II - Réhabilitation :

His life IS ... his master-piece



The poet’s tribulations averaged about 60 000 km (by foot most of the time from Stockholm to Antotto going through London, Brussels, Vienna, Milan, Livourne, Alexandria, Suez, Aden or Djibouti etc etc among all the towns he had been covering.
Arthur, as a child was "gifted" and he had already won 13 prizes and 9 nominations at school between the age of 11 and 15, thus setting up a triumphant record of 36 prizes in 5 years.

In 1869, this precocious rebel got the nerve to ask the headmaster to bring him slices of bread during a 6 hours’ competitive examination of latin verses organized by the Douai Academy. The head was surprised at the fact the child had still not written anything by 9 o’clock while the exam had started at 6 am. Rimbaud wrote in less than 3 hours the 82 verses that were to grant him the first prize .


Let us notice that only one third of Rimbaud’s work could be found. The first infatuation for Rimbaud’s work has only taken place since the 1930ies, in spite of Verlaine’s obstinacy : he had the Accursed Poets published then "the Illuminations" without Rimbaud knowing. Rimbaud’s work was part of the university curriculum and included in school books in the 50ies and it is only with the centenary of his work that accurate and complete edition have come out.
His notoriety has only seemed to start these latest years with the emergence of television and paperback. To quote but one example, an obvious one, Jim Morrisson, poet and singer of the band "the Doors" acknowledged the deep influence of Rimbaud’s writings upon his work and even upon his life (but both are mixed in poetry).
Besides, numerous parallels are identifiable between Rimbaud’s trajectory and the movement that grew in the 60ies between the beatnicks and the leftists, that of the "Woodstock generation" as it is said nowadays. Jack Kerouac’s books are written proof among others.
And when Arthur’s friend Delahaye tells with humour how Arthur "reassured the population in Charleville by cutting his hair short" (he had it grown down to his back), this reminds us of John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s press conference during which they shaved their hair publicly (in that case they militated in favour of peace). Arthur at the time indulged himself in the art of graffiti making, he was known as Charleville’s "tagger"

Let’s notice that this very year 1871, when he was 17, his height increased by 20 cm in 9 months and reached 1m80 for good. The same year, he wrote #"Le Bateau Ivre". A lot of authors have been influenced by Rimbaud without openly saying it, or without even knowing it ... But the list would be too long to mention ...


Mr Rimbaud had to spend 30 months (1885-1887) to set up a caravan of 30 camels aimed at the Negus to be, Menelik II, including a semester waiting in an isolated hamlet called Tadjoura before being able to leave.

Finally, he set off alone at the head of the "Labatut caravan" carrying 2000 rifles but got swindled out once more when he arrived.
During the second half of his life, Arthur was often referred to as an arms dealer. But fortunately for him, this trade did not allow him to make a living, he was rather responsible for import-export trading posts or head of building sites. Regarding the importance of the arms order he had to transfer, arms dealing is no longer the proper term for such a trade (or closer to us, many would be arms dealers !). 2000 rifles, also means 2000 soldiers ...
And the French Consul gave Rimbaud the authorization to deliver the arms to Menelik’s fighters. If we refer to the context, it is more a combination of opportunities (by force of circumstances), than a mere self-interested act. Finally, it is a slight but active involvement in the fulfilment of a destiny in the history of humanity, as we’ll soon find out.