Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sunday Scribblings #149: Art(hur Rimbaud / John Keats)


What quietness now my sweet apothecary, what dreams down the fiery ships of autumn? The captain tells me I am lost, amputated tradesman. Would my leg were in your care — a memento, palimpsest of a world’s worry. You would have thought it frozen in Norway, or incinerated in the infernal hell of Aden, not slow cancerous death in the green brown Eden of Harar. Prithee: a lung for a leg; never a problem breathing, too much breath said Verlaine, puking into our absinthe nights.

I could have used you in the Paris barracks, though in truth I do not see you as a scrapping bantamweight, such is the consumptive shroud. Hacks will comb the sands of these sour years of mine, glance once or twice into that muddy lot and run screaming, screaming as I could not, screaming at the mere intimation of what their imaginations have no words for. Not you, my sweet surgeon. Dress me, stableboy; put your commas there, your semicolons, your periods. Stay awhile – smell the horseshit, the wine, the insistent violence. How much imagination must generations lack to miss the bloody words writ large on those barrack walls? Such are the seasons in hell, such is the father of silence.

You least of all would ever ask why to the answer of Africa. There is no wonder. There is no missing link. I would I could have taken you there, and if not burned the viscous rot from your lungs, then delivered you to the spare ground of blackest Islam. I am no saint to love you – the picture of the first communion angelboy was already the portrait of a heretic. I knew no love of family, you who nursed a spectral mother and brother to their deaths. No secret love, no Fanny, my black wife more slave than refuge. Carnage yes, but love? Your dear father fell off his horse, mine rode away. We follow in the steps. Never once seen after the age of six, but still he whispered to me even in the upstairs hovel of Bardey’s while the jackals cleaned the battlements at night, corpses for your rotting morgue.



Blogger GeL (Emerald Eyes) said...

Hi, You write beautifully and with flair. Your strong visuals and narrative style reflect as strongly on me as the gorgeous reflections in that painting.

here's my direct link to the Sun. Scribblings prompt since I no longer have a blog on Blogger.
She is a Palette

8:53 AM  
Blogger anno said...

Yikes! Here is the hot breath of Rimbaud in his final hours -- not just the poetry and the passion, but also that sharp stench of festering decay he probably carried with him from late youth. Unsettling and awful, and I mean that to reflect in the nicest way possible on this excellent prose poem. Does this mean are fully recovered from your own fevered delirium?

4:09 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

GeL: Thank you for your visit. It is all in the obsessions: prominently, Rimbaud's African exile and, secondarily, Keats' early demise.

4:26 PM  
Blogger anno said...

Sorry, I seem to be dropping words this week. What I meant to say was: Does this mean you are fully recovered from your own fevered delirium? I sure hope so.

4:35 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Anno: If memory serves, AR died in our birth month: November 10th, I believe, after much sadness and despair in Marseilles, trying desperately to get back to Harar. There was something so terribly hardened in the fate of his Abyssinian years, this heartbreaking sense that looks almost karmically cleansing to those of us outside his life, but to him was just a relentless defeat of all his schemes to obtain pecuniary immortality. Most biographers (not Borer, though) want to bleed him dry of all poetry at the end, but I keep feeling that the brilliance was still there, spent of the parlor games of poetry, but not spent from an ongoing quest for knowledge and a place in the universe. Inner regions were being mapped and felt, but the journey was no longer for fame or derangement. I could blather endlessly on about AR, not so much for his poetry, as for the eloquence of his silence.

4:37 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

As for me: fully returned, yes. I felt (relative) sanity descend upon me once again Tuesday afternoon.

4:39 PM  
Blogger anno said...

If it's interesting, it's not blather. I'd admittedly fallen for the popular stereotype of Rimbaud as the corrupted slave trader. Sounds like Borer's Rimbaud in Abyssinia might be worth looking at.

6:00 AM  
Blogger Lilibeth said...

Poor guy. I felt for him, but got the feeling that he would only resent it.

6:57 AM  
Blogger present said...

