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Summary Article: Rimbaud, Arthur
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(ärtür' răNbō'), 1854–91, French poet who had a great influence on the symbolists and subsequent modern poets, b. Charleville. A defiant and precocious youth, Rimbaud at 16 sent some poems to Verlaine, who liked his work and invited him to Paris. In 1872–73 the two poets lived together in London and Brussels. In a drunken quarrel Verlaine fired a pistol, wounding Rimbaud, and their relationship ended. Rimbaud returned home and finished Une Saison en enfer (1873), a confessional autobiography in which he renounces his former hellish life and his work. At an undetermined time he produced Les Illuminations, consisting of prose poems that transcend all traditional syntax and narrative elements.

Rimbaud is thought to have stopped writing poetry at the age of 19, and he never wrote another literary work. Thereafter, he wandered throughout Europe and N Africa, working in various jobs, from circus cashier to commercial traveler to African gunrunner, and engaging in numerous business ventures. Six months after the amputation of his leg due to cancer, he died in Marseilles at 37. Rimbaud's poetry has been called hallucinatory because the poet seems to write not of material reality but of his dreamworld; his technique anticipates the symbolists in its suggestiveness, its abstract verbal music, and its images drawn from the subconscious. “Le Bateau ivre” (“The Drunken Boat”) is an outstanding example. Rimbaud's works were published by Verlaine in several posthumous editions, the first complete collection appearing in 1898.

  • See Mason, W. , ed. and tr., Rimbaud Complete (2002) and I Promise to Be Good: The Letters of Arthur Rimbaud (2003);.
  • biographies by E. Starkie (3d ed. 1961, repr. 1968), G. Robb (2000), and E. White (2008);.
  • studies by W. M. Frohock (1963), W. Fowlie (1966), R. G. Cohn (1974), K. Ross (1980), C. A. Hackett (1981), and C. Nicholl (1999).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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