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Thread: Arthur Rimbaud

  1. #1
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    Default Arthur Rimbaud

    IEI [not an 'original' typing nor an 'epiphany' considering other people have asserted it; nevertheless it's probably either right or close]

    - from Arthur Rimbaud: Collected Poems (New translations with parallel French text by Martin Sorrell); p. 55 [Poems, 1869-1871 (Evil)]:


    While the red mouths of machine-guns spit blood
    And whistle non-stop in the endless blue,
    While -- scarlet or green beside their sneering kind -- *
    Massed battalions are blown to bits,

    While nightmare madness stacks
    A million men on smoking heaps
    -- You poor beggars, dead in summer's grass,
    In your joy, Nature, maker of these saintly men.

    There is a God, who laughs at patterned
    Altar-cloths, incense, great gold chalices,
    Who's lulled to sleep by Hosannas,

    And who wakes when mothers, huddled
    In the black of grief, tie a small coin
    In their handkerchief, and give it Him.

    - from The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting [2005] by Alice Miller (Translated from the German by Andrew Jenkins); pp. 59-63 [(Part) I - SAYING AND CONCEALING (4: Self-Hatred and Unfulfilled Love / Arthur Rimbaud)]:

    (Chapter) 4

    Self-Hatred and Unfulfilled Love

    Arthur Rimbaud

    Arthur Rimbaud, whose paroxysms of brilliant, erotic verse electrified the late nineteenth century like no other poet of his generation, was born in 1854 and died of cancer in 1891, a few months after his right leg had been amputated. In other words, he lived to be only thirty-seven years old. Yves Bonnefoy, today's most esteemed French poet, tells us that Rimbaud's mother was harsh and brutal, a fact on which all the available sources are unanimous.
    In his book Rimbaud, Bonnefoy describes her as ambitious, proud, stubbornly self-opinionated, arid, and full of covert hatred. He calls her the classic case of someone fired by the pure energy derived from bigoted religiosity. The astonishing letters she wrote around 1900 reveal that she was enamored of death and destruction. She was fascinated by graveyards, and at the age of seventy-five she had gravediggers lower her into the grave she was later to share with her dead children, Vitali and Arthur, so that she could have a foretaste of the eternal night that was to come. [Yves Bonnefoy, Rimbaud (Paris: Seuil, 2004), p. 18.]
    What must it have been like for an intelligent and sensitive child to grow up in the care of a woman like this? We find the answer in Rimbaud's poetry. Bonnefoy tells us that Mme. Rimbaud did everything in her power to curb and thwart her son's development as a poet, albeit to no avail. Failing that, she nipped in the bud every desire for independence on his part, every premonition of liberty. The boy took to regarding himself as an orphan, and his relationship to his mother diverged into hatred on the one hand, and obsequious dependency on the other. As a result of the fact that he received no token of affection, Rimbaud concluded that he must be in some way guilty: "With all the strength of his innocence, he rebelled fiercely against the judgment passed on him by his mother." [Ibid.]
    Rimbaud's mother maintained total control over her children and called this control motherly love. Her acutely perceptive son saw through this lie. He realized that her constant concern for outward appearances had nothing to do with love. But he was unable to admit to this observation without reserve, because as a child he needed love, or at least the illusion of it. He could not hate his mother, particularly as she was so obviously concerned for him. So he hated himself instead, unconsciously convinced that in some obscure way he must have deserved such mendacity and coldness. Plagued by an ill-defined sense of disgust, he projected it onto the provincial town where he lived, onto the hypocrisy of the system of morality he grew up in (much like his contemporary Nietzsche in this respect), and onto himself. All his life he strove to escape these feelings, resorting in the process to alcohol, hashish, absinthe, opium, and extensive travels to faraway places. In his youth he made two attempts to run away from home but was caught and restored to his mother's "care" on both occasions.
    His poetry reflects not only his self-hatred but also his quest for the love so completely denied him in the early stages of his life. Later, at school, he was fortunate enough to encounter a kindly teacher who gave him the companionship and support he so desperately needed in the decisive years of puberty. His teacher's affection and confidence enabled Rimbaud to write and to develop his philosophical ideas. But his childhood retained its stifling grip on him. He attempted to combat his despair at the absence of love in his life by transforming it into philosophical observations on the nature of true love. But these ideas were no more than abstractions because, despite his intellectual rejection of conventional morality, his emotional allegiance to the code of conduct it prescribed was unswerving. Self-disgust was legitimate, but detesting his mother was unthinkable. He could not pay heed to the painful messages of his childhood memories without destroying the hopes that had helped him to survive as a child. Time and again, Rimbaud tells us that he had no one to rely on except himself. This was surely the fruit of his experience with a mother who had nothing to offer him but her own derangement and hypocrisy, rather than true love. His entire life was a magnificent but vain attempt to save himself from destruction at the hands of his mother, with all the means at his disposal.
    Young people who have gone through much the same kind of childhood as Rimbaud are often fascinated by his poetry because they can vaguely sense the presence of a kindred spirit in it.
    Rimbaud's friendship with Paul Verlaine is well known in literary history. His longing for love and genuine communication initially appeared to find gratification in this friendship. But the mistrust rooted in his childhood gradually poisoned their intimacy, and this, coupled with Verlaine's own difficult past, prevented the love between them from achieving any permanence. Ultimately, their recourse to drugs made it impossible for them to live the life of total honesty that they were in search of. Their relationship was crippled by the psychological injuries they inflicted on each other. In the last resort, Verlaine acted in just as destructive a way as Rimbaud's mother, and the final crisis came when Rimbaud was shot by the drunken Verlaine, who was sentenced to two years in prison for his crime.
    To salvage the genuine love he was deprived of in childhood, Rimbaud turned to the idea of love embodied in Christian charity and in understanding and compassion for others. He set out to give others what he himself had never received. He tried to understand his friend and to help Verlaine understand himself, but the repressed emotions from his childhood repeatedly interfered with this attempt. He sought redemption in Christian charity, but his implacably perspicacious intelligence would allow him no self-deception. Thus he spent his whole life searching for his own truth, but it remained hidden to him because he had learned at a very early age to hate himself for what his mother had done to him. He experienced himself as a monster, his homosexuality as a vice (this was easy to do given Victorian attitudes toward homosexuality), his despair as a sin. But not once did he allow himself to direct his endless, justified rage at the true culprit, the woman who had kept him locked up in her prison for as long as she could. All his life he attempted to free himself of that prison, with the help of drugs, travel, illusions, and above all poetry. But in all these desperate efforts to open the doors that would have led to liberation, one of them remained obstinately shut, the most important one: the door to the emotional reality of his childhood, to the feelings of the little child who was forced to grow up with a severely disturbed, malevolent woman, with no father to protect him from her.
    Rimbaud's biography is a telling instance of how the body cannot but seek desperately for the early nourishment it has been denied. Rimbaud was driven to assuage a deficiency, a hunger that could never be stilled. His drug addiction, his compulsive travels, and his friendship with Verlaine can be interpreted not merely as attempts to flee from his mother, but also as a quest for the nourishment she had withheld from him. As his internal reality inevitably remained unconscious, Rimbaud's life was marked by compulsive repetition. After every abortive escape attempt, he returned to his mother, doing so both after the separation from Verlaine and at the end of his life, when he had finally sacrificed his creative gifts by giving up his writing to become a businessman, thus indirectly fulfilling his mother's expectations of him. Although Rimbaud spent the last days of his life in a hospital in Marseille, he had gone back to western France immediately before that, where he was looked after by his mother and sister. The quest for his mother's love ended in the prison of childhood.