Your beautifully written tribute to Rimbaud sent me searching. I found some interesting sites. One was very strange with an animated Rimbaud reciting poetry.
Does he ever explicitly reveal his reason(s) for not writing? The few reviews I read expressed repugnance (for the person) along with appreciation of his talent.
What fuels your compassion and admiration of his silence?

8:37 AM  
Blogger gautami tripathy said...

I liked reading the reflections.

rough drafting of art

10:28 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Anno: I know I'm repeating myself, but Borer's book is definitely one of my Desert Island books, and Rosemary Waldrip's translations of the poem excerpts within her larger translation of the book itself are far and away the best I have found.

Coming to Rimbaud late, the slave trading aspect would have simply pulled me in further to the mystery of the man. Borer unpacks this issue in ways that other biographers have not, but even Borer is not making the man out to be a saint. It's Borer's quest to show the exile as consistent with the youth we know, and not an aberration or a hideous disjunction, that intrigues me.

12:02 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Nursing a cactus is about right, Lilibeth. Unless you just wanted to write him a check: that he would have gladly accepted, the larger the better. In the latter days, the days of saving. Absinthe days, it woulda been spent.

12:05 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Lord, present, what a question. That's worthy an essay, but I'm not sure I'm up to it.

The high points:

1. As a teacher of writing, what caught me first was his genius in obscurity. This youth who is now sanctified by modern poetry, obscurely scribbling away in his garrets. I think what adolescent Arthur points to is NOT how rare such prodigy is, but how ubiquitous. One of my juniors is herself an amazing Rimbaud, scribbling glorious prose and poetry away in the obscurity of our tiny Instituto, and there are a few others not far behind.

2. The daemon that drives the man, drives him down down into the jackal-ridden streets of Harar, still striving, still, in his own way, striving for the derangement of the senses, but this derangement is fueled not by sex and absinthe and debauchery, but by heat and impoverishment. In his way, perhaps, a desert father...

3. The testimonials to him, even in his obscurity. No longer known as the groundbreaking experimental poet, but the mystique is still there for those who come to know him in completely different circumstances.

4. The tenuous autobiographical connections: he and I both had fathers who walked out of our lives at age six, yet for years we continued to be haunted by their absent presence, finding odd intersections through the years. And just as our fathers have walked away, so, too, did we, from other lives.

5. How do you fill the silence that comes later, after the lights and the notoriety? My early years were conditioned to success and relative "fame" in my own bailiwicks. I expected to be a lawyer, to enter politics, to be "known." At nineteen, I began a resolute, though largely unconscious, journey away from such expectations. I am not the person I thought I was grooming myself to be, not by a long shot. I am, however, much more real, much more grounded in the world around me. Rimbaud starts walking away about the same time: I think, he too, beneath his obsessions with money and security, was excavating down into the rest of him, charting maps of self, maps of continent-sized selves that were as eloquent and moving as the poetry he left behind.

12:33 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Thank you, GT...

12:33 PM  
Blogger Tammie Lee said...

my heart is tender and a bit beat up in reading this exquisite piece.
Then to read through the comments, I wonder at all the different pieces we each take from this. I for one feel thankful in your generous sharing in your comments (as well as those of others). Thankful for more understanding, thankful for open sharing, thankful for the tribe.

10:09 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Thank you for your comments, Tammie. AR is certainly a puzzle: there is more variance across his latitudes and longitudes than what we find with most of us. It takes, perhaps, the eyes of a naturalist to explore the wilderness within him. It's those eyes that you take into the world.

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the bold and the beautiful... FULL STOP
if i go any further i will destory the mood!

i am just being not too vocal :)
loved it

11:09 AM  
Blogger Tumblewords: said...

Entertaining and educational as well. I'm not so familiar with Rimbaud but your words are beautifully written and have surely increased my awareness.

11:58 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Seher's: Welcome and thanks. we're all vocal here!

2:32 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Tumblewords: Thank you again. Rimbaud's life is just one of many obsessions...

2:35 PM  

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