Lives

By Arthur Rimbaud 1854–1891 Arthur Rimbaud

Translated By Wallace Fowlie

I

      Oh! the huge avenues of the holy land, the terraces of the temple! What has happened to the brahmin who taught me the Proverbs? From then and from there I can still see even the old women! I remember silvery hours and sun near rivers, the hand of the country on my shoulder, and our caresses as we stood in the fiery fields. A flight of red pigeons thunders around my thoughtsIn exile here I had a stage on which to perform the dramatic masterpieces of all literatures. I might tell you about unheard-of wealth. I follow the story of the treasures you found. I see the next chapter! My wisdom is as neglected as chaos is. What is my void, compared with the stupefaction awaiting you?

 

II

      I am a far more deserving inventor than all those who went before me; a musician, in fact, who found something resembling the key of love. At present, a noble from a meager countryside with a dark sky I try to feel emotion over the memory of mendicant childhood, over my apprenticeship  when I arrived wearing wooden shoes, polemics, five or six widowings, and a few wild escapades when my strong head kept me from rising to the same pitch as my comrades. I don’t miss what I once possessed of divine happiness: the calm of this despondent countryside gives a new vigor to my terrible scepticism. But since this scepticism can no longer be put into effect, and since I am now given over to a new worryI expect to become a very wicked fool.

 

III

      In an attic where at the age of twelve I was locked up, I knew the world and illustrated the human comedy. In a wine cellar I learned history. At some night celebration, in a northern city, I met all the wives of former painters. In an old back street in Paris I was taught the classical sciences. In a magnificent palace, surrounded by all the Orient, I finished my long work and spent my celebrated retirement. I have invigorated my blood. I am released from my duty. I must not even think of that any longer. I am really from beyond the tomb, and without work.

Arthur Rimbaud, "Lives" from Complete Works, Selected Letters, translated by Wallace Fowlie. Copyright © 2005 by Wallace Fowlie.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Source: Complete Works, Selected Letters (The University of Chicago Press, 2005)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Arthur Rimbaud 1854–1891

POET’S REGION France

Subjects Living, Growing Old, Life Choices, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Activities, School & Learning, Travels & Journeys, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Sciences

Poetic Terms Prose Poem, Symbolist

 Arthur  Rimbaud

Biography

It would be difficult to overestimate the influence of Arthur Rimbaud’s poetry on subsequent practitioners of the genre. His impact on the Surrealist movement has been widely acknowledged, and a host of poets, from André Breton to André Freynaud, have recognized their indebtedness to Rimbaud’s vision and technique. He was the enfant terrible of French poetry in the second half of the nineteenth century and a major figure in . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Growing Old, Life Choices, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Activities, School & Learning, Travels & Journeys, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Sciences

POET’S REGION France

Poetic Terms Prose Poem, Symbolist

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.