The First Evening
by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Oliver Bernard

She was very much half-dressed,
and big indiscreet trees
threw out their leaves against the pane:
cunningly, and close, quite close.

Sitting halfnaked in my big chair,
she clasped her hands.
Her small and so delicate feet
trembled with pleasure on the floor.

The colour of wax, I watched
a little wild ray of light
flutter on her smiling lips
and on her breast–
an insect on the rose-bush.

I kissed her delicate ankles.
She laughed softly and suddenly,
a string of clear trills,
a lovely laugh of crystal.

The small feet fled beneath her petticoat:
“Stop it, do!”
The first act of daring permitted,
her laugh pretended to punish me!

Softly I kissed her eyes–
trembling beneath my lips, poor things–
she threw back her fragile head:
“Oh! come now that’s going too far!”

“Listen, Sir, I have something to say to you…”
I transferred the rest to her breast
in a kiss which made her laugh
with a kind laugh that was willing…

She was very much half-dressed,
and big indiscreet trees threw
out their leaves against the pane:
cunningly, and close, quite close.

“Morality is the weakness of the brain.” – Arthur Rimbaud

A revolutionary, rebel poet before the age of 15, Rimbaud cut a flamboyant character into the French fabric of the mid-late 1800’s.  Raised with his siblings by a severe and overbearing single mother – having been left by her military husband – in the house of his grandparents, young Arthur was sent to school, where he met Georges Izambard, a young teacher who encouraged him to read works by such authors as Rabelais and Hugo.  Petty theft, running away, drinking, smoking, bullying local priests, and generally driving his mother to her wits end filled whatever parts of his days that were not spent writing and reading.

It is supposed that early on in Rimbaud’s life, possibly before the age of 10, that he turned towards men of his grandparents’ agricultural fields, as a substitute for his absent father.  There is no proof, but many believed that he was introduced to homosexual sex at this time, and that his unending search for fatherly love and his battle with feelings of male rejection created a viscous whirlwind of conflicting emotions that he followed from place to place, and lover to lover (both male and female).

Interestingly enough, Rimbaud wrote all of his poetry in the first half of his short life and abandoned all literature by the age of 20.  He followed his dreams of exploration across Europe and across the water to Alexandria, where he took up work in Cyprus, then Egypt, Aden, and Abyssinia, where he married a girl whom he has “repatriated” to follow his new exploits in gun-running.  Due to bad business sense, he is reduced to poverty, and when he succumbs to a tumor on his right knee, leading to amputation, he returns to France, where he died at the age of 37.

A turbulent life filled with unrequited, dramatic friend/love relationships, Rimbaud was a bright, but short-lived, light in literary history.

For an interesting interpretation of Rimbaud’s life and greatest love (Paul Verlaine)…check out the 1995 film Total Eclipse.  Of course this is very early in DiCaprio’s career.  Maybe not his best performance…but worth a watch, no matter.

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