To Georges Izambard*
 Charleville, 13 May 1871

Cher Monsieur!

You are an Academic again. You have told me we owe a duty to Society. You belong to the professorial body: You move along in the right track. I also follow the principle: Cynically, I am whoring myself. I track down washed-up imbeciles from school: I feed them whatever I can invent that is stupid, filthy, base in deeds and words. They pay me in beer and absinthe. Stat mater dolorosa, dum pendet filius. My duty is to Society, that is true–and I have it right. You too are right, for the time being. In reality, though, all you see in your principle is subjective poetry: Your obstinacy in feathering your academic nest–excuse me–proves it. You will always end up a self-satisfied man who has done nothing because he ultimately wanted nothing. Not to mention that your subjective poetry can’t help but be pathetically insipid. One day, I hope–many others do hope the same thing–I will see objective poetry according to your principle, I will see it more sincerely than you ever could! I will be a worker: This idea holds me back when rage pulls me to the battle of Paris–where so many workers are dying as I write you! Work now? Never, never. I am on strike.

Presently, I am abasing myself as best I know how. Why? I want to be a poet, and I am working to become a seer: You will not grasp this, and I don’t know how to explain it to you. It is a matter of achieving the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. The sufferings are terrific, but one has to be strong, one has to be born a poet, and I know I am a poet. I bear no responsibility for it. It is wrong to say: I think. One ought to say: I am thought. Pardon the pun.

I is another. Too bad for the wood if it wakes up as a violin– and screw the rock-brains who prattle on in their ignorance!

You are not a Professor to me. I gift you this: Is it satire, as you would say? Is it poetry? Is it fantasy, and so on, forever. But I beg you, do not mark it with your pencil or too much with your thought.

My sorry heart drools at the poop,
 My heart slathered with tobacco-spit:
 They spew streams of soup at it,
 My sorry heart drools at the poop:
 Under the jeers of the cops,
 Who break out in guffaws,
 My sad heart drools at the poop,
 My heart slathered with tobacco-spit!
Ithyphallic and cop-like,
 Their jeers have perverted it!
 On the rudder you see frescoes
 Ithyphallic and cop-like.
 O waves of abracadabra,
 Shelter my heart, let it be cleansed!
 Ithyphallic and cop-like,
 Their jeers have perverted it.
When they have exhausted their quid,
 How will I act, O pilfered heart?
 There will be Bacchic hiccups,
 I will retch from the gut,
 If my heart is perverted:
 When they have exhausted their quid
 How will I act, O pilfered heart?
This means nothing.

Respond to me care of M. Deverrière, for A.R.

Warm greetings,
 Arth. Rimbaud


* Georges Izambard (1848-1931) was a teacher at the Collège de Charleville, in Charleville, France. He taught Arthur Rimbaud. Clearly, Rimbaud’s was a case of an erstwhile student leaving school in the dust! 

– Kent Johnson