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Eternity - Analysis

VERY Quick Analysis Eternity

(Arthur Rimbaud, F.C. St. Aubyn)

... The six quatrains of five-syllable lines reveal a varying rhyme scheme with the sixth quatrain repeating the first. The claim is that eternity has been rediscovered at the moment the sea disappears in the fading light of day. Eternity is, after all, made up of an infinite number of such evanescent moments. With our soul as witness we must avow that the night into which the sea and sun disappeared is nothing, first, because we sleep through it, unaware that time has passed, and second, because we know nothing of the final night into which we all disappear which is for us a nothingness. The day is on fire with the light of the sun from which no one escapes. The soul wrenches itself free from the emptiness of human praise and the futility of the pitiful bursts of enthusiasm we all share and soars according to its whim anywhere out of this world, in eternity for example. Only in the satiny glowing embers of the sun does Duty find an expression without end, because where the sun is concerned there is no “at last,” only a “forever.” At that moment there is no hope in life or in religion ... In our human condition and with our knowledge and patience we know that suffering is inevitable and eternal, our life but the moment the sea disappears with the sun in the day of eternity. The poem is another of Rimbaud’s minor miracles. ...


(The Design of Rimbaud's Poetry, John Porter Houston)

The poet passes beyond the barrier of temporality and the recollection of the world of mankind...

1st Stanza - Air and sea, eternity and endless space fuse together in this vision of summer light. The curious use of the past participle of aller is particularily remarkable in the way it suggests the movement of the seascape out toward infinity. The imagery of light is further developed in subsequent stanzas.

2nd Stanza - The soul in its tower has come to an end of its lonely vigil: the brief summer night has vanished as well as time, and the poet has realized the one ultimate truth which is the sun. Lightness is associated with sunshine, and in this purification by fire the poet soars over mankind.

3rd-6th Stanzas - Fire is also, however, symbolic of rigor, and the poet's experience of illumination is not a banal ecstasy but a timeless, sustained trial--free from hope in the future as from regret for the past.

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