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Arthur Rimbaud

from wikipedia.org

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Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (English pronunciation: /ræmˈboʊ/ or /ˈræmboʊ/, French pronunciation: [aʁtyʁ ʁɛ̃bo]; 20 October 1854 – 10 November 1891) was a French poet. Born in Charleville, Ardennes, he produced his best known works while still in his late teens—Victor Hugo described him at the time as "an infant Shakespeare"—and gave up creative writing altogether before the age of 21. As part of the decadent movement, Rimbaud influenced modern literature, music and art. He was known to have been a libertine and a restless soul, traveling extensively on three continents before his death from cancer less than a month after his 37th birthday.

Contents [hide]
1 Life
1.1 Family and childhood (1854–1861)
1.2 Schooling and teen years (1862–1871)
1.3 Life with Verlaine (1871–1875)
1.4 Travels (1875–1880)
1.5 Abyssinia (1880–1891)
1.6 Death (1891)
2 Poetry
3 Works
4 Cultural legacy
5 References
5.1 Notes
5.2 Secondary sources
6 External links

[edit] Life[edit] Family and childhood (1854–1861)Arthur Rimbaud was born into the provincial middle class of Charleville (now part of Charleville-Mézières) in the Ardennes département in northeastern France. He was the second child of a career soldier, Frédéric Rimbaud, and his wife Marie-Catherine-Vitalie Cuif.[2] His father, a Burgundian of Provençal extraction, rose from a simple recruit to the rank of captain, and spent the greater part of his army years in foreign service.[3] Captain Rimbaud fought in the conquest of Algeria and was awarded the Légion d'honneur. The Cuif family was a solidly established Ardennais family, but they were plagued by unstable and bohemian characters; two of Arthur Rimbaud's uncles from his mother's side were alcoholics.[4]

Captain Rimbaud and Vitalie married in February 1853; in the following November came the birth of their first child, Jean-Nicolas-Frederick. The next year, on 20 October 1854, Jean-Nicolas-Arthur was born. Three more children, Victorine (who died a month after she was born), Vitalie and Isabelle, followed. Arthur Rimbaud's infancy is said to have been prodigious; a common myth states that soon after his birth he had rolled onto the floor from a cushion where his nurse had put him only to begin crawling toward the door.[5] In a more realistic retelling of his childhood, Mme Rimbaud recalled when after putting her second son in the care of a nurse in Gespunsart, supplying clean linen and a cradle for him, she returned to find the nurse's child sitting in the crib wearing the clothes meant for Arthur. Meanwhile, the dirty and naked child that was her own was happily playing in an old salt chest.[6]

Soon after the birth of Isabelle, when Arthur was six years old, Captain Rimbaud left to join his regiment in Cambrai and never returned.[7] He had become irritated by domesticity and the presence of the children while Madame Rimbaud was determined to rear and educate her family by herself.[8] The young Arthur Rimbaud was therefore under the complete governance of his mother, a strict Catholic, who raised him and his older brother and younger sisters in a stern and religious household. After her husband's departure, Mme Rimbaud became known as "Widow Rimbaud".[7]

[edit] Schooling and teen years (1862–1871)Fearing that her children were spending too much time with and being over-influenced by neighbouring children of the poor, Mme Rimbaud moved her family to the Cours d'Orléans in 1862.[9] This was a better neighborhood, and whereas the boys were previously taught at home by their mother, they were then sent, at the ages of nine and eight, to the Pension Rossat. For the five years that they attended school, however, their formidable mother still imposed her will upon them, pushing for scholastic success. She would punish her sons by making them learn a hundred lines of Latin verse by heart and if they gave an inaccurate recitation, she would deprive them of meals.[10] When Arthur was nine, he wrote a 700-word essay objecting to his having to learn Latin in school. Vigorously condemning a classical education as a mere gateway to a salaried position, Rimbaud wrote repeatedly, "I will be a rentier (one who lives off his assets)".[10] He disliked schoolwork and his mother's continued control and constant supervision; the children were not allowed to leave their mother's sight, and, until the boys were sixteen and fifteen respectively, she would walk them home from the school grounds.[11]


