Biography of Famous French Poet Arthur Rimbaud Part 2

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

Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

Rimbaud saw in Verlaine the potential to create the poet deity he dreamed of; he wished to make him the "Son of the Sun," in a life of transcendency. Verlaine, however, lived up badly to this role of "visionary." This disappointment, added to Rimbaud's general peevishness, led to bickering, cruel jibes on Rimbaud's part, and finally violent quarrels. Perhaps impelled by emotional stress, Rimbaud continued to write poetry. Influenced by the poet Charles Baudelaire, who had recently died, and studies of alchemy and magic, he composed at this time some of the phrase-poems which were to make up the volume Les Illuminations.

In 1873, Verlaine and Rimbaud had their final falling out. Verlaine, in a rare show of strength, had one day left Rimbaud after one of the latter's cruelties. Rimbaud, distraught, begged him to return. Verlaine did return only to be met by a sullen Rimbaud who, in turn, threatened to leave. In the ensuing argument, Verlaine produced a pistol and shot at him, wounding him in the wrist. For this and subsequent threats he spent 2 years in prison. Rimbaud returned to Charleville to write Un Saison en enfer (A Season in Hell), at 18, his last contribution to literature. He gave up the life of the poet, for in it he had found only misery.

Rimbaud saw Verlaine once more, just after the latter's release from prison. Verlaine had turned to religion, regretted their life of debauchery, and wrote to Rimbaud, "Let us love one another in Jesus." Reported Rimbaud after their meeting: "Verlaine arrived here the other day with a rosary between his paws. . . . Three hours later he had denied his God and made the 98 wounds of our Saviour bleed afresh."

In 1878, Rimbaud left Europe, and spent most of the last 13 years of his life traveling in Africa and Egypt as a trader and merchant. He who had always despised the heat sought it out in the world's most sweltering climes. His letters home are written by another Rimbaud, still complaining, but hardworking and concerned largely with money. In the many letters from these years, there exists almost nothing of literary interest; the only books he read were concerned with science. Gone totally was the Rimbaud of the cafes and boulevards. In manner and appearance he was transformed--he was brown-skinned and strong, barely resembling the pale-skinned youth who had scandalized Paris. He referred to his previous life as merely so much foolishness. In 1891, a tumor was responsible for the amputation of a leg, and his health gradually deteriorated. In November, 1891, he died in Marseilles, at the age of 37.

Long ago, if my memory serves me, my life was a banquet where everyone's heart was generous, and where all wines flowed. One evening, I pulled Beauty down on my knees. I found her embittered and I cursed her.

--Un Saison en enfer

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