“Shame” is a short poem of twenty lines whose five stanzas are presented (in the original French) in a standard abab rhyme scheme. The poet makes use of an anonymous first-person voice to speak about his enmity for an anonymous other, referred to simply as “him.” Alluding to a rift that has occurred between the poet and his enemy, the poem expresses vividly the poet’s hostile feelings after the separation. Many critics familiar with Arthur Rimbaud’s biography believe that the poem communicates Rimbaud’s angry reaction after his falling out with his close friend and fellow poet Paul Verlaine.
The title of the poem “Shame” obviously refers to a feeling the poet wishes to express or evoke, but it is not immediately clear which persona (“I” or “he”) feels the shame or why it is felt. By his spiteful tone, the poet would have his reader assume that his enemy, “he,” should be feeling shame—presumably because of an injustice the poet has suffered at his enemy’s hand. In any case, if the poet feels shame, it is well concealed behind the exaggerated and almost childish violence he would like to inflict on his enemy.
The poem begins in a grotesque and violent mood, making graphic reference to corporeal mutilation: “As long as the blade has not/ Cut off that brain/ That white green fatty package.” The reader can presume that the poet here is making reference to himself, saying that as long as nobody has...
(The entire section is 484 words.)