real introduction to literature. He had begun to write poetry, and under Izambard's guidance read passionately all the poets he could get his hands on. Such activity had to be hidden from his mother, a philistine in all her ways. Frustrated, and bursting with dreams of poetic beauty and greatness, he ran away to Paris. This 1st attempt was unsuccessful, for he was arrested and sent back in a few days, seething. Thus was established the pattern for the rest of his life--running away to all ends of the world but always returning to Charleville.

He wrote more and more poetry, seeking recognition; he received none, and was unable to get his work published. In 1871, at the age of 17, he wrote and enclosed poems to the Parisian poet he most admired, Paul Verlaine.

Verlaine, who had published 2 books of poetry, was in part a comfortable bourgeois, a family man with a snug position as a civil servant. He was fond of sensual pleasures, however, and was more than fond of the absinthe which was to be had in any bar. After reading Rimbaud's letter, he penned a "Come, dear great soul" invitation which was to be his downfall.

Rimbaud arrived, dirty and surly, and his youth surprised the Verlaines. While Mme. Verlaine found his rude behavior disgusting, Verlaine, more softhearted than his wife and also a poet, recognized instantly the child-genius. He introduced Rimbaud to the poets of Paris, and at 1st all went well. One poet remarked, "Behold Jesus in the midst of the doctors!" Another countered, "A Satan more likely!" He was proclaimed by Hugo "a child Shakespeare!" to which Rimbaud made an acid aside about "the old dottard."

In time, Rimbaud's merciless tongue and foul habits alienated virtually all but Verlaine, who had fallen madly in love with the "devilishly seductive" boy. They became lovers. How much Mme. Verlaine knew is unclear, but that she hated the boy there is no doubt. His philosophy of "the derangement of all the senses" succeeded only, in her eyes, in bringing her husband home in ever more cruel and drunken stupors.

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