I sit at my door, smoking a cigarette and sipping my absinthe, and I enjoy every day without a care in the world.
- Paul Gaugin, 1897
French poet and adventurer who won renown among the Symbolist movement and markedly influenced modern poetry. He is considered the best illustration of symbolist aesthetics.
He was also the lover of Verlaine and the two were in constant fights and arguments which at one time led to Verlaine shooting Rimbaud in the wrist. The shooting eventually resulted in Rimbaud getting Verlaine arrested and subject to a humiliating trial where both his health and relationship to Rimbaud was scrutinized. Rimbaud did withdraw his accusations but the judge sentenced Verlaine to two years in prison.
Hardly any of Rimbaud's own work include any reference to absinthe but it is well known that he took up the habit of Verlaine when the two met. Rimbaud wasn't much of an absinthe drinker before his encounter with Verlaine, but as the two became closer the vices of Verlaine rubbed off on Rimbaud and during their companionship he indulged in both absinthe binges and hashish.
After the two broke up and Rimbaud left his literary life in the past, he became much less of a drinker.
In one of his poems he does mention absinthe though, it is in the poem "Comédie de la Soif" (Comedy of Thirst), written 1872, in the third verse, "Les Amis" (The Friends) where he muses;
"Viens, les Vins vont aux plages,
Et les flots par millions !
Vois le Bitter sauvage
Rouler du haut des monts !
Gagnons, pèlerins sages,
L'Absinthe aux verts piliers...
MOI - Plus ces paysages.
Qu'est l'ivresse, Amis ?
J'aime autant, mieux, même,
Pourrir dans l'étang,
Sous l'affreuse crème.
Près des bois flottants."
The first part translated into English;
"Come on, the wines are going to the beach,
And waves by the millions!
See the wild Bitter rolling
From the mountaintops!
Wise pilgrims, let us reach
The Absinthe with its green pillars..."
After separating with Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud wrote what was to become his absolute masterpiece - the lengthy prose poem "Une Saison en Enfer" (A Season in Hell). Shortly after finishing this, Rimbaud returned to London where he finished "Illuminations", a volumn of poetry. This was to be his last work of literature.
At the age of only 20, Rimbaud began travelling across the world. Mainly Europe at first but eventually enlisted in the Dutch Army in 1876 only to gain free passage to Java. He immediately deserted upon his arrival there. He led an adventurous life, travelling over continents and eventually even became a gun merchant, or gun runner if you will.
Contrary to many of his past friends from Paris, Rimbaud didn't die from poverty, malnutrition or alcohol abuse. In 1891 he returned to France after developing cancer in his right knee. The leg was amputated in May. In August that same year it was discovered that the cancer had spread throughout his system and at the age of 37, on 10 November in 1891, Arthur Rimbaud died.
Written by Markus Hartsmar
Many writers "of old" wrote poems or passages about absinthe. Some drank it, some didn't. Find some of them here as well as reviews and notes on modern books about absinthe.
The Absinthe Poetry section has seen several updates the past days. Poems and information about more authors; Antonin Artaud, Arthur Symons, Francis Saltus Saltus, Florence Folsom and Robert Loveman. Open your mind and have a drink while you enjoy their lyrics.
It's the new bistro, the new bar in town. A good place to meet when meeting in real life isn't always an option. Meet me on facebook for more updates from the absinthe world.