the latin rimbaud


On November 6, 1868, Jean-Nicolas-Arthur Rimbaud, a day boy at the Collège de Charleville in north-eastern France, sat down at his desk, read the few lines of Horace that were printed on the examination paper, and, recognizing the ode, began to develop the theme in a neat hand: “Ver erat, et morbo Romae languebat inerti / Orbilius . . . ”. He had just turned fourteen and already had an enviable ability to banish distractions from his mind. He wrote in the first person, but as though he were writing about somebody else: a schoolboy, wearied by his master’s “assiduous ferule”, allows his mind and senses to be seduced by the burgeoning spring; he lies down on a grassy riverbank and is flown off by a flock of doves to be crowned with laurel and to have his brow inscribed by Apollo with words of flame, “Tu vates eris!” (“You shall be a poet!”). After three-and-a-half hours, Rimbaud handed in fifty-nine almost perfect Latin hexameters, which were deemed worthy of publication in the official Bulletin of the Académie de Douai.

more from the TLS here.