Arthur Rimbaud

A Season in Hell

“I dread winter because it is the season of comfort.”

A Season in Hell, is a selection of poems and essays from French poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891). They are highly confessional and self-exploratory, predating modern literature and – most amazingly – written when Rimbaud was 18.

This edition is introduced by American poet Patti Smith (who has addressed of her own limited consciousness) who wrote Rimbaud was “Ignited by the fireworks of his despair, he exhausts us with beauty, but is also the flayed youth.”

I have a horror of all trades. Masters and workers – base peasants all. The hand that guides the pen is worth the hand that guides the plough. – What an age of hands. I shall never have my hand. Afterward domesticity leads too far. The honesty of beggars sickens me. Criminals disgust like castrates: as for me, I am intact, and I don’t care.

Rimbaud was deeply malcontent and like many poets lived his all too short life on the periphery of social structures. He rejected the bigotry of the bourgeoisie, he had close but turbulent friendships with artists, travelled the world and dealt with lifelong alienation and loneliness.

I’ve been patient too long.
My memory is dead,
All fears and all wrongs
To the heavens have fled.
Why all my veins burst
With a sickly thirst.

There is a passion in his words and a longing for the impossible.

Rachel Kneebone's sculpture "399 Days"
Artist Rachel Kneebone’s towering sculpture, “399 Days”, is a porcelain tangle of straining limbs and struggling bodies. It evokes a state of unease, flux and power. Learn more. Photograph by Ellen Vrana.

This selection of prose and poems deals with emotions, alienation, beauty’s bitterness, loss, resignation, and yet… hope. Hope exists in the name of salvation, a forgiving and all- surrounding love, the highest tower of existence.

I’ve been patient too long.
My memory is dead,
All fears and all wrongs
To the heavens have fled.
Why all my veins burst
With a sickly thirst.

O may it come, the time of love,
The time we’d be enamoured of.

Many poets have written from society’s edge, hollering against and bemoaning debilitating conformity. Rimbaud used poetry to establish himself as a visionary, a “Seer” of the world in abstraction, metaphor of the known.

Self-confession poetry acts as an aperture to pain at the most intimate level. What began with Rimbaud continued with the Beat Generation poets and the heart-wrenching poems of American poet Robert Lowell.

Rimbaud’s life maps almost year to year of that of Vincent van Gogh, although Rimbaud died of cancer, not self-induced violence. But the innervated youth, the mad expression of emotion beyond ordinary conduits, the confessional nature of their art, there are many similarities. Read van Gogh’s exceptional Letters and see the artist anew.