"I should have hell for my anger, my hell for pride, - and the hell of sloth; a symphony of hells." - Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell
A symphony of hells...I never thought I would read such a conflicting yet oddly beautiful set of words. When we think of symphony, we think of music, of classical ambiance and the swell of stringed instruments. Yet when I read these words, I see Satan playing a towering brass organ in the 9th circle of Hell (courtesy of Dante, of course).
Rimbaud was a French poet born in 1854 most famously know by beatniks and 1970s psychedelia as having smeared his, ahem, excrement over a Paris cafe at the age of 17. He committed such an oddball and unsanitary act to explain that "flat canvas and oils could not compete with the three-dimensional kaleidoscope of reality." It is no surprise that with such a spirit of youthful revolt, he lost his literary steam at age 25. Yet he continued his drunken escapades and promiscuous lifestyle which ultimately led to his death by cancer at age 37.
My point is not to explore the life of Rimbaud (though a fascinating subject) but to reflect on his youthful wisdom and folly. Though I would never paint the town with my bowel movements, I would also never think to pair symphony with hell or in other words, such light and dark. Was he, in fact, insane? Perhaps but his creativity was the benefactor of his mind's delusions.
All of us have composed our own symphony of hells and each one differs slightly from the last. And as much as we all try to disparage our blasphemous ways, how many of us have thought of embracing our due punishment? Rimbaud faced his demons with guilty rage.
"Satan, you fraud, you would dissolve me with your charms. I demand my due. I demand it! a thrust of the pitchfork, a drop of fire"
The question then begs; would you?