“The Drunken Boat”, analysis of the poem by Arthur Rimbaud

“The Drunken Boat” of poetry and the sober bottom of life

Did the young man from the French Charleville know that he had created a unique work of world literature, which would later become a symbolist anthem? Probably knew. Indeed, the life of Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891) was unusual and seemed to be devoid of common sense. At an age when many talents just entered literature, he had already left it. Rambo managed to write all his ingenious verses before the age of twenty. Then, after analyzing contemporary poetry, he decided that it was better to travel the world and make a living by trading.


In 1871, when “The Drunken Boat” was written, the term “symbolism” did not yet exist in the literary milieu. It was introduced a little later by the French poet Jean Moreas. However, Rimbaud’s writing style, his artistic means and aesthetic principles fully corresponded to the spirit of symbolism. Particularly characteristic in this regard was “The Drunken Boat”.

Surprisingly, at the time of the creation of his masterpiece, young Arthur had not yet seen the sea or the ships, and even more so did not plow bravely sea open spaces. Such an amazing picture was painted by his brilliant imagination. At the same time, “The Drunken Boat” is not a chaotic set of emotions of an impressionable young man. This is a well-meaning and clearly thought out poem, striking not only with the phantasmagoria of events, but also with a wonderful poetic form. The poem is written in strict Alexandrian hexameter.

The ship was intoxicated with freedom and in this whirlwind of feelings completely surrendered to the will of fate. According to the young Rimbaud, in his fast-moving movement through the sea, there is a sense of being, where all feelings are mixed, as positive:
– Skin! Rainbows stretched like bridal reins
and negative:
–  Resembling an island tossing on my sides the quarrels

A ship without a rudder and sails is a magnificent symbol of the poet, who boldly throws himself into the whirlpool of life. He feels himself intoxicated by the boundlessness of space and the unquenchable thirst for wanderings and adventures. The poet seeks to discover unsolved secrets, unknown lands. However, on this way he will find many disappointments, and as a result, fatigue and fatigue. At sixteen years, Rimbaud already knew this perfectly.

– Acrid love has swollen me with intoxicating torpor
– O let my keel burst! O let me go into the sea!

Unfortunately, this happened in the fate of Rimbaud himself. He was thrown out of life by its turbulent current in the prime of life. Then the poet was 37 years old.

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