Absinthe as a Lifestyle: Rimbaud and other French Decadents

“For me, my glory is but a humble ephemeral absinthe drunk on the sly, with fear of treason and if I drink no longer, it is for good reason!” – Paul Verlaine

“After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world.” – Oscar Wilde
In addition to Van Gogh, famous absinthe drinkers (make that addicts) include the French poets Rimbaud and Verlaine. A new book by Edmund White, Rimbaud, highlights the affair and drinking habits of these two poet maudits, and the Time’s review of it gives you condensed insight into the poet’s embroiled lives. Rimbaud, left,
“cultivated the lice in his hair and tried to make them jump onto other people; he smashed up heirlooms; he sold his hosts’ furniture to buy gallons of booze, especially absinthe, on which he would proceed to get blotto, waking up in pools of his own merde (one of his favourite words). Finally, he seduced Verlaine, made him abandon his wife and infant child, and led the poor sap off on a sordid set of adventures that culminated, a couple of years later, with an exasperated Verlaine shooting Rimbaud in the wrist and serving a term in prison.”
Also from Parisian society of the time–called Decadent with good reason–we have Edgar Degas’s L’absithe. Intersetingly, the French had no illusions about absinthe’s addictive nature, but rather seem drawn to and fascinated by sin. Absinthe at that time was like heroin chic of the 90s. So despite my earlier denunciation, I can see now where all the cultural stigma, and thus its sinful appeal, stems from. Absinthe was a lifestyle.

4 thoughts on “Absinthe as a Lifestyle: Rimbaud and other French Decadents

  1. I honestly liked your article.
    I’m doing an essay on decadent poetry and you have cleard some points for me.
    So, thank you, and may you write interesting articles!

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