Cruelty, Revolution, and Deviance: Rimbaud and Artaud as Ideology Critique

“We have faith in poison.
We will give our lives completely every day.
— Arthur Rimbaud, “Drunken Morning”

“The revolution was in his poetry from the beginning and to the end: as a preoccupation of a technical order, namely to translate the world into a new language.”
— Herbert Marcuse, paraphrasing Breton’s comments on Rimbaud

Confrontation, Subversion, and the Aesthetic Turn

In considering the socio-ethico-political function of art, it is easy to lose sight of art itself. We become so enraptured by classification, hierarchies, theory, and the hermeneutical act itself, that hermeneutics ceases to take place at times. The systematization of art, or the experience of art is beneficial for scholarly purposes, but when one speaks of relating art to society, art must not only transcend its origins and facticity, but also the ideas and presuppositions of art itself perpetuated by academics. The aesthetic schema and social schema are often viewed as totally different organisms that are inextricably linked through some genetic quality: both humanistic, yet one is scientific and the other sensual. Both the scholastic and sensual views of art and society are misconceived and erroneous. Art is not any less technical, specialized, or scientific than psychology, sociology, or philosophy. Yet, at the same time, the humanities (including the aforementioned social and intellectual disciplines) are too often devoid of their artistic legacy. Social analysis has lost its sensuality somewhere along the way in its attempt to perfect theory, and keep in touch with science’s attempt to understand the human being in her/his totality. There are exceptions, such as Bataille, whose aphoristic meditations on sadism, masochism, and morbid eroticism became autobiographical expressions and introspective meditations that related his personal worldview and psychology to his social theory; and Sartre whose later works, like The Family Idiot and The Critique of Dialectical Reason stretched the idea of the historical diary, existential psychoanalysis, and existential authenticity to the realm of Marxist and literary theory. Yet, with the rise of structuralism in the 1960’s and its subsequent influence on postmodernists (for the sake of classification this is what we call them, although most of the thinkers I discuss transcend the term) such as Lyotard and Baudrillard, social and historical theory has become more about system, structure, and binary opposition than human agency or feeling of the world. Both systems of thought have valuable legacies and practical applications within today’s social theory, yet the prevalence of either one over the other effectively negates the structural and critical multiplicity postmodernism itself has exposed. The dialectic between generality and particularity, structure and existence, system and sens is unbalanced and unresolved due to the academic prejudice toward postmodern or post-structuralist theory. To reinvent either method to suit the needs of the other is counterproductive, yet that is the closest thing to a mediation between the two we have seen. The debate lingers on (the fire fed by both sides) steeped in word play and analytical critique, and in the meantime, the capitalist mode of production flourishes as it expands not only globally but ideologically (some say the two are identical). Our attention must switch from theory and methodology (we already have an adequate exposition of the theories and methods proposed by both camps), to praxis and an effective alteration in proletariat consciousness. The attempt to mediate between the anti-existentialism of postmodernism and the humanism of critical modernism or even existentialism itself must lead to action.

Our preoccupation with theory becomes a roadblock in the way to revolutionary or hermeneutical praxis. What I attempt to illustrate here in this essay is how both the hermeneutical–or interpretative–action in art must go beyond mere interpretation or favoritism toward a particular critical methodology. My method of critique is both deconstructive and constructive. It is an attempt to synthesize the tremendous potency of structural analysis in light of deconstruction in conjunction with unfinished modernist project to substantiate claims of validity so that effective, grounded praxis becomes possible. Therefore, hermeneutics must not end in the capturing of meaning, but rather in the moment of power, or of action. In other words, it must function as a method to reveal how art transcends personal expression and becomes a confrontational act; it should function as a negotiation between two positions rather than a determinate affirmation. Once we have reached this point, we can demonstrate the revolutionary function of art without becoming encumbered by arbitrary aesthetic labels like classicism or romanticism. At the same time, it is important to be aware of the play of ideology in aesthetic and social classification as well. It will prove important in our discussion of art as a subversive action.

