Go, Rimbaud, Go, Go, Go-Go-Go-Go-Go!

Arthur Rimbaud:  Majestic, Anachronistic, Visionary? or the 19th Century’s Version of Jim Morrison?

Arthur Rimbaud.  That name evokes so much in people’s minds:  some of them are thoughts of decadent genius run amok, others think he was nothing more than a mad, alcoholic, junkie, who juxtaposed the sacred with profane; the highfalutin with the vulgar and wormed his way into Parisian salons, into where, according to his detractors, he shammed his way.

For those who have been inspired, through the ages, by his high-spirited, verbose and extremely, delightfully, intellectual poetry.  One of his big, if not biggest, poetic achievements was his “quartet”, “Season in Hell”, made up of various visions of the artist in his most despairing and vulnerable hours.  This was a project he worked on throughout his, unfortunately, short life.  But it was a fabulous accomplishment, in the end.  Then, in between, there were many great works of poetry, which, not unlike a Baudelaire or even the more strait-laced (by contrast) Proust, was profoundly and completely French in both its outlook as well as its esprit.  There’s just something that is so unlike any other literary nationality:  America got going, in literature hitting the ground running, so to speak, when, in the 19th Century, authors such as Hawthorne, Melville, Poe and Mark Twain really grabbed a hold of the consciousness of Americans – each for different reasons, but all had a way of enthralling readers with novels, which, by the late 17th Century and the 19th Century, gave a mode of escape to poverty- or war-weary Americans that wanted/needed something to pique their interests and rattle their imaginations.

However, it was France, a land, long a haven for great artists of all kinds, especially painters, sculptors and the like as well as, in its literature, both serious philosophical minds as well as whimsical, erudite, cutting edge poets who, using metaphors, allegories and other intellectual devices, made some cuttingly, bitingly critical works, both in the form of essays and poems that were just this side of vague to keep them from getting into trouble.

But, back to Rimbaud.  His legend has lived on – well into the 20th Century, where his mindset, his words, their meanings and that one-of-a-kind French sentiment which found its way into a whole new generation of youth, especially in America, in the late 60s and the 70s.  In fact, if one takes a good look at Jim Morrison and his excesses as well as his talents, one can see a great deal of a modern-day Rimbaud in him, although Morrison was maybe a bit more of a mess and a really tough critic would casually dismiss this comparison as a crude sort of comparison, but one who would be so snobby would, no doubt, have very little, if any, idea of what the ideas of the times were.

Anyway, to show off a little of Rimbaud’s poetry, I include here, some shorter pieces and I hope that the reader will see what I’m getting at (of course, if one was able to speak and read French, it would be even more of an apt exposition).  But, when you really read, not just the shorter ones I was able to fit in here, but the longer, brilliant poems he wrote, I, at least, find, in a modern comparison, Allen Ginsberg, as far as kindred spirits in writing.  I mentioned Morrison because of the bacchanalian lifestyle Rimbaud and Jim both shared.

Venus Anadyomene

Out of what seems a coffin made of tin

A head protrudes; a woman’s, dark with grease –

Out of a bathtub! – slowly; then a fat face

With ill-concealed defects upon the skin


Then, streaked and gray, a neck; a shoulderblade,

A back – irregular, with indentations –

Then round loins emerge, and slowly rise;

The fat beneath the skin seems made of lead;


The spine is somewhat reddish; then a smell,

Strangely horrible; we notice above all

Some microscopic blemishes in front…


Horribly beautiful! A title: CLARA VENUS;

Then the huge bulk heaves, and with a grun

She bends and shows the ulcer on her anus.

The Stolen Heart

My weeping heart on the deck drools spit;

They soil it with cigarette butts,

They splatter it with slop and shit;

My weeping heart on the deck drools spit

The soldiers drink and laugh at it;

The sound of laughing hurts my guts

My weeping heart on the deck drools spit

They soil it with cigarette butts.


Soldiers cocks are a black burlesque;

They rape my heart with what they say.

In scrawls on the mast, grotesque

Soldiers cocks are a black burlesque.

Ocean abracadabrantesque,

Take my heart and wash it away!

Soldiers cocks are a black burlesque;

They rape my heart with what they say.


When they are done, and all worn out

How will I act, my stolen heart?

All I will hear is a drunken shout

When they are done and all worn out.

I will throw up and then pass out,

I know, with my heart torn apart

When they are done and all worn out

How will I act, my stolen heart?

Rimbaud’s contribtutions to the Album Zutique



















The Old Guard

Long live the emperor’s peasants!

Long live the peasant’s emperor!

Hip hooray and Forward March!

Hooray for the great eighteenth of March!

For blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Eugenie.



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