Study Guide

A Season in Hell Section 6: Song of the Highest Tower

By Arthur Rimbaud

Section 6: Song of the Highest Tower

Lines 152-169

Let it come, let it come
The day when hearts love as one.
 
I've been patient so long
I've forgotten even
The terror and suffering
Flown up to heaven,
A sick thirst again
Darkens my veins.
 
Let it come, let it come
The day when hearts love as one.
 
So the meadow
Freed by neglect,
Flowered, overgrown
With weeds and incense,
To the buzz nearby
Of foul flies.
 
Let it come, let it come
The day when hearts love as one.

  • Instead of verse, chorus, verse, this poetic example Rimbaud-speaker gives us reverses that format: we get chorus, verse, chorus.
  • The refrain about "hearts lov[ing] as one" sets up an expectation of lightness, happiness and unity.
  • That's subverted all too soon in the in-between verses, though.
  • The speaker here has been patient, but also scared and suffering from a "sick thirst." That doesn't sound too good!
  • This state is emphasized in the metaphor of the neglected meadow, which is overgrown and foul flies standby, ready to swoop down.
  • The takeaway? Well, it's not entirely clear, but it seems like a love relationship Rimbaud-speaker is in has gone bad—or is a sort of love-hate-love thing (which would make sense given the previous sections of the poem, especially the references to the "infernal bridegroom").

Lines 170-172

I loved the wilds, scorched orchards; faded shops, lukewarm drinks. I would drag myself through stinking alleys, and, eyes closed, offer myself to the sun, god of fire.
"General, if there's one old cannon left on your ruined ramparts, bombard us with chunks of dried earth. Fire on the windows of splendid stores! Into the salons! Make the city eats its own dust. Oxidise the gargoyles. Fill the boudoirs with burning powdered rubies…"
Oh, the drunken gnat in the pub urinal, in love with borage, that a ray of light dissolves!

  • He's got quite a dislike for civilization and the city, our morose speaker!
  • Where he loves "the wilds" and the "scorched orchards," he seems contemptuous of the shops and drinks. They're not as real to him, but are instead "faded" and "lukewarm" compared to the wilds' "god of fire."
  • Rimbaud-speaker imagines speaking to a general and ordering the destruction of the city, a symbol of the civilization that he seems to detest.
  • He doesn't have that great of an opinion of himself. He compares himself to a "drunken gnat" hanging about a urinal in a stinky old pub. He loves borage (a fragrant plant), but this plant disappears as soon as light touches it.
  • So, pleasures are fleeting and you have to hold onto them while you can. That idea appears to be the main message here.

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