For purposes of this essay, the revolutionary function of art will be discussed primarily as ideology critique. Ideology critique amounts to the shattering of an illusionary or false consciousness that has been reified in to the subjugated classes so as to prevent any type of class or revolutionary consciousness from being aroused. Furthermore, ideology is expressed through the ways in which we construct social structures (in particular for this work, religion as ideology and politics as ideology). It does so because this false consciousness is built into our media, our morality, our value system, and our psychology (and consequentially, in many cases, our art). In many ways, ideology is a matter of discipline. The disciplinary technique in the play of capitalist ideology is strong. Part of this false consciousness (capitalism) becomes our dominant ideas of normalcy and deviancy related to social activity. As Foucault so brilliantly exposes in Discipline and Punish, our bodies have been turned into objects. Objects not of the phenomenological Other, but of a machine. This atomization, or alienation, turns the body and human existence itself into a place of technical discourse rather than the existential language of authenticity or mood incorporated by, for instance, Heidegger. Beyond these disciplinary techniques are the social structures which discipline is meant to uphold. There is nothing outside of the social structure itself, however. Capitalism has become so firmly entrenched that nothing escapes its vacuous gaze. Within schools, prisons, even the public park nothing is hidden. Panopticism, the idea of being seen, of having presence, has taken premiere importance in our everyday lives. Therefore, what is seen must be controlled.

It is here that two concepts, one aesthetic in a manner of speaking, the other political, become useful in our discussion of ideology and art. The first is confrontation. The clearest articulation of the concept of confrontation in the aesthetic sense is that of Artaud. Furthermore, Artaud’s “theater of cruelty” and its primitive and ritualistic recommendations for the artist stretch beyond the aesthetic realm into the realm of revolution and social change.

Artaud suggests that, in theater particularly, the abolition of the separation between the audience and performer is key. In this way, it becomes possible for the performer to directly confront the spectator. The performer is no longer the object of the spectator, but rather her/his confessor. Theater becomes an interrogation of the person’s own psyche (personal reflection brought on by the action of the performance). The spectator’s emotional response should be induced by a confrontational, violent experience. There should be a disruption of consciousness where, entranced by the performance, there occurs an internal “revolution” of individual consciousness through which the audience member transcends his/her own faculties of reason, submission, and morality, thereby gaining access to subconscious desires and expressing them: power, potentiality, lust, excess, or to sum up briefly, mania and ecstasy. The catharsis for the audience member is not the purging of emotions, but the embrace of those emotions, or the violent collision between desire and repression, facticity and transcendence, consciousness of itself and the visible world and the world of the unseen–the invisible presence of “the want”.

Artaud’s suggestion, however, goes beyond mere shock. Shock can pass one by and be overcome. Artaud believes the audience should be infected as if they were transmitting a plague to one another:

“And just as it is not impossible that the unavailing despair of the lunatic screaming in an asylum can cause the plague by a sort of reversibility of feelings and images, one can similarly admit that the external events, political conflicts, natural cataclysms, the order of revolution and disorder of war, by occurring in the event of theater, discharge themselves into the sensibility of an audience with all the force of an epidemic.”– Artaud, The Theater and its Double

Theater becomes a “plague” which affects the audience in such a way that its entire sensibility changes. This philosophy carried over into a more blatantly political theater with the arrival of Brecht and his Marxist epic theater. He purposely made his plays anti-climactic and refused to allow the audience member to forget that what s/he was watching was merely a play. Brecht achieved this through breaking into song randomly, leaving the theater lights on, and having characters wear signs with the act numbers on their chest, for instance. In this way, the audience member could not be emotionally involved and was forced to view the play intellectually and be affected by its political content. However, I would rather show how art which may not be directly or intentionally political functions in a political way.

It is interesting that in the above quote, for instance, Artaud likens his “plague” to the effect that a lunatic has on the public. If the insane were left to wander the streets, if science and hierarchy had not deemed what we term to be “insane” exactly that, the line between mere eccentricity and absolute delirium would be blurred. It is only through language and classification that such distinctions become possible. So, very much like Foucault in Madness and Civilization, Artaud exposes the marginalization of the “insane”, seemingly without knowing it.

This may be because so much of Artaud’s art likens itself toward magical, deranged imagery. He is an alchemist, turning our perceptions of reality into what they are not, forcing us to confront that which has been excluded from “proper” discourse. Artaud seems to feel that delirium, or distorted and disjointed perception expressed through imagery should be the visual effect of the theater. For Artaud, confrontation is evident in the way true theater “disturbs the senses’ repose, frees the repressed unconscious, incites a kind of virtual revolt … and imposes on the assembled collectivity an attitude that is both difficult and heroic.” (Artaud, The Theater and its Double)

The visual effect (lighting, the imagery constructed within the set itself, costuming, etc.) and the audible effect (speech, shrieking, laughter, screams, sound effects, and the delivery of lines) in Artaud’s theater become unconventional, uncomfortable, and unorthodox. Artaud’s key to the arousal of a certain consciousness is to shock the audience members out of their complacency and so enchant them that this new consciousness is not ephemeral, but lasting and transmittable so that it might infect others. Within Artaud’s own work the characters are blasphemous, crude, offensive, and downtrodden (for example, the blasphemous priest and the whore that bites the wrist of God in Jet of Blood). Artaud’s staunch atheism, drug use, and homosexuality in and of itself creates a shock for the conservative or repressed individual.