Rimbaud, aged 12, on the day of his First Communion.[12]As a boy, Arthur was small, brown-haired and pale with what a childhood friend called "eyes of pale blue irradiated with dark blue—the loveliest eyes I've seen".[13] When he was eleven, Arthur had his First Communion; despite his intellectual and individualistic nature, he was an ardent Catholic like his mother. For this reason he was called "sale petit Cagot" ("snotty little prig") by his fellow schoolboys.[14] He and his brother were sent to the Collège de Charleville for school that same year. Until this time, his reading was confined almost entirely to the Bible,[15] but he also enjoyed fairy tales and stories of adventure such as the novels of James Fenimore Cooper and Gustave Aimard.[16] He became a highly successful student and was head of his class in all subjects but sciences and mathematics. Many of his schoolmasters remarked upon the young student's ability to absorb great quantities of material. In 1869 he won eight first prizes in the school, including the prize for Religious Education, and in 1870 he won seven firsts.[17]

When he had reached the third class, Mme Rimbaud, hoping for a brilliant scholastic future for her second son, hired a tutor, Father Ariste Lhéritier, for private lessons.[18] Lhéritier succeeded in sparking the young scholar's love of Greek and Latin as well as French classical literature. He was also the first person to encourage the boy to write original verse in both French and Latin.[19] Rimbaud's first poem to appear in print was "Les Etrennes des orphelins" ("The Orphans' New Year's Gift"), which was published in the 2 January 1870 issue of Revue pour tous.[20] Two weeks after his poem was printed, a new teacher named Georges Izambard arrived at the Collège de Charleville. Izambard became Rimbaud's literary mentor and soon a close accord formed between professor and student and Rimbaud for a short time saw Izambard as a kind of older brother figure.[21] At the age of fifteen, Rimbaud was showing maturity as a poet; the first poem he showed Izambard, "Ophélie", would later be included in anthologies as one of Rimbaud's three or four best poems.[22] When the Franco-Prussian War broke out, Izambard left Charleville and Rimbaud became despondent. He ran away to Paris with no money for his ticket and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned for a week. After returning home, Rimbaud ran away to escape his mother's wrath.

From late October 1870, Rimbaud's behaviour became outwardly provocative; he drank alcohol, spoke rudely, composed scatological poems, stole books from local shops, and abandoned his hitherto characteristically neat appearance by allowing his hair to grow long.[23] At the same time he wrote to Izambard about his method for attaining poetical transcendence or visionary power through a "long, intimidating, immense and rational derangement of all the senses. The sufferings are enormous, but one must be strong, be born a poet, and I have recognized myself as a poet."[24] It is rumoured that he 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"). Another poem, Le cœur volé ("The Stolen Heart"), is often interpreted as a description of him being raped by drunken Communard soldiers, but this is unlikely since Rimbaud continued to support the Communards and wrote poems sympathetic to their aims.[25]

[edit] Life with Verlaine (1871–1875)
Caricature of Rimbaud drawn by Verlaine in 1872.Rimbaud was encouraged by friend and office employee Charles Auguste Bretagne to write to Paul Verlaine, an eminent Symbolist poet, after letters to other poets failed to garner replies.[26] Taking his advice, Rimbaud sent Verlaine two letters containing several of his poems, including the hypnotic, gradually shocking "Le Dormeur du Val" (The Sleeper in the Valley), in which certain facets of Nature are depicted and called upon to comfort an apparently sleeping soldier. Verlaine, who was intrigued by Rimbaud, sent a reply that stated, "Come, dear great soul. We await you; we desire you" along with a one-way ticket to Paris.[27] Rimbaud arrived in late September 1871 at Verlaine's invitation and resided briefly in Verlaine's home.[28] Verlaine, who was married to the seventeen-year-old and pregnant Mathilde Mauté, had recently left his job and taken up drinking. In later published recollections of his first sight of Rimbaud, Verlaine described him at the age of seventeen as having "the real head of a child, chubby and fresh, on a big, bony rather clumsy body of a still-growing adolescent, and whose voice, with a very strong Ardennes accent, that was almost a dialect, had highs and lows as if it were breaking."[29]

Rimbaud and Verlaine began a short and torrid affair. Whereas Verlaine had likely engaged in prior homosexual experiences, it remains uncertain whether the relationship with Verlaine was Rimbaud's first. During their time together they led a wild, vagabond-like life spiced by absinthe and hashish.[30] 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. The stormy relationship between Rimbaud and Verlaine eventually brought them to London in September 1872,[31] a period about which Rimbaud would later express regret. During this time, Verlaine abandoned his wife and infant son (both of whom he had abused in his alcoholic rages). Rimbaud and Verlaine lived in considerable poverty, in Bloomsbury and in Camden Town, scraping a living mostly from teaching, in addition to an allowance from Verlaine's mother.[32] Rimbaud spent his days in the Reading Room of the British Museum where "heating, lighting, pens and ink were free."[32] The relationship between the two poets grew increasingly bitter.


Verlaine (far left) and Rimbaud (second to left) ...
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