rimbaud: letter of the visionary (utdrag)

To Paul Demeny
Charleville, May 15th, 1871. 

I've decided to give you an hour of new literature.

Neither joke, nor paradox. The reason inspires me more certitude on this subject than a Young-France would ever have had with rage. Besides, freedom to the new! To execrate their ancestors: we are at home, and we have time.

For I is someone else. If brass wakes up a bugle, it is not his fault. That is obvious to me: I witness the unfolding of my thought: I watch it, I listen to it: I make a stoke of the bow: the symphony makes movement into the depths, or comes in one leap upon the stage.
If the old fools had not found only the false significance of the Ego, we should not now be having to sweep away these millions of skeletons which, since an infinite time!, have been piling up the fruits of their one-eyed intellects, proclaiming themselves to be the authors!

In Greece, I said, verse and lyres give rhythm to the Action. After, music and rhymes are a game, a pastime. The study of this past charmed the curious: many of them delight in reviving these antiquities: - it is for them. Universal intelligence has always thrown out its ideas, naturally; men picked up part of these fruits of the mind: they acted according to, they wrote books about them: so was the way things went on, the man not working upon himself, not being yet awakened, or not in the fullness of the great dream. Civil servants, writers: author, creator, poet, this man has never existed!

The first study of a man who wants to be a poet is his self-knowledge, complete; he looks for his own soul, he inspects it, he tests it, learns it. As soon as he knows it, he must cultivate it. That seems simple: in every mind a natural development takes place; so many egoists proclaim themselves authors; there are many others who attribute their intellectual progress to themselves! - But the soul has to be made monstrous: after the fashion of the comprachicos*, if you like! Imagine a man planting and cultivating warts on his face.

I say that one must be a seer, make oneself a seer.

The Poet makes himself a seer by a long, immense, and rational dissoluteness of all the senses.
All the forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons in him, to only keep their quintessence. Inexpressible torture where he needs all the faith, all the superhuman strength, where be becomes, above all others, the great patient, the great criminal, the great accursed, - and the supreme Savant! - For he arrives at the unknown! Because he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than anyone else! He reaches the unknown, and when, terrified, he ends up by losing the meaning of his visions, at least he has seen them! Let him die of his bound through the unheard-of and countless things: other horrible workers will come; they will begin from the horizons where the other has succumbed!

So the poet is truly the thief of fire.

He is responsible for humanity, even for the animals; he will have to make feel, touch, hear his inventions; if what he brings back from over there has a form, he gives form; if it is formless, he gives it formless. A language has to be found.

- Besides, every word being an idea, the time of a universal language will come. One has to be an Academician, - deader than a fossil -, to bring to perfection a dictionary of any language. Weak-minded people beginning to think about the first letter of the alphabet, would soon rush into madness!

This language will be from the soul for the soul, summing up everything, perfumes, sounds, colours, from the thought latching on to thought and pulling. The poet would define the quantity of unknown awakening in the universal soul in his own time; he would give more - than the formulation of his thought, than the notation of his walking toward Progress! Enormity becoming the norm, absorbed by everybody, he would really be a multiplier of progress!

This future will be materialist, as you see; - Always full of Number and Harmony, these poems will be made to stay. - In fact, it would be still Greek poetry, in a way.

Eternal art would have its function, since the poets are citizens.
Poetry will no longer take its rhythm from action; it will be ahead of it.

These poets will be! When the infinite servitude of woman is broken, when she lives for herself and by herself, the man, - hitherto abominable, - having given her her freedom, she too will be a poet! The woman will find some unknown! Will her worlds of ideas be different from ours? - She will find strange, unfathomable, repulsive, delicious things; we shall take them, we shall understand them.

Meanwhile, let us ask the poets for the new, - ideas and forms. All the clever ones would soon believe that they have satisfied this demand: - It is not so!

* comprachicos: word from "L'Homme qui rit" by Victor Hugo (1869). Children kidnappers who mutilated their victims to make monsters of them and win money with their exhibition.



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