ON THIS DAY: September 24

ON THIS DAY: September 24

ON THIS DAY IN TEENAGE HISTORY (1871), sixteen-year-old Arthur Rimbaud arrived in Paris from the provinces of France on an invitation from poet Paul Verlaine. “Come, dear great soul,” Verlaine had written to the brilliant teenage poet he’d never met. “We await you; we desire you.” That year Rimbaud wrote “The Drunken Boat,” a poem The New York Times has called “arguably the single greatest French lyric poem of the 19th century.” The young Rimbaud was no gentle soul: one journalist called him “a disreputable, mean, ruthless, perverse, hateful wretch” and “one of the greatest poets who ever lived.” Despite his rudeness, Rimbaud was initially popular in the salons of Paris: aging author Victor Hugo called him a “Shakespeare enfant.” Rimbaud wrote another masterpiece, “A Season in Hell,” but was done as a poet at twenty-one. He spent many years in Africa as a small-time trader and gunrunner and died at age thirty-seven.

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