June 19, 2013
Verlaine & Rimbaud, Armed & DangerousOn this day in 1873 Paul Verlaine (pictured) shot Arthur Rimbaud in a Brussels hotel, wounding him in the wrist. Although not yet two years old, their relationship was in such sexual, emotional, financial and absinthe confusion that no specific motive seems relevant, but the Belgian courts were determined to convict Verlaine of assault, and gave him the maximum two-year sentence. Rimbaud's attempts to testify on Verlaine's behalf, and then to withdraw charges, were ignored; condemnations from Verlaine's jilted wife were entertained, as were political charges relayed from Paris. Given even greater sway was the report of the police doctors. This attested, in great anatomical detail, "that P. Verlaine bears on his person traces of habitual pederasty, both active and passive." The police reports on Rimbaud also suggest that, for reasons of rhyme or lifestyle, everyone would have been happier if the two poets had managed to kill each other:
A short while ago, Mme Verlaine went to look for her husband to try to bring him back. Verlaine retorted that it was too late, that they could not live together again and that in any case he was no longer his own man. "Married life is abhorrent to me," he cried. "We love each other like tigers!" And, so saying, he bared his chest in front of his wife. It was bruised and tattooed with knife wounds administered by his friend Raimbaud. . . . Discouraged, Mme Verlaine returned to Paris.
Yes, my eyes are closed to your light. I am an animal, a nigger. But I can be saved. You are fake niggers; maniacs, savages, misers, all of you. Businessman, you're a nigger; judge, you're a nigger; general, you're a nigger; emperor, old scratch-head, you're a nigger: you've drunk a liquor no one taxes, from Satan's still....
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