Here is where the concept of subversion begins to play itself out. Within Artaud’s theory there is a suggestion of praxis. A performance that shocks, offends, confronts, indicts, and enthralls all at once. At several points in his writing on Occidental theater he uses the word “spectacle” (just leaf through the essay in The Theater and its Double entitled “On Balinese Theater”). But this spectacle is no circus sideshow act. It becomes more than spectacle through its expressive quality and its powers of affectation on the audience. The expressive quality of theater, says Artaud, should be primal, unrestrained, violent, magical… it should be unlike reality. He suggests that themes do not become a matter of “boring the public to death with transcendent cosmic preoccupations.” (Artaud, The Theater and its Double) Rather, the performer should employ masks, ritualism, groans, cries, distorted language, violent imagery, and vile humor to destruct and deconstruct the goals of theater itself, and thus, the audience’s reaction to theater. If we destroy the normalcy of the theater itself, we eliminate the possibility of normalcy in the audience’s reaction. Artaud’s method becomes a matter of turning the “normalizing” or “disciplinary” technique on its head: show what should not be seen. This disruptive praxis then subverts common or “customary morality” (Nietzsche) engendered in the population by bourgeois culture. Artaud’s goal is to distort the face of reality into a cruel, yet comical grimace; to expose to the audience the very primordial desires and potentials that have been repressed in them. Language and symbol become visceral rather than formal. Both romanticism and classicism are rendered insufficient and boring. “Ritual, spectacle, horror, ecstasy; or nothing at all!”, becomes the cry of the performer. It is in this way, through altering the concepts of the real and normalcy, by undermining traditional moral and ethical standards, and vocally expressing the disillusion, repression, and frustration that the masses feel due to their utter lack of freedom, creativity, and satisfaction in the face of an oppressive social structure, that art becomes subversion. Once confrontation has resulted in subversion, and thus the arousal of revolutionary and radical consciousness, praxis has already occurred, and can continue. This is the aesthetic turn. Art turns itself inside out: it ceases to redefine or reinterpret the known and instead, becomes the “mystical key” to revealing the knowable unknown, or the repressed desires of the human heart.

This is one way in which art becomes ideology critique. Artaud’s theory becomes a brilliant example of how we can reclaim the sensuality and creativity that capitalism has stifled in the masses for so long. Religion and its adjacent traditional moral values of charity, submissiveness, and humility are only disciplinary concepts reified into the consciousness of the masses so that they may be controlled, not only by the religious institution, but also by the religious population’s own internal sense of guilt. Here is where the Nietzschean critique proves helpful. It elucidates the social construction of moral values, and furthermore how they engender a “slave morality”. However, the egoism and self-righteousness of master morality is not sufficient either. This world is a will to power, but this is not an allowance for dominance. To disenfranchise another person is an affirmation of weakness. It illustrates that our autonomy is contingent upon our social environment and the people in it; in this case specifically, the marginalized or weak. The presence of the infinite, of Being within all of us than becomes the demand for an ethical relationship. We cannot escape the Look. The face of the Other should not be a tether, but at the same time it should not become a mere object, or means to an end. It is in this way that we must become utterly free, yet totally aware of the Other and our ethical demand to her/him. The Übermensch is the achievement of power for the individual to master her/himself while coexisting with the other. This way, authentically, there is no dominance or control, because each person “rules over” her/himself, and thus reaffirms the ethical relationship.