    - from Arthur Rimbaud: Collected Poems; p. 57:

    Winter Dream

    To *** Her

    In Winter, we'll travel in a small pink coach
    With blue cushions,
    Well installed, mad kisses nesting
    In cosy corners.

    You'll close your eyes, not to see through the glass
    The leer of dark evening,
    Snarling monster, droves of black demons,
    Packs of black wolves.

    Then you'll feel something scratch against your cheek...
    A little kiss, brief as a startled spider,
    Will run up your neck...

    You'll bow your head and say: 'Find it for me!'
    -- And we'll take the time it takes to find that creature
    -- Which loves to travel...

    Travelling, 7 October '70

    - p. 291-293 [Illuminations (Anguish)]:


    Can it be that She might forgive my continually ruined ambitions, -- that a comfortable end might compensate the ages of poverty, -- that one day's success might lull us into forgetting the shame of our fatal incompetence,
    (O palms! diamond! -- Love! strength! -- higher than any joy or glory! -- of every kind, everywhere, -- Demon, god -- Youth of this being, here and now: myself!)
    That accidents of scientific magic and movements of social brotherhood might be cherished as the progressive restitution of first freedom? ...
    But the Vampire who makes us behave correctly commands us to amuse ourselves with what she leaves us, or else be more amusing.
    To roll towards wounds, through the fatiguing air and the sea; towards torments, through the silence of the murderous waters and air; towards tortures which laugh, in their hideously surging silence.

    - p. 301 (War):


    As a child, certain skies sharpened the way I saw: every character very subtly changed my features. Phenomena were moved. -- Now, the unending inflection of moments and the infinity of mathematics send me scurrying through this world where I endure every civil success, respected by strange childhood and by vast affection. -- I dream of a War, of justice or of might, of logic quite unforeseen.
    It is as simple as a musical phrase.

    - p. 309 (Democracy):


    'The flag moves through a disgusting landscape, and our patois drowns out the drum.
    'In the interior, we shall fuel the most cynical prostitution. We shall massacre every revolt which makes sense.
    'Hello, sodden lands of spices! -- serving the most monstrous industrial or military exploitation.
    'Goodbye to here, anywhere will do. Conscripts of good will, our attitude will be ferocious; knowing nothing about science, everything about comforts; the world and its ways can go hang. This is the true way forward. Quick march!'

    Alice Miller
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  2. #2
    Trevor's Avatar
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    Why was my educated guess, that I'll find him already typed by you, correct?
    When will I start making correct guesses in other venues of my life.

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