Studies in Modern Poetry: Arthur Rimbaud, Page 7|
by Federico Olivero (1921).
A counterpart to this poetry is to be found in art in some paintings of James Ensor, but, above all, in the drawings of Henry De Groux, Charles Doudelet, Charles Schwabe and Heinrich Vogeler. We find an analogous conception of style in Corbière's Yellow Loves, Cross's Sandalwood Casket, Les Chants de Maldoror of Lautréamont, Les Palais Nomades of G. Kahn. He shows spiritual and formal affinities with Laforgue, and, in suggestive power, with Nerval's sonnets; with Nerval, he is the forerunner of many a recent singer; his influence can be easily recognised in contemporary poetry, as his manner of expression is, on the whole, congenial to the high-strung and eager mind of to-day's writers; we meet, for instance, with clear reflections of his style in such an important poet as Claudel.
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The medium through which these wild images are conveyed is a straightforward diction; he does not recur to the winding syntax, the curious inversions and intricacies of Mallarmé, but adopts the simplicity of Baudelaire. The difference between Mallarmé and Rimbaud lies in the fact that, while to the former suggestion is the essential of art, the latter's main object is the definiteness of the image. One tries to enlarge, expand, 'estomper' the image, rousing far echoes in the soul, weaving a spell easier to feel than to elucidate; the other, on the contrary, circumscribes the figure sharply, frames each picture in well-defined limits. In Mallarmé the light of the mental 'phantasm' is broken up into prismatic reflections, in Rimbaud it has a fixed, hallucinating glare. This kind of poetry is comparatively rare in other literatures; we think of Blake, and yet the aim of Rimbaud is not to see 'the spiritual form' of things, but to modify their shapes; the closest parallel to his art is perhaps to be found in Coleridge's Kubla Khan. In certain jottings of Coleridge we may also find a foreshadowing of the subtleties of the French poet; in the note entitled The night is at hand, in Anima Poetae, for example. 'The sweet prattle of the chimes—counsellors pleading in the court of Love; then the clock, the solemn sentence of the mighty Judge—long pause between each pregnant, inappellable word, too deeply weighed to be reversed in the High-Justice-Court of Time and Fate. —A more richly solemn sound than this eleven o'clock at Antwerp I never heard—dead enough to be opaque as central gold, yet clear enough to be the mountain air'.
Claudel has justly defined the spiritual attitude of Rimbaud, absolute in his choice of evil or good; 'he was like the merchant who has been told of a unique pearl, and who, to get it, leaves at once his house and sells all he has'; and again, where he makes the poet say: 'Until I have not found Paradise, the true place for me is that which most resembles Hell'.
Creation was his intent, not the more or less exact portraiture of things; he was well aware that in the creative power lies the source of the highest poetry, for the chief aim of art is to build up an imaginary world out of reality.
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