RIMBAUD, Jean Nicolas Arthur (1854-1891). Autograph manuscript signed ('A. Rimbaud') of a sonnet, 'Vénus Anadyomène', n.p. [Charleville], 27 July 70, fourteen lines of verse, the title written with a flourishing 'V' at the head, dated in minuscule writing at the foot beside the signature and paraph, one page, 8vo (slightly browned, worn in right hand and bottom edges, small split in central horizontal fold, repaired with tape on verso).
RIMBAUD THE BRILLIANT: the original manuscript of one of Rimbaud's earliest and most provocative works.
'Comme d'un cercueil vert en fer blanc, une tête
De femme à cheveux bruns fortement pommadés
D'une vielle baignoire émerge, lente et bête,
Montrant des déficits assez mal ravaudés ... '
The youthful poet describes the flaws of this extraordinarily unattractive figure, hinting at unspeakable peculiarities -- 'On remarque surtout Des singularités qu'il faut voir à la loupe', concluding mercilessly, 'la large croupe Belle hideusement d'un ulcère à l'anus'.
Written when Rimbaud was still a schoolboy and experimenting with new styles, the poem has been described as 'an irregular and lopsided sonnet, in which the Parnassian ideal of pagan beauty underwent a revolting transformation', and a work of poetic self-destruction and anarchy (Forestier); and as 'incontestablement l'un des poèmes les plus provocateurs de la langue française'. One interpretation of it is that the degradation of the woman is a metaphor for the fate of Paris in the Franco-Prussian war which had just erupted (S. Murphy. Premier Rimbaud, 1991, page 189). It was first published in the collection Reliquaire-Poésies in 1891.
The present manuscript is the original and earliest known version of the work, given by Rimbaud to Georges Izambard (1848-1931), who taught him literature and rhetoric at Charleville in 1870 and introduced him to the works of contemporary poets. On 18 July 1870 Izambard left on holiday for Douai, and the following day France declared war on Prussia. Rimbaud, disliking the restrictive milieu of Charleville, left in August for Charleroi, then Paris where he was arrested, and rescued by Izambard with whom he went to Douai, where he copied out (for possible publication) the verses he had already composed. At the end of September he gave most of the manuscripts to Paul Demeny, whom he had met through Izambard. A second autograph manuscript of the poem, signed but undated, is in the British Library (Zweig manuscript 181). The text of the present manuscript is identical to that in the album except that lines 7 and 8 appear in reverse order.
E. Starkie. Rimbaud (1965)
G. Robb. Rimbaud (2000)
Forestier, ed. Oeuvres Complètes, Correspondance (2004)
S. Murphy. Premier Rimbaud (1991)