Study Guide

A Season in Hell Section 11: Farewell

By Arthur Rimbaud

Section 11: Farewell

Lines 273-274

Autumn already! – But why regret an eternal sun, if we are engaged in discovering the divine light – far from races that die with the seasons.
Autumn. Our ship towering in the motionless fog turns towards the port of poverty, the enormous city with a sky that's flecked with fire and mud. Ah! The rotting rags; the bread soaked with rain, the drunkenness, the thousand loves that have crucified me! She'll never have done then, this ghoulish queen of millions of souls and corpses who will be judged! I see my skin ravaged again by mud and pestilence, worms filling my hair and my armpits, and bigger worms in my heart, stretched out among ageless unknowns, without feeling...I might have died there...Horrible imagining! I detest poverty.

  • OK, the speaker's really going now. Heck, he even titled this section "Farewell." This must be the end of his ranting, right?
  • Right?
  • Well, just a few more points to make before he goes. It appears to be autumn for the speaker now. Time sure flies for this guy. Still, the path of time shouldn't worry folks who are in pursuit of ageless wisdom.
  • The speaker moves on to a complex series of images to describe poverty. In a nutshell: it's no good. The speaker imagines is to be a metaphorical queen who makes poor people's lives miserable, including his own.
  • (Historical note: Rimbaud wrote this poem in a dilapidated barn on his parents' farm, so that might have colored his feelings in these lines.)

Lines 275-280

And I fear winter because it's the season of comfort!
– Sometimes I see limitless beaches in the sky covered by white nations full of joy. A great golden vessel, above me, waves its multicoloured flags in the morning breeze. I've created all the feasts, all the triumphs, all the dramas. I've tried to invent new flowers; new stars, new flesh, new languages. I believed I'd gained supernatural powers. Ah well! I must bury my imagination and my memories! Sweet glory as an artist and story-teller swept away!
– I! I, who called myself magus or angel, exempt from all morality, I'm returned to the soil, with a task to pursue, and wrinkled reality to embrace! A peasant!
Am I wrong? Is pity the sister of death, for me?
Well, I shall ask forgiveness for nourishing myself with lies. Let's go.
But no friendly hand! And where to find help?

  • So, autumn is no fun for the speaker. Maybe he's into winter, with its fun holidays and hot chocolate and snowball fights?
  • Yeah, no. He hates winter just as much. He describes is as too comfortable for his liking. (Maybe he should try turning off the heat and rocking a tank top.)
  • The speaker describes the glorious possibilities of his imagination as a writer, but soon enough he's knocked right back to the dirty Earth like a peasant.
  • He plans to ask forgiveness for getting so wrapped up in his fantasies, but it looks like there's no one around to ask—or to help him, either. Sniff.

Lines 281-284

Yes, the present hour is very severe at least.
Since I can say the victory is won: the gnashing of teeth, the hissing of flames, the pestilential sighs are fading. All the foul memories are vanishing. My last regrets flee. – My envy of beggars, brigands, friends of Death, all sorts of backward ones. – Damned ones, if I revenged myself!
It's necessary to be absolutely modern.
No hymns: hold the yard gained. Harsh night! The dried blood smokes on my face, and I've nothing at my back but that horrible stunted tree! ...Spiritual combat is as brutal as the warfare of men: but the vision of justice is God's delight alone.

  • Yes, Shmoopers, things are rough for our speaker alright, but what's this? Maybe things are looking up.
  • He seems to sense a kind of victory. At least his bad memories and regrets are leaving him.
  • He needs to "absolutely modern," and live in the now.
  • It's been a brutal slog, and there's not much to celebrate about his big win here (what with all the dried blood and destroyed tree-life). Still, he doesn't want any religious help ("No hymns") to make things better. Nor will he get any sense of justice—that's for God to enjoy.

Lines 285-286

Still, now is the eve. Let us receive every influx of strength and true tenderness. And at dawn, armed with an ardent patience, we'll enter into the splendid cities.
What did I say about a friendly hand? One real advantage, is that I can smile at old false loves, and blast those lying couples with shame – I've seen the hell of women down there: – and it will be granted me to possess truth in a soul and a body.

  • It's nighttime. The speaker plans on better things to come in the dawn.
  • He's still alone, but hey, at least he's got a few things going for him. Thing 1: he can laugh about folks he once thought he loved, and at couples who lie. Take that, everyone.
  • Thing 2: he's got a glimpse of "the hell of women" and that will help him attain some measure of truth.
  • (Biographical note: Rimbaud wrote this after a bad break-up with fellow French poet, and fellow man, Paul Verlaine—check out "In a Nutshell." The "hell of women," then, may have added significance as he's pondering an ex-boyfriend here.)

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