French List: Le Bateau Ivre

The important stuff: This very long poem was written in 1871 by a 16 year old Arthur Rimbaud (translated as “The Drunken Boat”)
What it’s about in a nutshell: At first read, it seems like a poem about a boat on the ocean during a storm.  If you look more closely though, it’s can also be interpreted as a symbolic poem about the author.
Why you should read it: It is insane that Rimbaud wrote this poem when he was just 16.  The writing is stunning-the drunken boat is on the ocean during a storm, and it definitely captures that feeling.  The drunken boat can also be seen as a person, maybe Rimbaud himself, and the rough waters seen as the ups and downs of life.
*painting of le bateau ivre by Jean-Pierre Chaffrey


About Kelly

Hi! My name’s Kelly. I’m a twenty-something gal from Buffalo, NY. Mom to a little dog named Peabody and a slightly evil cat named Archie. Engaged to the best dude ever. I love books and craft beer! I also love all things France and francophone and have a degree in French Language and Literature from Buffalo State College. My blog used to be called Kelly’s France Blog, but I finally decided it needed a change because I wasn’t posting about French things nearly as often as I used to! You can still see all my imported posts on A Book and a Beer, or you can visit my original blog at
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4 Responses to French List: Le Bateau Ivre

  1. Jeanie says:

    You know, I keep reading/hearing about Rimbaud. But I've never actually read one of his poems till now. You're right — 16? Staggering.

  2. Indeed it is astonishing that he wrote this poem at the age of 16! But better to simply admire and not to envy …

    Ce poème pourrait aussi être lu comme une exclamation des sentiments “anarchiques,” qui ont menés au Paris Commune de 1871. Dans cette manière, le dernier strophe souligne sa rejette finale des valeurs conservatives.

    Mais je crois que ce qui donne la vrai puissance, c'est la mulitiplicité des interprétations… pour moi, j'apprécie le plus comment le poème est une symbole pour la vie de l'artiste 🙂

  3. Kelly says:

    Je suis d'accord avec vous 🙂 J'adore qu'il y a beaucoup d'interpretations du poeme. C'est jamais ennuyeux.

  4. Kelly says:

    I highly recommend him 🙂 He's my favorite poet. I prefer reading him in French because I think something is always lost in translation, but I know there are some great translations of his work out there as well.

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