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Paul Verlaine: His Life-His Work: Rimbaud, Page 5
by Edmond Lepelletier (1907); translated by E.M. Lang (1909).

After this return to Charleville he only remained two months with his parents, and then for the third time, in May 1871, he took the road to Paris on foot once more, through the German lines scattered over the country. On the outskirts of Villers-Cotterets he nearly fell into the hands of a patrol of Uhlans, but saved himself by diving into a thicket.

He found Paris in a hubbub of insurrection; presenting himself at the gates, he declared that he had come from the country, that he was heart and soul with the Communists, and wished to join them. The franc-tireur became for the time being a federate. He was received with enthusiasm; but as the insurrection was nearing its end he was neither equipped nor armed. He lodged in the Babylone barracks; but escaped in time some days before the arrival of the troops from Versailles.

Traversing anew the German lines, he returned to Charleville, composing strange verses as he went along; among others an ode entitled L'Orgie Parisienne, a recollection of his experiences in the ranks of the insurgents. This time he remained four months in Charleville, writing verse and prose poems, and exciting the indignation of the townsfolk by his reckless appearance and behaviour. He made the acquaintance at this time of a certain Breton, a friend of Verlaine's. This fellow was a "rat de cave," i.e., a clerk in the Customs. Verlaine designated him as a very good fellow, a great beer-drinker, at times a poet, musician, draughtsman, and entomologist. This Breton, who was an obscure fantasist, making, essentially whimsical verses, was unequalled, it was said, in the way in which he drew up the most detailed and accurate statements of frauds on the part of sugar manufacturers.

It was at Charleville, in 1871, that Rimbaud composed the poem which caused him to be recognised as a poet on his next arrival in Paris. It was a fine thing, despite its strangeness: Le Bateau Ivre.

Haunted continually by the desire to return to Paris, he wrote to Verlaine, the only poet living, whom, as we have said, he admired, and sent him the poem.

Verlaine, surprised and perhaps flattered by this exceptional admiration on the part of a beardless novice who professed universal disdain even for the most brilliant and indisputable geniuses, and struck by the originality of the specimen verses submitted to him, sent a letter of encouragement, enclosing a post-office order to the youth; at the same time warning some of his friends of the approaching arrival of a young prodigy "who will put all our noses out of joint."


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AUTHOR: Edmond Lepelletier (1907); translated by E.M. Lang (1909).
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