Revealed: Rimbaud, libertine linguist

Translator revisits French poet's work 50 years on and brings to light five unknown compositions

He was the archetypal Romantic figure, a drunken libertine who inspired artists from Picasso to Bob Dylan. But Arthur Rimbaud was more than a poetic pin-up. A new anthology of the French 19th-century poet's work will include five previously unseen verses written in Latin, which show him to have been a gifted classicist.

Since his death at 37, Rimbaud has joined Lord Byron and Thomas Chatterton in the league of poets whose image often eclipses their work. Victor Hugo called him "an infant Shakespeare", though he gave up creative writing at 21 to pursue a life of decadence, indulging his weakness for travelling, drink and drugs. His affair with the symbolist poet Paul Verlaine was made into the 1995 film Total Eclipse starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Now, a new anthology of Rimbaud's work could reassert his reputation as a talented writer. Rimbaud: The Poems has been compiled by the poet and translator Oliver Bernard, whose 1962 translation of Rimbaud's work became in instant classic. Bernard is the elder brother of Jeffrey Bernard, the dissolute Spectator columnist, who inspired the Keith Waterhouse play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell.

Bernard has returned to Rimbaud almost 50 years after his Penguin anthology was published. He has added translations of five poems, which were written in Latin when Rimbaud was 14. Three of these were composed in Latin, and two translated from French into Latin. The new book includes the original and translated versions side by side. Among the new poems are L'ange et l'enfant, (The Angel and the Infant), which has been hailed as an early version of Rimbaud's first poem written in French, Les Etrennes Des Orphelins.

The new book is published by Anvil Poetry Press. Penguin excluded the Latin verses from the 1962 anthology, considering them to be mere "juvenilia". But Bernard said they will be of interest to followers of Rimbaud, as they show the young man's earliest experiments with form and grammar. "It seems to me an interesting speculation about European poetry, how many poets learnt Latin at school, from Chaucer and Rabelais to Auden and Housman and Baudelaire, and what the answer provides on the quality of their syntax, their clarity and their terseness," he said.

Peter Jay, founder of Anvil, said there is still a market for poetry to be published in the original, with a translation alongside. "Penguin seem to be moving in favour of verse translations," he says, "As a poetry publisher and a verse translator myself, I feel that's fine. But that there's still a place for this kind of bilingual edition, the original text taking pride of place with prose translations at the foot of the page."

Anvil is also preparing an edition of Francis Scarfe's Baudelaire in the same format. "The idea is that if you have a smattering of French – or Latin – you can get something from the poems with the aid of the plain translation's safety net, without constantly having to burrow in a dictionary."

Arthur Rimbaud died in 1891, but he was to influence many 20th century artists. Dylan Thomas called himself the "Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive", and fans included Alan Ginsberg, Vladimir Nabokov and Jim Morrison. Eric Cantona, the French footballer, once named Rimbaud as a hero, though this was misinterpreted as Rambo, the Eighties action movie hero, pronounced the same way.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world