Rimbaud, Kinesis, and the Critique of Ideology

While Artaud’s theory predominantly spoke of the theater, its scope could be stretched to encompass any art form. In modern times we have seen elements of Artaud emerge in the sado-masochistic photography of Robert Mapplethorpe, the poetry and “heroin lore” of Burroughs, Jim Carroll, and Richard Hell, as well as the particular brand of punk rock that grew out of New York City. At the same time, Artaud’s thought has a rich historical legacy within the French avant-garde itself. Writers like Baudelaire, Lautreamont, Sade, Jarry, and Rimbaud all find some little niche in Artaud’s writing. However, at present I would like to focus on Rimbaud, while some of these other figures shall play a mere supporting role, which, I do realize, is a diminutive role to be played by artists of their talent and importance.

Within Rimbaud’s writing we again find the two important concepts that make social consciousness by way of art possible: confrontation and subversion. Rimbaud’s brand of confrontation is often far more playful and spiteful than Artaud’s, especially in his earlier poetry. It is evident in places that despite its mature subject matter, tone, and talent, these are the writings of a teenager. Even Rimbaud’s last known poem is a poem about soldiers farting (see Paul Schmidt’s edition of Rimbaud’s complete works). The immaturity and brazenness may be obvious in poems such as this, but at the same time there is a scathing and cynical critique of all things deemed wholesome. There appears to be a growing reverence for science, and method, as well as a growing political concern. However, Rimbaud’s concern with method or science became a way of transcending his own bourgeois background. Initially, Rimbaud sought to escape the bourgeoisie by entering the intelligentia and later, after growing disenchanted with the supposed anti-bourgeois intellectual circle of Verlaine, Rimbaud sought to escape his background by forcing the intelligentia to enter into the realm of the “common”, or to borrow a phrase from Dostoevsky, “underground man”.

Rimbaud’s poetry intellectualized and beautified what was traditionally seen as vile. His political concerns also showed a distinct interest in the lower classes, commonly viewed themselves as vile by the French bourgeoisie of the time. Rimbaud drafted his own plan for a communist society, and was sympathetic to the efforts of the Commune itself (Marcuse, Counter-revolution and Revolt). Still, his method in achieving these goals through art was audacious, to say the least.

Rimbaud’s ill-temperedness, his arrogance, and his rancor may be attributed to his youth, but even more, they are a reflection of his headstrong, dissatisfied personality. This is the disillusion, sadness, and bitterness reflected in A Season in Hell. Rimbaud’s mother, we know, was oppressive and attempted to stifle any efforts he made into branching out into writing, especially once he showed an interest in the French avant-garde writers of the time such as Hugo and Baudelaire. Furthermore, Rimbaud never found the freedom and intellectual understanding he desired socially (as is quite evident in his tumultuous relationship with Verlaine. Their conflict began when Rimbaud simply grew bored of Verlaine’s bourgeois sentimentalism and paranoid religiosity). Rimbaud’s restlessness makes him naturally confrontational. With titles like “Confessions of an Idiot Old Man” and “The Wastelands of Love” surely he was prone to offending sensibilities.

However, his sometimes bleak world-view and cynicism is offset by an uncanny affinity for lyrical beauty, the pastoral, and genuine sorrow. His poem “Drunken Morning” from Illuminations especially shows the multi-dimensional perspective and language of Rimbaud. The first stanza praises the “marvelous body” and glorifies the “rack of enchantments”. It serves almost as an invocation…an invocation of his Muse. This Muse is the sensual, the ecstatic, and the manic of the human soul, all that is restless, striving, creative, and anxious. In the second stanza we hear Rimbaud’s sudden and vicious attack of morality as an ideology. He equates morality to a false consciousness, a misrepresented idea of how human behavior should be controlled and labeled.

Let us re-create ourselves after that superhuman promise.
Made to our souls and bodies at their creation:
That promise, that madness!
Elegance, silence, violence!
They promised to bury in shadows the tree of good and evil,
To banish tyrannical honesty,
So that we might flourish in our very pure love
— Rimbaud, “Drunken Morning”

The above passage is very Nietszchean. We have a powerful and individualistic portrait of the human being corrupted by “tyrannical honesty”, striving to bury the “tree of good and evil”. The idea of “tyrannical honesty” hearkens to Nietzsche’s critique of our moral value system. Our valuation of honesty is “tyrannical” because it is a rigid determination, lacking the possibility of modification, alteration, or new understanding (this is reinforced by the Judeo-Christian moral schema). Honesty is “good”. All that is “dishonest” is therefore bad. It is not that Nietzsche is defending malicious lying (although there is an interesting discussion to be had about Nietzsche’s concept of honesty). Rather, he is dissatisfied with the arbitrary determinations made by moralists. Morality demands fluidity. Rimbaud echoes this sentiment in the above passage. Burying “the tree of good and evil” is an obvious reference to overcoming these arbitrary distinctions Rimbaud and Nietzsche both seem to feel stem from Christianity. Both call for the devaluation of values as social standards, so that they might become a matter of people creating values for themselves. In this way, morality becomes more authentic than the fascistic tendencies to marginalize, label, and exclude as “deviants” those people who do not have a distinct, normalized relationship to bourgeois culture.

