'"Finding the Formula": Perspectives on the One-Liner in Rimbaud's Illuminations'

Gerald Macklin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper considers Rimbaud's predilection for one-line statements in the Illuminations, particularly - but not exclusively - at the end of many of the prose poems. This proclivity is to be found passim in the earlier verse and very conspicuously in Une Saison en enfer. This brings Rimbaud into the tradition of great French writers who have expressed philisophical insights via this very technique - Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, Montherlant, Malraux. The paper begins with a sprinkling of illustrations of the one-liner in the early verse such as 'Soleil et chair', 'Roman'and 'Le Bateau ivre'. It is again seen in operation in the Derniers vers and the famous "lettres du voyant' and is everywhere present in Une Saison en enfer. The expression "Il faut être absolument moderne" in the last chapter of that collection 'Adieu' is typical of Rimbaldian sententiae and the pattern is heavily confirmed in the Illuminations. Here the one-liners can have a philosophical import; can involve self-definition; can be statements of mystery or menace; and can be structural agents in the middle of a poem. The paper considers 'Conte', 'Parade', 'Enfance', 'Vies', 'Matinée d'ivresse', 'Vagabonds' and 'Guerre' to illustrate this variety of functions of the one-liner in the collection. Maxims, moralités, slogans, threats, prophecies - all are versions of the one-liner in these prose poems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)329-342
    JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1996

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: Rimbaud, Oeuvres, Edition de S.Bernard et A.Guyaux, Garnier, Paris, 1987

    G.Macklin 'A Study of Beginnings and Finales in Rimbaud's Illuminations', NEOPHILOLOGUS, vol.68, January 1984, pp.22-36

    S.Briet 'La Bible dans l'oeuvre de Rimbaud', ETUDES RIMBALDIENNES I, ed. Pierre Petitfils, Paris, 1968, pp.87-129

    S.Beckett 'Drunken boat': A Translation of Arthur Rimbaud's poem 'Le Bateau ivre', edited with an introduction by James Knowlson and Felix Leakey, Whiteknights Press, Reading, 1976

    M.Davies Une Saison en enfer d'Arthur Rimbaud, ARCHIVES DES LETTRES MODERNES, Minard, Paris, 1975

    Baudelaire, Oeuvres complètes vol.I, texte établi, présenté et annoté par Claude Pichois, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, 1975

    J-P Richard Poésie et profondeur, Seuil,Paris, 1955

    J.Plessen Promenade et poésie.L'Expérience de la marche et du mouvement dans l'oeuvre de Rimbaud, Mouton, The Hague/Paris, 1967

    Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations, edited by Nick Osmond, The Athlone Press, London, 1976

    A.Kittang Discours et Jeu.Essai d'analyse des textes d'Arthur Rimbaud, Universitets Forlaget/Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, Bergen and Grenoble, 1975

    C.A.Hackett Rimbaud: A Critical Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1981

    P.Lapeyre Le Vertige de Rimbaud. Clé d'une perception poétique, Editions de la Baconnière, Neuchâtel, 1981

    G Macklin 'Perspectives on the Role of Punctuation in Rimbaud's Illuminations', JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES, XX, 1990, pp.59-72

    A.Guyaux Poétique du fragment. Essai sur les illuminations de Rimbaud, Editions de la Baconnière, Neuchâtel, 1985

    S.Bernard Le Poème en prose de Baudeliare jusqu'à nos jours, Nizet, Paris, 1959.


    • one-liner
    • philosophy
    • structure
    • maxim


    Dive into the research topics of ''"Finding the Formula": Perspectives on the One-Liner in Rimbaud's Illuminations''. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this