A New Companion for My Bus Rides

Arthur Rimbaud: Poésies complètes. ISBN 978-2-253-09635-1 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ After Rainer Maria Rilke I have found a new companion for the time I spend on the bus or train to go to work: Arthur Rimbaud. For ecological reasons I use public transports whenever my schedule gives me a little flexibility. An excllent occasion to read French poems and a paradigmatic shift since I realized that every small initiative to protect our planet matters.

Leaving the trodden path – Rimbaud seems to be right poet to come along. I had read his poems as an adolescent. I had seen the rebellious element, but I had failed to a appreciate the emotional depth, the many allusions and the richness of Rimbaud’s language at the time. I am glad to discover all that now. His early works are hardly more than trial-and-error poems, they breathe too much the spirit of Romanticism, the nostaligia for ancient Arcadia, to be anything else than emulations of poets of the past. Rimbaud however quickly found his personal language, which, I must confess, I find singularly attractive.

“Le bal des pendus” and “Sensation” are two poems from 1870 that I immediately liked and had to reread them a couple of times. The first depicts a macabre dance, mirroring the Romantic fascination with death, but casted in a new, modern shape. “Sensation” again echoes some of my iwn longings, past and present. “Ophélie”, a poem inspired by Ophelia in Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”, seduces mecsimply because it depicts Ophelia as a fragile and almost divine figure, just like I imagined her after I first heard Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s incidental music “Hamlet”.

“Le Dormeur du Val” shows Rimbaud’s cruel humour, not unlike Heinrich Heine’s power to disenchant the romantically inclined reader with the last verse, while “La Maline” stands for the poet’s benign humour and keen observation power. A poem like “Le Buffet” stands for Rimbaud’s nostalgia for times gone by, the innocence of childhood and the comfort a tightly knit family offers.

To any reader wishing to read Rimbaud in French I can recommend this edition, which has an excellent introduction by Pierre Brunel dealing with Rimbaud’s life, his education and, quite important, his relationship with Paul Verlaine. As for translations to German and English, I doubt anyone can really render Rimbaud’s spirit in another language than French, but there must be good translations.

A generation after Rimbaud’s a French composer of the name Darius Milhaud wrote an interesting String Trio (op. 274), which I highly recommend:

Parallel tonalities in a time of infighting and disarray