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Biography of Arthur Rimbaud

Jean-Nicholas-Arthur Rimbaud was born on October 20, 1854 at 
Charleville in provincial France. His family was abandoned by their 
father and forced into poverty. Intrigued by the conditions, the young 
Rimbaud would sneak out and play with the neighborhood children. His
mother, horrified that her children might become coarsened, found the 
means to move her brood from the worst to the best part of town.

Madame Rimbaud showed little affection to her children, instead 
focusing her ambitions on her two sons. Forbidden to play with other 
boys, Rimbaud immersed himself in his studies.  Stimulated by a 
yearning for more in life, he became a gifted student.

At age ten, Rimbaud wrote: 

     "...You have to pass an exam, and the jobs that you get are 
      either to shine shoes, or to herd cows, or to tend pigs. 
      Thank God, I don't want any of that! Damn it! And besides that 
      they smack you for a reward; they call you an animal and it's 
      not true, a little kid, etc.." 

     "Oh! Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn!" 

In 1870, restless and despondent over the loss of his favorite teacher 
(who'd left to fight in thenFranco-Prussian War), Rimbaud ran away 
from home. He ran away more than once before finally making it to 
Paris. Broke, Rimbaud lived on the city streets. Immersed in his 
rebellion, he denounced women and the church. He lived willingly in 
squalid conditions, studying "immoral" poets (such as Baudelaire) and 
reading voraciously everything from occult to philosophy.

His own poetic philosophy began to take shape at this time. To 
Rimbaud, the poet was a seer. His job was to jar and jangle the 
senses. A precursor to surrealism, Rimbaud is also considered to have 
been one of the creators of the free verse style.

In 1871, Rimbaud met Paul Verlaine -- who was twenty years his senior 
-- and moved into his household. If their friendship was 
controversial, their sexual relationship was downright scandalous. 
Though Verlaine vacillated all his life between dark-doings and 
repentance, Rimbaud was considered at that time to be Verlaine's 
undoing. Rimbaud's drug taking and generally unclean living eventually 
alienated everyone except Verlaine. In 1872, Verlaine left his wife. 
He and Rimbaud moved to London.

By 1873, Rimbaud was disenchanted by his relationship with Verlaine. 
During a drunken argument in Brussels, Verlaine shot at Rimbaud, 
hitting him once in the wrist. Rimbaud was tired of their downward 
spiral and called in the police. Verlaine was sent to prison for 18
months. Rimbaud, feeling both guilty and exhilarated, wrote 
feverishly, completing 'A Season in Hell.' 

     "...As for me, I am intact, and I don't care." 

(from "Bad Blood" A Season in Hell)

Before his twentieth birthday, Arthur Rimbaud quit writing. He 
wandered Europe before eventually becoming a trader and gunrunner in 
Africa. Ill, he returned to Marseilles in June of 1891. His right leg 
was amputated, probably due to the complications of syphilis, and he 
was nursed for a time by his tender sister Isabelle. He died on 
November 10, 1891.

Rimbaud's literary style has influenced almost all modern forms of 
literature, including the Beats. He has been cited as an inspiration 
by songwriters like Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan. Patti Smith has often 
referred to him in her poetry and songs. 

     "rimbaud. no more the daring young horseman of high abyssinian 
      plateau.  such ardor is petrified for- ever." 

(from "rimbaud dead" by Patti Smith)

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