Arthur Rimbaud  

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"To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, that's the point [...]" --Arthur Rimbaud

"What I liked were: absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, bright-colored prints, old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books full of misspellings, the kind of novels our grandmothers read, fairy tales, little children's books, old operas, silly old songs, the naïve rhythms of country rimes." --"The Alchemy Of The Word" (1873), Arthur Rimbaud, tr. Paul Schmidt

"I is another"

"A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels"--"Voyelles" (1883) by Arthur Rimbaud

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Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (October 20, 1854 – November 10, 1891) was a French poet, born in Charleville. His influence on modern literature, music and art has been pervasive.

He produced his best known works while still in his late teens and gave up creative writing altogether before he reached 21. He remained a prolific letter-writer all his life. Rimbaud was a restless soul, travelling extensively in three continents before his premature death from cancer less than a month after his 37th birthday.

Rimbaud is also known for his tempestuous love affair with Paul Verlaine, for allegedly having a part in the African slave trade, his dictum "I is another" and his wish for a synesthetic disordering of the senses.

He was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1995 film Total Eclipse.



Cultural legacy

Rimbaud's poetry, as well as his life, made an indelible impression on 20th century writers, musicians and artists. Pablo Picasso, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Vladimir Nabokov, Bob Dylan, Luis Alberto Spinetta, Patti Smith, Giannina Braschi, Léo Ferré, Henry Miller, Van Morrison, Penny Rimbaud, and Jim Morrison have been influenced by his poetry and life. His life has been portrayed in several films. Italian filmmaker Nelo Risi's 1970 film Una stagione all'inferno ("A Season in Hell") starred Terence Stamp as Rimbaud and Jean Claude Brialy as Paul Verlaine. In 1995 Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland directed Total Eclipse, which was based on a play by Christopher Hampton who also wrote the screenplay. The film starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Rimbaud and David Thewlis as Paul Verlaine. He is also the protagonist of the opera Rimbaud, ou le fils du soleil (1978) by Italian composer Lorenzo Ferrero. In 2012 composer John Zorn released a cd titled Rimbaud featuring 4 compositions inspired by Rimbaud's work—Bateau Ivre (a chamber octet), A Season in Hell (electronic music), Illuminations (piano, bass and drums), Conneries (featuring Mathieu Amalric reading from Rimbaud's work).



  • Je est un autre.
    • I is another.
    • Letter to Georges Izambard; Charleville, 13 May 1871
  • J'allais sous le ciel, Muse! et j'étais ton féal.
    • I went out under the sky, Muse! and I was your vassal.
    • Fantaisie (My Bohemian Life (Fantasy)), st. 1
  • Mon auberge était à la Grande-Ourse.
    Mes étoiles au ciel avaient un doux frou-frou.
    • My tavern was the Big Bear.
      My stars in the sky rustled softly.
    • Ma Bohéme. Fantaisie (My Bohemian Life (Fantasy)), st. 2
  • Mon triste coeur bave à la poupe.
    • My sad heart foams at the stern.
    • Le Coeur Volé (The Stolen Heart, st. 1
  • A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,
    Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes!
    • Black A, white E, red I, green U, blue O: vowels,
      Someday I shall recount your latent births.
    • Voyelles (Vowels (1871)
  • Elle est retrouvée,
    Quoi? — L'Éternité.
    C'est la mer allée
    Avec le soleil.
    • It is found again.
      What? Eternity.
      It is the sea
      Gone with the sun.
    • L'Éternité (1872)
  • O saisons, ô châteaux,
    Quelle âme est sans défauts?
    • O seasons, O castles,
      What soul is without flaws?
    • Bonheur (Happiness)
  • J'ai embrassé l'aube d'été.
    • I have embraced the summer dawn.
    • Illuminations. Aube (Dawn) (1874)
    • Variant translation: I have kissed the summer dawn.
  • Il pleut doucement sur la ville.
    • It rains softly on the town.
    • From a lost poem
  • Je dis qu'il faut être voyant, se faire voyant. Le poète se fait voyant par un long, immense et raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens.
    • I say one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. The poet makes himself a seer by an immense, long, deliberate derangement of all the senses.
    • Letter to Paul Demeny (May 15, 1871)

Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat) (1871)

  • Plus léger qu'un bouchon j'ai dansé sur les flots.
    • Lighter than a cork I danced on the waves.
    • St. 4
  • Plus douce qu'aux enfants la chair des pommes sures,
    L'eau verte pénétra ma coque de sapin.
    • Sweeter than apples to children
      The green water spurted through my wooden hull.
    • St. 5
  • Je me suis baigné dans le Poème
    De la Mer...
    Dévorant les azurs verts.
    • I have bathed in the Poem
      Of the Sea...
      Devouring the green azures.
    • St. 6
  • J'ai vu le soleil bas, taché d'horreurs mystiques,
    Illuminant de longs figements violets,
    Pareils à des acteurs de drames très-antiques.
    • I have seen the sunset, stained with mystic horrors,
      Illumine the rolling waves with long purple forms,
      Like actors in ancient plays.
    • St. 9
  • J'ai vu des archipels sidéraux! et des îles
    Dont les cieux délirants sont ouverts au vogueur:
    Est-ce en ces nuits sans fond que tu dors et t'exiles,
    Million d'oiseaux d'or, ô future Vigueur?
    • I have seen starry archipelagoes! and islands
      Whose raving skies are opened to the voyager:
      Is it in these bottomless nights that you sleep, in exile,
      A million golden birds, O future Vigor?
    • St. 25

Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell) (1873)

  • Un soir, j'ai assis la Beauté sur mes genoux. - Et je l'ai trouvée amère. - Et je l'ai injuriée.
    • One evening, I sat Beauty in my lap. — And I found her bitter. — And I cursed her.
  • Je parvins à faire s'évanouir dans mon esprit toute l'espérance humaine.
    • I found I could extinguish all human hope from my soul.
  • La vie est la farce à mener par tous.
    • Life is the farce we are all forced to endure.
  • Jadis, si je me souviens bien, ma vie était un festin où s'ouvraient tous les coeurs, où tous les vins coulaient.
    • Once, I remember well, my life was a feast where all hearts opened and all wines flowed.
  • Je suis esclave de mon baptême.
    • Baptism enslaved me.
  • La vieillerie poétique avait une bonne part dans mon alchimie du verbe.
    • Old poetics played a large part in my alchemy of the word.
  • L'amour est à réinventer, on le sait.
    • Love is to be reinvented, that is clear.
  • Moi ! moi qui me suis dit mage ou ange, dispensé de toute morale, je suis rendu au sol.
    • I! I who fashioned myself a sorcerer or an angel, who dispensed with all morality, I have come back to earth.


  • You have to pass an exam, and the jobs that you get are either shining shoes, or herding cows, or tend to pigs. Thank God, I don't want any of that! Damn it! And besides that they smack you for a reward; they call you an animal and it's not true, a little kid, etc.... Oh! Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn!
    • At the age of ten about having to attend the Rossat Institute.
  • The only unbearable thing is that nothing is unbearable.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Arthur Rimbaud" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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