Two cursed poets consumed by a forbidden love that would lead them from overwhelming joy to nightmare: Verlaine eventually tried to assassinate Rimbaud and was sent to jail. Due to this tragic event, nothing would ever be the same : Rimbaud quit writing and became a soldier in the desert, in search of an unlikely fortune, while Verlaine sought refuge in Christianity. Their letters allow us to witness not only their raging passion but also their poetic genius: a testimony to their last encounter.
Transcript: 4 and 5 July 1873
Come back, come back, my dear and only friend, please come back. I swear I'll be good. If I was grumpy with you - it was just a silly moment where I was being stubborn - I'm more sorry than I can say. Come back, it will be completely forgotten. What a pity that you actually believed this nonsense. I have not stopped crying for two days. Come back. Be brave, dear friend. Nothing is lost. You just have to travel again. We will be together again, courageously and with patience. Ah! I beg you. Furthermore it’s for your good. Come back, you will find all your things here. I hope you now know that there was no truth in our discussion. That awful moment! But you, when I showed signs I was leaving the ship - why weren’t you coming? We lived together for two years only for it to come to this! What will you do? If you do not want to come back here, do you want me to come and find you wherever you are? Yes it was I who was wrong. Oh! Please say you do not forget me, do you? No, you cannot forget me.
For myself, I always have you with me. Please say, answer your friend, does it mean we should no longer live together?
Be brave. Answer me quickly. I cannot stay here much longer.
Just listen to your own good heart. Quick, tell me if should I join you. Yours for all life.
Quick, please answer: I cannot stay here any later than Monday night. I have not a penny yet; I cannot put anything in the post. I gave Vermersch your books and manuscripts. If I am not to see you again, I will join the navy or the army. Oh please come back, every hour I cry anew. Tell me to find you again, I will come, tell me, telegraph me - I must leave Monday Night, where are you going? What do you want to do?
Later, Arthur Rimbaud continues:
Dear friend, I have your letter, dated "At Sea." You're wrong this time, and very wrong. First, there is nothing positive in your letter: your wife will not come, or will come in three months or three years, what do I know? As for giving up the ghost, I know you. So you are going to, waiting for your wife and death, struggle, to drift about, annoy people. What? You - you have not yet recognized that anger was as wrong on one side as it was on the other! But it is you who were in the wrong last, because even after I reminded you, you persisted in your false feelings. Do you think your life will be more enjoyable with others than with me? Think about it! - Ah! Certainly not! – Only with me can you be free, and since I swear to be very nice in the future and that I deplore my share of wrongs, that finally I am clear-headed, that I like you, if you do not want to come back, or for me to join you, you are committing a crime, and you will regret this for MANY YEARS, through the loss of all freedom, and troubles more atrocious maybe than all that you have experienced. After that, think of what you were before you knew me. As for me, I am not going back to my mother. I am going to Paris. I will try to be gone Monday Night. You will have make me sell all your clothes, I cannot do otherwise. They are not sold yet, it will be Monday morning before they will be collected from me. If you want to send me letters in Paris, send them to L. Forain, 289 rue St-Jacques, for A. Rimbaud. He will know my address. Of course, if your wife comes back, I will not compromise you by writing to you - I will never write. The one thing that is true is: come back, I want to be with you, I love you. If you listen to that, you will show courage and a sincere spirit. Otherwise, I pity you. But I love you, I send you a kiss and we'll see each other again.
Rimbaud. 8 Great College... etc... until Monday night or Tuesday noon, if you call for me.