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Paul Verlaine: Arthur Rimbaud, Page 17
by Harold Nicolson (1921).

The Illuminations, which were discovered in manuscript by Charles de Sivry and published in 1886, consist of a series of prose poems intersected by occasional pieces in verse. They are obscure, violent, tortured and in places terrible; but they possess at least a glow of genius and are heightened by touches of lurid beauty. The piece entitled "Aube" is as fine a prose poem as exists in any language, while as regards the verses, the following two stanzas from "Éternité" may be taken as characteristic:

De votre ardeur seule,
Braises de satin,
Le devoir s'exhale
Sans qu'on dise : enfin.

Elle est retrouvée,
Quoi ? L'éternité,
C'est la mer allée
Avec le soleil.


The book contains other pieces of real interest: there is the subtle paganism of "Antique":

Gracieux fils de Pan ! Autour de ton front couronné de fleurettes et de baies, tes yeux, des boules précieuses, remuent. Tachées de lies brunes, tes joues se creusent. Tes crocs luisent. Ta poitrine ressemble à une cithare, des tintements circulent dans tes bras blonds. Ton cœur bat dans ce ventre où dort le double sexe. Promène-toi, la nuit, en mouvant doucement cette cuisse, cette seconde cuisse, et cette jambe de gauche.

Or again the following from "Enfance":

Au bois il y a un oiseau, son chant vous arrête et vous fait rougir.

Il y a une horloge qui ne sonne pas.

Il y a une fondrière avec un nid de bêtes blanches.

Il y a une cathédrale qui descend et un lac qui monte.

The subtle and deliberate suggestions of Rimbaud's style are not only interesting in themselves, but are of great importance in their effect upon much of the French writing of to-day. Consider, for instance, the influence which the oblique handling of such sentences as the following has exercised upon later French literature:

. . . princesses de démarche et de costume tyranniques, petites étrangères et personnes doucement malheureuses.

Tout se fit ombre et aquarium ardent. Au matin,—aube de juin batailleuse,—je courus aux champs, âne, claironnant et braindissant mon grief, jusqu'à ce que les Sabines de la banlieue vinrent se jeter à mon poitrail.


PAGE 17 OF 21.

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