The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Seven-Year-Old Poets” is a narrative poem composed of sixty-four Alexandrines (the classical French line of verse containing twelve syllables) arranged in rhymed couplets and in four loosely formed stanzas of four, twelve, fourteen, and thirty-four lines respectively. Written in 1871, when Rimbaud was sixteen, it exemplifies the poet’s unique vision of reality, one that depicts a young boy’s yearning for creative and sensual freedom through the written word.

The first stanza expresses the child’s relief as his Bible lesson comes to an end, the book being closed by “the Mother,” his own, who has been reading aloud. She is self-satisfied in her religious devotion but fails to read in her son’s blue eyes that his soul is “filled with revulsions.”

The second stanza reveals the secrets of the child’s intimate life. Obedient all day, he sometimes shows nasty habits that are symptomatic of his inability to repress his true desires. Passing through the halls at school, he sticks out his tongue, his fists clenched, ready for revolt. In the summer, he locks himself up “in the coolness of latrines,” where he reflects and revels in the smells.

The third stanza continues the description of the child’s activities, now in winter. In the garden, the poet lies in the dirt at the foot of a wall, squeezing his eyes until he sees visions. His only friends are raggedy children, “stinking of diarrhea” and conversing...

(The entire section is 532 words.)