Rimbaud S Drunken Boat Essay

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When considering the importance of literature from the 19th century based on its value as a precursor of 20th century values, Arthur Rimbaud's poem The Drunken Boat stands out. His symbolist contemporaries all made significant contributions through their development of the symbol as a means to evoke particular emotions and their progression of language. Where Rimbaud stands out among his contemporaries is in his theme that permeates The Drunken Boat, a theme that is as much a precursor of things to come as it is a bridge to 20th century ideals. The radical changes of the 20th century, the contradiction of forces, the deconstruction of language, the doubt permeating all aspects of life, are all hinted at in Rimbaud's piece, making The Drunken Boat a truly timeless poem capable of bridging the gap between the two different eras. Upon an initial reading, the poem appears to be the history of a commercial boat that has seen much use around the world. Relying heavily upon the suggestive power of language, the poem vacillates beneath the surface between nostalgia, and something darker and more desolate at the end. Rimbaud places an emphasis upon the symbol as a means to evoke the mystery of language itself, rather than to refer to some subjective consciousness or some objective, material world. The symbol is used as a point of convergence for these unspoken things and remains deliberately ambiguous but resonant. The images created through the poet's retelling of experiences use symbols to convey their emotions. It is in the closing stanzas of Rimbaud's poem, however, that the utter hopelessness of 19th century life seems to overcome the poet, and his tone shifts from one of casual nostalgia to despair. Rimbaud's boat has seen many wonderful and exciting things, from "the low sun... Lighting with far flung violet arms," to "fantastic Floridas" (Rimbaud 1174).
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