Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud

The story behind Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations is almost as interesting as the poems themselves. The young 20-year old abandoned poetry for a mercantile career in Africa and passed along this collection of prose poems to his former lover Paul Verlaine to submit for publishing. This was not only Rimbaud’s farewell to poetry but also to Verlaine who was released from prison for shooting Rimbaud. It’s hard to believe that these poems are the work of a 20-year old who lived in the 1870s. The language and style are so modern and advanced; the product of someone who was truly ahead of his time.

“City”

I am an ephemeral and not at all dissatisfied citizen of a metropolis thought to be modern because every known taste has been avoided in the furnishings and exteriors of its houses as well as in the plan of the city. Here you would never point to the traces of any monument to superstition. Morality and language are reduced to their most basic expression, indeed! These millions of people who feel no need to know one another experience such similar kinds of education, occupation and old age, that their life-spans must be several times shorter than those which a mad statistic determines for the peoples of the continent. Just as, from my window, I see new specters rolling through the thick and eternal fumes of coal fires, — our shadow of the woods, our summer’s night! — modern-day Furies, in front of my cottage which is my country and all my heart since everything here resembles this, — Death without tears, our active daughter and servant, and a despairing Love, and a pretty Crime whimpering in the mud of the street.

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