The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Arthur Rimbaud

Photo of Arthur Rimbaud
Photo of Arthur Rimbaud

Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (October 20, 1854November 10, 1891) was a French poet.

He was born into the rural middle class of Charleville (now part of Charleville-Mézières) in the Ardennes département in northeastern France. As a boy Rimbaud was a restless but gifted student. By the age of fifteen, he had won many prizes and composed original verses and dialogues in Latin.

In 1870 his teacher Georges Izambard became Rimbaud's first literary mentor, and his original verses in French began to improve rapidly. He ran away from home to briefly join the Paris Commune of 1870, which he portrayed in his poem "L'Orgie parisienne ou Paris se repeuple" (the Parisian orgy or Paris repopulates). He returned to Paris in 1871 at the invitation of eminent poet Paul Verlaine, moving briefly into Verlaine's home and then becoming immersed in Parisian street-life as a garrett dweller. Throughout this period he continued to write strikingly modern verses, following the example of Charles Baudelaire.

Rimbaud's and Verlaine's stormy romantic relationship swept them to London in 1872, when Verlaine left his wife and infant son. In 1873, Rimbaud left Verlaine, returned home to Charleville and completed his Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell) in prose, widely regarded as one of the pioneering instances of modern Symbolist writing. In 1874 he returned to London with the poet Germaine Nouveau and assembled his controversial Illuminations (poems)|, which includes the first two French poems in free verse. After a particularly violent quarrel in Brussels in 1876, Verlaine shot Rimbaud in the wrist and was consequently sent to jail for 18 months.

By then Rimbaud had given up writing, travelling extensively in Europe before becoming a merchant in Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia). He made a small fortune as a gun-runner. Rimbaud contracted gangrene and returned home in 1891, lost a leg and died in Marseilles on November 10. His influence in modern literature, music and art has been pervasive.

His life in Paris was dramatized in a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio called Total Eclipse (1995).

Rimbaud influenced the following artists: French poets in general, the Surrealists, the Beat Poets, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Patti Smith, Penny Rimbaud, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Richard Hell and many more. Van Morrison wrote "Tore Down a la Rimbaud."


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