Words on the Street
Scatological Seine poem
Inscribed on the ceiling of an archway near Pont Neuf is a verse by 17th-century poet Claude Le Petit, from his collection Paris ridicule.
In the poem, Le Petit satirizes the newly-constructed Pont Neuf as a rickety magnet for rogues and a viewing platform for the sewage-laden waters of the Seine. He ponders the difficulty of knowing whether the bigger beasts are on the bridge or under it.
Such scandalous verses could only have fanned the flames when the 23-year-old poet was burned at the stake for being an atheist and—worse—for insulting the aristocracy. He was granted the favour of first being strangled.
Rimbaud and the Naughty Fellows
Speaking of épater la bourgeoisie . . .
Arthur Rimbaud’s long poem “The Drunken Boat” is calligraphed along a narrow Left Bank street. An inscription commemorates the 17-year-old Rimbaud’s recitation of the poem at an infamous 1872 meeting of Les Vilains Bonshommes (The Naughty Fellows) at a nearby restaurant.
The decorous members of the literary and arts club were scandalized by Rimbaud’s vertiginous imagery, by turns sublime (“golden birds” in “delirious skies”) and disgusting (“bluish wine stains and splashes of vomit”).
In turn, the enfant terrible, appalled by the genteel verses of the Naughty Fellows, threw a violent tantrum shouting “Merde! Merde!”
Thus did Rimbaud’s brief association with the Naughty Fellows come to a suitably catastrophic end.
You are here . . .
Monumental mural helps you navigate the labyrinthine streets of the 13th arrondissement. Or not, if you like wandering aimlessly like a good flâneur.
On a ceramic map, Étienne de la Hire points out your location.
Voodoo doll graffito tells you who you are, too.