“Situations have ended sad, relationships have all been bad
Mine have been like Verlaine and Rimbaud
But there’s no way I can compare all them scenes to this affair
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go”
— Bob Dylan, “Blood on the Tracks”
Congrats to everybody who knew the answer. Yes, as one deft commenter guessed, our wayward writers were French: they are Symbolist poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, who were staying at a hotel overlooking Grand Place in the center of Bruxelles, Belgium in July 1873 when their relationship ended ugly.
I don’t speak French but I love it that the plaque above seems to suggest that Verlaine “blessed” Rimbaud with a pistol shot (the verb, I see, actually means “to injure”). It might have seemed like an act of grace to Verlaine, the older and more lovestruck of the two, and in fact the legend that grew around this incident has done nothing to hurt Rimbaud’s mystique. Please note that the plaque pictured above was put up to commemorate Rimbaud, not Verlaine. The fiery young poet was only slightly wounded by the gunshot, but he lost his affection for Verlaine’s whole foolish “scene”, gradually withdrawing from literary Europe to travel the faraway worlds of Indonesia and Ethiopia as a merchant trader, abandoning poetry forever.
The word “infernal” in yesterday’s question was, of course, a clue. Rimbaud had a knack for great titles (“The Drunken Boat”? that just rocks), and one of his signature works is called Une Saison En Enfer, or A Season In Hell.
As for the hint that “one of these writers has a strong presence on Literary Kicks”: in case you didn’t figure this one out, Paul Verlaine is our logo, and has been since the site was born. That’s him on the top left of this page, in a blue absinthe haze.
Rimbaud is probably more popular today than Verlaine (Jim Morrison and Patti Smith have helped to spread the Rimbaud gospel). I’ve always been more partial to Verlaine’s sly, introspective verse. Below is a painting by Henri Fantin-Latour that depicts both poets among a larger group. Verlaine is in the bottom left corner, Rimbaud by his side. This scene would have occurred before the weekend in Bruxelles, obviously.
And here’s a link to the exact spot on Google Maps. The third Litkicks Mystery Spot question will appear on this site soon!