'Rimbaud Mystificateur: Distancing the Reader in the Illuminations'

Gerald Macklin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    The paper shows how Rimbaud sets up an ambiguous relationship with his readers and displays a desire to mystify and bemuse them. He sets himself up as an oracular figure who keep us at arm's length and revels in the role of mystificateur baffling his readership with regularity. Three poems from the Illuminations - 'H', 'Parade' and 'Matinée d'ivresse' - present themselves as riddles which invite one to decode them. Earlier poems like 'Voyelles' illustrate his playful refusal do divulge secrets and in the case of 'H' we are explicily asked by the poet to find a solution to a puzzle - "trouvez Hortense." As with the symbolic significance of the vowels, here we have the letter 'H 'put before us in all its enigmatic and mysterious associations. 'Parade' offers a further example of this process and the last line "J'ai seul la clef de cette parade sauvage" underlines the poet's superior knowledge and insight. The poem is thus a willed mystification on the part of Rimbaud and in 'Matinée d'ivresse' the final italicized term "Assassins" reverberates in all its etymological depth and undercuts any sense of confederacy between poet and readers. He constantly hovers on the frontier bewteen intimacy and distance, explaining and mystifying.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)8-12
    JournalFrench Studies Bulletin
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1995

    Bibliographical note

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

    N.Wing Present Apperances:Aspects of Poetic Structure in Rimbaud's Illuminations, Romance Monographs Inc., University of Mississippi, Mississippi, 1974

    Arthur Rimbaud Illuminations ed. by Nick Osmond, Athlone Press, London, 1976

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

    R.Little 'Rimbaud's 'H'', FRENCH STUDIES BULLETIN, no. 7, 1983, pp.9-10

    R.G.Cohn The Poetry of Rimbaud, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1973


    • mystification
    • prose poems
    • reader
    • riddle


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