Paul Verlaine: His Life-His Work: Rimbaud, Page 4|
by Edmond Lepelletier (1907); translated by E.M. Lang (1909).
The gifted urchin gave proof of an extraordinary force of resistance and proud self-confidence. Before leaving Charleville he addressed to M. Izambard, who had rescued him on the occasion of his first escapade, who had rescued him on the occasion of his first escapade, a sort of profession of faith which he called the Littératuricide d'un rhétoricien emancipé.
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He declared himself absolutely disgusted by all existing poetry, past or present. Racine, peuh! Victor Hugo, pouah! Homer, . . . oh! lala! . . . The Parnassian school diverted him for a moment, but pfuitt! he could not speak of it afterwards without rancour. Verlaine alone, whom he had never seen, but whose Poèmes Saturniens he had read, found favour in his eyes. Apart from this poet he admired no one under the sun, and believed only in himself.
Rimbaud took leave of his family to go to Paris in February 1871, and arrived at André Gill's. Why? Perhaps because on the way his eyes had happened to fall on some caricature of the celebrated artist's. He walked into Gill's with amazing effrontery. Cool audacity and disdain for conventions of any kind was one of his most salient characteristics. The artist was absent from his studio, and with his usual trustfulness had left the key in the door. When he returned he stopped on the threshold rather surprised to find an unknown guest stretched upon the divan and snoring vigorously; but it was only a boy, and no thought of evil intent entered his head. He shook the sleeper and asked: "What are you doing here? Who are you?" Arthur Rimbaud gave his name, said he lived at Charleville, and that he was a poet who had come to take Paris by storm, adding as he rubbed his eyes that he regretted having been awakened so soon as he was having delightful dreams. "I, too," responded Gill with his usual jovial good nature "have fine dreams; but I have them at home!" The sleeper excused himself: he was a poor youth, a solitary rhymer, a lost child. Gill had a kind heart and felt sorry for him, but could hold out no hopes of anything being done for a poet in Paris. He gave him ten francs, all the money he happened to have, and urged him to return home.
Pocketing the ten francs, but disregarding the advice, Rimbaud began to wander about the town with anger against everything and every one in his heart, yet guided by the ardent desire to publish, to speak to men, to aim a resounding blow at public opinion, to make himself known, to move the great indifferent, deaf, hostile town. At last, tired physically and morally, his stomach empty, recognising that the reality was too much for him, and resigning himself to Fate, he decided to return to Charleville on foot, by easy stages, traversing the localities where the Germans were encamped.
With the low cunning, bordering on dishonesty, of which he gave many proofs during his life, and which, doubtless, served him in his business dealings with the Ethiopians, he passed himself off as a franc-tireur in the villages through which he passed, thus often securing sympathy, food, and lodgingssometimes money. When the country people turned a deaf ear, for the franc-tireurs were not popular everywhere, and some feared to provoke reprisals by sheltering those whom the enemy had placed outside the laws of war, Rimbaud audaciously applied to the mayor, and exacted lodging and food.
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