Rimbaud At Twenty-Three

by solitary walker

“Situations have ended sad, relationships have all been bad; mine’ve been like Verlaine’s and Rimbaud …” Bob Dylan You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

At the end of 1877, a twenty-three year old Rimbaud returned from Italy via Nice to Charleville, his home town in the French Ardennes.

“In the last three years, Rimbaud had spent about fifteen months at home and about twenty-one at sea or on the road. He had visited thirteen different countries — excluding coastlines seen from the deck of a ship — and travelled over 32,000 miles. He already had more than enough material for his anecdotage. He had worked as a pedlar, an editorial assistant, barman, farm labourer, language teacher, private tutor, factory worker, docker, mercenary, sailor, tout, cashier and interpreter, and he was about to add a few more jobs to the list. On almost every occasion, he had done something for which he was not previously qualified.

Though he lacked the most ordinary qualification of all —  the baccalauréat — he had a working knowledge of five languages, had seen more sights and experienced more interesting intoxications than an English lord on the Grand Tour, published a book, been arrested in three countries and repatriated from three others. The most he ever earned from his writing had been a free subscription to a magazine, but he had left behind a body of work that would one day open up new regions of the mind to poetic explorers. He had begged, been to jail, committed approximately twelve imprisonable offences with impunity, and survived war, revolution, illness, a gunshot wound, his own family and the Cape of Good Hope. He had been on intimate terms with some of the most remarkable writers and political thinkers of the age.”

Graham Robb Rimbaud

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