Paul Verlaine: His Life-His Work: Rimbaud, Page 8|
by Edmond Lepelletier (1907); translated by E.M. Lang (1909).
Verlaine showed great vexation at Rimbaud's exclusion; he attributed it to a supposition which had not then entered any one's head. This was certainly the beginning of his voluntary separation from the friends of his youth, and the rupture which was never to be healed. Rimbaud was not, it is true, a very agreeable companion. To please Verlaine I once invited him to my house in the Rue Lécluse at Batignolles, and it required all my energy to keep him in order. In the first place, he did not open his mouth at the beginning of the meal except to ask for bread or wine, in the tone he would have used at an hotel; and then, at the end, under the influence of a heady Burgundy to which Verlaine helped him liberally, he became aggressive. He launched out into provoking paradoxes, and aphorisms intended to arouse contradiction. His chief pleasantry was to call me "saluter of the dead," because he had seen me raise my hat when meeting a funeral. As I had lost my mother only two months before, I ordered him to be silent on that subject, and looked at him in a way which he took in bad part, rising to his feet and advancing threateningly towards me. He seized a dessert knife in foolish nervous fashion, probably with the intention of using it as a weapon. I put my hand on his shoulder and forced him to sit down, telling him that I went out to make war, and not having been afraid of the Prussians it was hardly likely a ragamuffin like him would intimidate me. I added half jokingly that if he were not satisfied and persisted in quarrelling, I would help him downstairs with a few kicks at the back. Verlaine interposed, begging me not to get angry, and excusing his friend; and Rimbaud, doubtless profiting by the lesson, was silent until the end of the repast, contenting himself with drinking deeply, and surrounding himself with smoke, while Verlaine recited some poems.
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I only saw Rimbaud once or twice after this, but I know he did not bear me any good-will. He affected ironically when speaking of me the use of such terms as "saluter of the dead," "ancient troubadour," and "voider of copy." This was quite inoffensive, and I bore him no ill-will, even writing afterwards, when there was talk of raising a monument to him at Charleville, some articles rendering homage to his talent, which was genuine and great. At the same time I acknowledged his tenacity and energy as an explorer, and expressed pity for the sufferings of the last years of his life, and his wholly distressing death in the hospital at Marseilles.
To resume the history of Arthur Rimbaud, he left Paris, as I said, far from enthusiastic, and the disdain perhaps mingled with discouragement that he felt for the inhospitable literary world sowed in his mind the idea of changing both climate and life. He already began to think of renouncing art, poetry, and dreams for travel, commerce, and action.
He continued to correspond with Paul Verlaine, who, as we shall see later on, rejoined him, and travelled in his company. Quarrels followed, then the accident of the pistol shot, and at last the definite and final separation of the two friends. They never met again after the tragic day in July 1873.
Rimbaud, having returned to his mother to be waited on and spoilt, wrote in the tranquillity of Les Roches, near Charleville, his bizarre and vigorous work Une Saison en Enfer. This little book was printed in Brussels; but hardly had the volume come from the press than he threw it into the fire. Only three copies were saved. Exaggeration of the outward vision, false colouring of impressions, the blending of the real and the unreal and undue obtrusion of personality, which were Arthur Rimbaud's chief characteristics, were more marked in Une Saison en Enfer than in any other of his poems, satires, caricatures, and parodies. At the moment of writing I have in my possession Paul Verlaine's copy lent by his son Georges. It is printed in clear, fine characters: format small in-18, fifty-three pages, and on the grey cover is: "A. Rimbaud" (in black at the top) "Une Saison en Enfer" (two lines in red in the centre of the page). A little below in rather large black lettering between two waved lines is: "Prix un Franc." In three lines in black at the foot: "Bruxelles, alliance typographique (M. de Poot et Cie) 37, Rue aux Choux, 37"; and beneath the date of publication: "1873." The cover has a frame of thin black lines. The volume opens with a sort of preface, having no title, which begins with these words:
"Formerly, if I remember aright, my life was a banquet at which all wines flowed, and all hearts were opened.
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