PARIS - AUGUST, 1870 - An incorrigible, horrible genius. A fifteen year-old! disembarks at Rue de Maubeuge. A concussion of uncombed hair infested with a plague of lice. Soiled clothing. A homicidal cupid with the enormous hands of a strangler. A smarmy smirk, perfect skin, a beautiful terror with cherub lips and a pernicious grin. Paris is about to fall and the air is crisp with revolt like the pit of the stomach before a first sexual encounter. Crackling on the skin is the charged abstraction of rebirth that floods the streets and minds with the absolution of seditious acts. Napoleon III is only days from being overthrown, the empire toppling and Arthur Rimbaud treats the skittish police and then the magistrate with "ironic disdain" and is immediately sent to the prison at Mazas in the eastern district of the city, the officers finding the boy’s poems in his coat completely indecipherable.
Rimbaud is swept up along with the banished rebels and dissidents that have returned to the city for a revolt and subsequent looting. Anyone suspicious is immediately detained. The soil so rich and fuming and moist and ready for the outgrowth of new ideas, new conclusions, new leaders sprung from the spontaneous executions of the authorities, administrative officials and appointees like the upsurge of puberty in the newly crowned youth, and like Rimbaud himself too! described by the prefecture as, “without domicile or means of support.”
Manacled and riding through the old avenues in the back of a police carriage, all that Rimbaud has furiously studied comes alive now as he sees everywhere the Medieval narration of the city of Francois Villon's time. All around too is the contemporary descriptions of Victor Hugo's Paris. Raised in the wilds of the Ardennes, his eyes bulging at the modernity in front of him, hands cuffed behind.