Sunday, 10 November 2013


Arthur Rimbaud
37 ans
10 Novembre 1891
Priez pour lui 

Rimbaud back from Africa
Rimbaud back from Africa
sketched by his sister Isabelle.
Arthur Rimbaud died on the 10th November 1891 only a couple of weeks past his 37th birthday - an inflamed knee and an austere life in Abyssinia having used up what was left of his youth.

But what a youth it had been - charging around Europe mad to live and careless of anyone who got in his way. Then later trekking around Africa seeking his fortune. Though the fortune he searched for changed as he changed continents.

In Paris, in Brussels, in London, he sought the alchemical gold - the gold that brings with it bliss and enlightenment, that he believed could be found by altering the base metal of mundane life through extremes of behaviour, through drink, drugs, delirium. And sex.

With Paul Verlaine as his willing punchbag (a punchbag happy to punch back), Rimbaud scoured the cafes and bars, experienced the dives and debauchery of whatever city he was in. Looking like an angel, he lived like a demon. At times he believed he had found what he was looking for - attained 
Rimbaud at 16
Rimbaud at 16
that higher state that allowed him to see beyond the mundane and into the divine. He challenged a God he professed not to believe in to accept him as a worthy opponent.

Well, we all know what happens to angels who challenge the Almighty. Rimbaud fell like Lucifer into the flames of his own disgust. But hell turned out not to be a place of ice and fire. It was instead a return to that ordinary life he had once desired so fervently to leave behind.
On the shores of Africa he turned into an able clerk, honest and trustworthy, his work ethic firmly in place. When the spirit of adventure he could not suppress rose again in him, he travelled to Ethiopia - then known as Abyssinia - to seek a different fortune, to amass a different type of gold.

At the end of his life he had been carrying 14lbs of gold around with him, permanently strapped to his waist for fear of thieves. He ate little, dressed badly, lived sparsely, hoarding all the time gold coin after gold coin until the weight of it wore him down.

After a monstrous journey back to Europe, his leg was amputated. He lived out his final days in dreams and delirium and died in Marseilles begging to be transported back to Africa.

Rimbaud family tomb, Charleville Cemetery
Rimbaud family tomb, Charleville Cemetery

DELIRIUM or The Rimbaud Delusion, a novel by Barbara Scott Emmett will be available as a paperback and ebook later this year.