In the stanza immediately following the above quotation from “Drunken Morning” Rimbaud states that this promise, this vision of humanity has “… ended in the scattering of perfumes”. These perfumes merely cover up the odor of our discontent and our exploitation and dissatisfaction. Rimbaud reflects to us the lies that we accept. He calls for reinvention, for destruction, so that we might transcend our own faulted perception of the world around us. The perfumes are ideology and his “Little drunken vigil, blessed!” is his confrontation. In this way, the poet as seer and as visionary makes art more real than reality. In accentuating his desires and sensuality Rimbaud creates a “real” more honest than the reality we live in now. Our present reality has been reified by ideology, by discipline, and by fear. Our complacency becomes the reason Rimbaud becomes so cynical. As Marcuse says:

True and false, right and wrong, pain and pleasure, calm and violence becomes aesthetic categories within the framework of the oeuvre. Thus deprived of their (immediate) reality, they enter a different context in which even the ugly, cruel, sick become parts of the aesthetic harmony governing the whole.
— Marcuse, Counter-revolution and Revolt

While Marcuse can adequately explain how art, even when it is deviant or unreal, becomes more real than reality, there is a certain hermeneutical tendency to categorize operative in his theory. Marcuse’s Counter-Revolution and Revolt expresses political radicalism yet it champions intellectualism and classicism in aesthetic theory in response to the confrontational nature of much of avant-garde revolt. In his opinion, it is counterproductive to revolution because of the negative reaction it draws from the Establishment. However, in the case of Rimbaud this reaction is what is intended. His intention amounts to disgusting those opposed to him. He is a seer and he wants to reveal his visions to everyone, even if they expose what we would rather not see. He is Jeremiah, the unwanted prophet. In poems like “Cities I” (again in Illuminations) he speaks of cities where “… companies shouted the joys of new labor/ into thick air, restlessly moving/ but never escaping those phantoms come down/ from the heights where we were to have met.” These words are prophetic in light of capitalist globalization and programs like Workfare. More than ever our refusal to confront the Establishment has made us more dependent on the good graces and mock liberalism of representational government.

Again, we have been duped by ideology. This disdain for the complacent masses is illustrated in Rimbaud’s most ironic and sarcastic poem in Illuminations, “Sale”.

For sale-
Anarchy for the masses;
Wild satisfaction for knowing amateurs;
Atrocious death for the faithful and lovers!

And later:

Senseless and infinite flight toward invisible splendor,
Toward insensible delight-
The madness of its secrets shocks all known vice!
The mob is aghast at its gaiety.

Still, Rimbaud manages to find hope despite the cynicism that pervades so many of his views. In “Genie” Rimbaud makes several observations about the potentiality present within the world and humanity. Though the critique of ideology is still present in the mocking sarcasm directed at the idea of custom and tradition (” ‘Away with these ages and superstitions’ “…), he still resonates with hope that someday we may transcend the internal fear, anguish, and external oppression that demeans our very being. He refers to the genie in a messianic tone, proclaiming:

He is affection and the future, the strength and love
that we, standing surrounded by anger and weariness,
See passing in the storm-filled sky
and in banners of ecstasy.

Rimbaud’s messiah is far different than the conception we have of the Judeo-Christian messiah. The genie makes no promises, and his resurrection and arrival is signaled not by a chorus of angels but by “The splintering of grace before a new violence!” which Rimbaud hopes will so shock our being and our consciousness of being that we will learn to “… follow his image,/ his breathing, his body, the light of his day.”

Rimbaud’s subversion exists not only in confrontation itself, but also in resolution. The tension he creates between confrontation and resolution is dialectical in that both the moment of conflict, or the collision, and the resolution of the conflict, the denouement of our confrontation, are abolished before they are completed: they are destroyed, and thus transcended; exploded in consciousness and replaced by the suggestion of praxis. Rimbaud’s notion of praxis or action is founded on movement, motion or change. The “assassin’s hour” is a call for uninhibited, violent action. Not violent in the sense of an emotional release or act of violence, it is violent in its virility, its power, and its self-sufficiency. The explosion of Rimbaud’s dialectical images in the consciousness of the reader or listener combats “the disintegration of the aura in the experience of shock” (Walter Benjamin, “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire”).

