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1871 __ « Ce qu’on dit au poète à propos de fleurs »
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)
Comment : Ce qu'on dit au poete a propos de fleurs' (To the Poet on the Subject of Flowers) concludes with a striking metaphorand a piece of advice. [...] In the first of these stanzas the poet's body has undergone an amazing transformation: no longer the detached observer, the 'peaceful photographer' of the opening of the poem, the poet's body is directly implicated in the change in production and reproduction. His body has changed. At stake, here, in other words, is not a mere 'thematic' change - the substituting of economic questions for aesthetic or picturesque ones. Instead, in this complex corporeal allegory of technology, the natural and the technological adhere as tightly to one another as they do in neologisms contemporary to Rimbaud like 'steamhorse' or 'horsepower': developed technology is fused with the natural, living creature and from that site will emanate another hybrid, vaguely Whitmanian formation: a song of steel. The human body is permeated with apparatus-like elements not unlike the way, for example, the language of telegraphy is used in popular nineteenth-century scientific texts whenever the nervous system is described. These popular science texts are advertised in the final stanza - 'buy a few volumes by Monsieur Figuier - illustrated - at Hachette's'. Louis Figuier, author of, among other things, “The Marvels of Science”, was the leading scientific vulgarizer of Rimbaud's time. His “La Terre et les mers”, constantly re-edited between 1864 and 1884, was perhaps the most popularly read 'vulgar' geography in France. Figuier was not the only major figure to publish with Hachette; Hachette produced the at-that-time very popular atlases and geographical treatises of Elisee Reclus, atlases which Jules Verne, who also published with Hachette, consulted when he wrote his novels. Rimbaud was to follow his own advice a month later and borrow heavily not only from Figuier, but also from the most libertarian of Verne's novels, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, and from Poe's “Arthur Gordon Pym”, when he composed 'Le Bateau ivre'.”. (Kristin Ross, “Rimbaud and Spatial History”, In New Formations, no. 5, Summer 1988, pp. 53-68)
French comment : « Ce qu'on dit au poète à propos de fleurs » est un poème d'Arthur Rimbaud adressé par le poète à Théodore de Banville le 15 août 1871. Signé du pseudonyme d'Alcide Bava, le poème est constitué de quarante huit quatrains d'octosyllabes à la visée passablement obscure. (Compiled from various sources)
Original excerpt 1 : « V.[...] Voilà! c'est le Siècle d'enfer! / Et les poteaux télégraphiques / Vont orner, - lyre aux chants de fer, / Tes omoplates magnifiques ! / Surtout, rime une version / Sur le mal des pommes de terre ! / - Et, pour la composition / De poèmes pleins de mystère / Qu'on doive lire de Tréguier / À Paramaribo, rachète / Des Tomes de Monsieur Figuier, / - Illustrés ! - chez Monsieur Hachette ! Alcide Bava / A. R. / 14 juillet 1871. »
Original excerpt 2 : « Look! This is the Infernal Age! / And telegraph poles / Will adorn - a lyre that sings a song of steel, / The splendour of your shoulder blades. / Above all, give us a rhymed / Account of the potato blight! / - And, to compose Poems / Full of mystery / - Intended to be read from Treguier / To Paramaribo, buy / A few volumes by Monsieur P'iguier / - Illustrated! - at Hachette's!. »
Urls : http://www.mag4.net/Rimbaud/poesies/Poete.html (last visited ) http://www.amielandmelburn.org.uk/collections/newformations/05_53.pdf (last visited )

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