Updated:
Original:
Year
1853
Month Day
October 20

French poet Arthur Rimbaud is born

On October 20, 1853, Arthur Rimbaud is born in Charleville, France. His father, an army officer, deserted the family when Rimbaud was six. Rimbaud was a brilliant student, and his first poem was published in a French review when he was 16. The following year, he rebelled and ran away to Paris. He joined the National Guard briefly during the Franco-Prussian War but quickly left to wander northern Paris and Belgium. He was captured by police and returned to his home.

Meanwhile, Rimbaud was writing poetry. He had concluded that poets must break through conventional morality and restraint in order to explore human experience. He sent some of his poems to Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, who sent him money to travel to Paris and stay with him and his wife. Verlaine and Rimbaud became lovers, and Verlaine left his wife in 1872 for Rimbaud. That year, Rimbaud published his first book, New Poems. Verlaine and Rimbaud quarreled, and after a fight in July 1873, Verlaine shot Rimbaud in the wrist and was sentenced to two years in jail.

Rimbaud published A Season in Hell in 1873, and Illuminations in 1886. Most of his best poems were written before he was 20. He spent the last decade of his life roaming Africa and the Middle East. In 1891, he contracted gangrene and died in Marseilles, France.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Dick Fosbury flops to an Olympic high jump record

On October 20, 1968, 21-year-old Oregonian Dick Fosbury wins gold—and sets an Olympic record—when he high-jumps 7 feet 4 1/4 inches at the Mexico City Games. It was the first American victory in the event since 1956. It was also the international debut of Fosbury’s unique jumping ...read more

Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is killed

On October 20, 2011, Moammar Gadhafi, the longest-serving leader in Africa and the Arab world, is captured and killed by rebel forces near his hometown of Sirte. The eccentric 69-year-old dictator, who came to power in a 1969 coup, headed a government that was accused of numerous ...read more

Mao’s Long March concludes

Just over a year after the start of the Long March, Mao Zedong arrives in Shensi Province in northwest China with 4,000 survivors and sets up Chinese Communist headquarters. The epic flight from Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces lasted 368 days and covered 6,000 miles, more ...read more