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The greatest of 'THE DAMNED POETS'

UPPER-INTERMEDIATE Vydáno dne 20.04.2008

„The only unbearable thing is that nothing is unbearable.“

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The greatest of 'THE DAMNED POETS'

RimbaudJean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud was born on 20 October, 1854, in a middle-class provincial French village of Charleville in north-eastern France. His parents had 5 children, but soon after Rimbaud's youngest sister was born, their father left the family. Apart from growing up without his father, he felt unloved by his mother, which was apparent from his writings.

By the age of 15, Rimbaud won several prizes for his Latin verse. In spite of being very restless, Rimaud was an excellent student.

1871 was a turning point in Rimbaud's life; not only had he become an anarchist, shocking the local bourgeoisie with his shabby dress and long hair, but he also came to Paris to meet the eminent symbolist Paul Verlaine. Rimbaud had sent him some of his work and consequently was invited to Verlaine's house.

Newly-wed Verlaine, whose wife Mathilde was expecting a child, allegedly fell in love with that starry-eyed 'enfant terrible'. Parisian society was scandalized by their intimate relationship as well as by Rimbaud's outrageous behaviour.

1872. Verlaine and Rimbaud find themselves in London where they dwell in Camden Town. Their relationship is destructive for both of them. The poets suffer from poverty, living on modest allowance from Verlaine's mother.

1873. Verlaine returned to Paris for a short period. Soon he realizes Rimbaud's absence is hard to bear. The poets meet in Brussels but the reunion isn't happy; continuous arguments, Verlaine's habit drinking... One of the arguments ends up in blood, when Verlaine, in a drunken rage, shoots at Rimbaud and wounds his wrist. Verlaine was arrested for attempted murder. Besides, he was interrogated about Mathilde's accusations about the nature of his relation with Rimbaud. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to 2 years in prison. Meanwhile, Rimbaud returns to Charleville to complete his A Season In Hell {in prose}, describing his relationship with his 'pitiful brother' Verlaine. It must have been a very hard period for Rimbaud; it is said that heartbreaking screams were heard from he room wherer he worked.

1874. Rimbaud returns to London with the poet Germain Nouveau to put together his fascinating Illuminations.

1875, March. Rimabud meets Verlaine for the last time, in Stuttgart, Germany. In prison, Verlaine had converted to Catholicism. By then, Rimabud had given up writing; some speculate he was sick of his former unsettled life, others imply he wanted to be rich in order to become an independent poet. However, whenever Rimbaud was asked about his writing in the later years, he got really upset and was uncommunicative.
Rimbaud travelled in Europe, mostly on foot.

1876. Rimbaud visited Java /Indonesia/ as a Dutch Colonial Army soldier. He had enlisted in the Army to travel for free, but when they reached Java, he immediately deserted.

1878. Cyprus. Rimbaud worked in a stone quarry. The next year he had to return to France because he was sick. His illness was diagnosed as typhoid fever.

1880. Rimbaud travels to Aden; at first he works for the Bardey agency. Four years later he becomes a merchant on his own account in Harar, Ethiopia. His business mostly includes coffee and weapons.

1891. Rimbaud is seriously ill. He developed a tumor in his right knee and had to leave for France in May that year. He had his leg amputated in hospital in Marseille. Afterwards he stayed in his family house, but soon he attempts to return to Africa. Nevertheless, on the way his physical condition worsened to such extent that he had to be taken to hospital in Marseille again. There he remains for the last 6 months of his pitiful life, in great agony, visited only by his sister Isabelle.
Rimbaud died on 10 November, 1891, at the age of 37. His body was buried in his family vault in Charleville.

The Damned Poets in film

Verlaine and Rimbaud's story was made into a theatre play and later, in 1995, into a film called TOTAL ECLIPSE, starring Leonardo DiCaprio /as Arthur Rimbaud/ and David Thewlis /Paul Verlaine/, portraying their astonishing lives as well as circumstances in which their best artwork was written. /The film is easy to get in Levne knihy stores for about CZK 100/.

A Sleeper In the Valley

A green hole where a river sings;
Silver tatters tangling in the grass;
Sun shining down from a proud mountain:
A little valley bubbling with light.

A young soldier sleeps, lips apart, head bare,
Neck bathing in cool blue watercress,
Reclined in the grass beneath the clouds,
Pale in his green bed showered with light.

He sleeps with his feet in the gladiolas.
Smiling like a sick child, he naps:
Nature, cradle him in warmth: he's cold.

Sweet scents don't tickle his nose;
He sleeps in the sun, a hand on his motionless chest,
Two red holes on his right side.

Arthur Rimbaud

October 1870

Translation by Wyatt Mason

Internet resources /ENG/ /CZ/ /CZ/ /ENG/ - Rimbaud's grave

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