Rimbaud’s influence is still felt today within artistic circles which still attempt to challenge the spectator. Patti Smith (and many other artists in the punk movement) take a cue from Rimbaud in their confrontational performance styles and purposefully blasphemous or controversial statements. The rallying cry for the disenfranchised transforms from “For this is the assassin’s hour” into Smith’s exclamation in “Rock n’ Roll Nigger” from the Easter album: “Outside of society, that’s where I want to be”. Even the title of the song itself expresses incredible anger, and purposely tries to touch a nerve by firstly, using a racial epithet to express the disillusionment and alienation suffered by Smith’s generation regardless of race, and secondly to confront society at large with its own capacity for marginalization, hate, and ignorance.

Rimbaud, as well, confronts us with the sordid and uglier side of our nature, our world, and our own private thoughts. The kinesis of Rimbaud’s poetry is substantial motion: generation or decay (hearkening back to pre-Socratic philosophy and poetry of Heraclitus and Empodecles). He moves, effortlessly from the sublime to the depraved, the insane to the methodical, always fluctuating, following the ebb and flow of his own design. Rimbaud’s poetry is polarized between his optimism or messianic-prophetic language and his extreme cynicism or apocalyptic-prophetic language. The imagery and word-play moves between death and life, heaven and hell, cruelty and divine agony. Rimbaud does not fear confronting the reader, as he is not looking for approval from the reader. He wishes to evoke a response to his poetry. In that response to Rimbaud’s audacity, his chiding sarcasm, his visionary and ecstatic language, is precisely Rimbaud’s suggestion of praxis. Hopefully, through pushing the reader to respond to his poetry, the reader finds the potential for action within him/herself; action that ceases to be reactionary and instead becomes the result of personal and possibly even collective initiative. Rather than submit to family pressure, or social tradition, Rimbaud remained iconoclastic in his work. No church, moral code, or government could alter his poetic vision. It is for this reason that Rimbaud is so effective at criticizing these various ideologies–he has no sympathy for or dependence upon them. Arthur Rimbaud lived outside of society and so he was an objective witness to the world that unfolded around him. He did not regret his headstrong or iconoclastic stance, however. He was too in touch with his own creative and sensual impulses to deny himself his own nature. In some ways, he remains outside of alienation through alienating himself (although, this may not be a viable option for everyone; nor am I suggesting it as one). He saw, all too early, the effects of the social order upon the lives of his peers and family. It fostered in him a disdain for the bourgeoisie. Yet at the same time, it fostered frustration in him; not out of hate, but rather disillusion, because he saw the potential for creativity, beauty, and divinity within humanity itself. Rimbaud’s negativism is not a condemnation. It serves a two fold purpose: firstly, to shock the masses into a realization of their own power and creativity, so as to overcome their own complacency and unwillingness to change, express themselves, and question established moral, cultural, and political points of view and secondly, to reaffirm to those already aware of the stifling oppression spawned from capitalism’s tainted seed, that their unrest can be expressed in a productive and meaningful way, through art and therefore also affirming that the possibility of achieving the change they seek lies buried within the system itself and that it is their responsibility to find that possibility and uproot it. Rimbaud’s radical, eccentric, and ecstatic lifestyle was also an affirmation of the possibility of “the good life”; of freedom, joy, and untapped ecstasy. His disillusion and cynicism was not a forgone conclusion. It was merely an honest reaction to the disappointment he faced throughout his life as he attempted to realize in himself and others the happiness that he saw flickering dimly in the eyes of humanity. He attempted to save that ember within each of us by pouring gasoline on the fire. And despite his disillusion and eventual retirement from poetry, one can still find inspiration in Rimbaud’s passion and his uninhibited quest for contentment, personal satisfaction, and a greater understanding of himself, and the people and world around him. His poetry is a monument to his own radical legacy. As he says in his poem “Lines”, the most poignant moment of his last poetic work, of his final epiphanic Illuminations:

When we are very strong-who can hold us back?
And very gay-how can ridicule harm us?
When we are very bad-what can they do to us?
Dress yourself up,
And dance,
And laugh.
I could never throw Love out the window

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