Poet Arthur Rimbaud was born on October 20th, 1854 in Charleville, France at 6:00 a.m.* One of the most influential literary voices of his time, Rimbaud’s work infused the Symbolist movement with heady doses of proto-surrealism, composing works at once immediate, passionate, modern, bespeaking dreams, derangement, violence, utopia. Blending abject misery with a sense of the divine, rooted in the senses, expressed by both intellect and heart, Rimbaud’s work is truly in a class of its own. In his late teens he ran away from home, escaping to Paris, where he devoted himself his works vigorously, and with great rigor. His young life was punctuated by a torrid, complicated affair with poet Paul Verlaine, a man nearly thirty years his senior.
Possessed of a drive for new sensations, Rimbaud spent his late teens at his writing, only to stop completely at the age of 21. His great work Illuminations, has influenced the imaginations of countless poets after him. His legacy is that of the poète maudit visionary, enfant terrible, inspiring outsiders, musicians, dreamers of all varieties, to follow him into his ethereal realm where, with knife-like precision, he weaves language into flamboyant, ecstatic compositions.
In his early twenties, Rimbaud abandoned literary life, choosing to pursue adventure and commerce as a gun runner in Africa. This is one of the strangest and most inexplicable changes of course in literary history, given the quality and promise of his work as a young genius. To perhaps better understand this, let us now take a look at his stars for an in-depth exploration of the astrological spirit of the dark flaneur.
Rimbaud is a Libra in triplicate—Sun, ascendant, and Moon. The chart is ruled by Venus, for she is the ruler of Libra. Goddess of surfaces, pleasure, aesthetics, resources, Venus sits in House 12, domain of the ineffable. That the three major initiatory components of the natal chart, Sun, Moon and rising, are all located in Venus-ruled Libra is represented in Rimbaud’s work, not merely for its beauty, but for its passionate connection to the senses. His works often seethe with sensory overload and synesthetic linguistic merging. At once sacred and profane, pure and filthy, high and low, Rimbaud traverses the road between heaven and hell, in seeming pursuit of the most intense articulation of sensory experience possible. And it’s not only his intensity of the senses that is noteworthy, but we must also recognize the importance of the derangement of the senses for Rimbaud and his work.
That Rimbaud’s chart ruler sits in the 12th House is fitting, for the 12th House is associated with the order of the real, Dionysian unity, ecstasy, madness, cosmic beauty, wild music, prisons, intoxication addiction, the eternal and the divine, trances, suffering, the sea. With the chart ruler in House 12, these themes are emphasized, more strongly felt. If in the 12th House we see the fragmentation of the ego, we can think of Rimbaud’s famous quip, “Je est un autre,” “I is another.” The perfect expression of the disorganization of the ego, this sentence and its purposeful grammatical disjuncture seems to emanate from the 12th House. Venus is the planet of the senses, aesthetics and sensory experience. The fact that it sits in the 12th House, the house of disorder, perfectly captures the fact that Rimbaud’s project was to systematically derange the senses!
Venus is conjunct his Moon which is in Libra, a notable conjunction for an artist such as Rimbaud. Moon in the 12th House indicates that the emotions and unconscious needs are made invisible, withdrawn into the veritable sanatorium of House 12. Moon in 12H is a placement which a great many artistic people have had throughout the centuries. With it, the emotions are connected to the collective unconscious. What better source from which to draw inspiration as a poet? Rimbaud's Moon is wedded to his artistic and passionate sensibilities with its conjunction to Venus.
Rimbaud’s Moon and Venus form a square to Jupiter which sits in House 3 in the sign of Capricorn, imbuing the 12th House's formlessness with an excessive jolt of energy from mental House 3, domain of primary language, learning, and intellect. The 3rd principle, affiliated with Gemini and Mercury, thus, is important for writing and the literary arts. And with Jupiter in the 3rd House we see that Rimbaud’s ample gifts in large part issue from this area, since Jupiter shows where we have our greatest talent.
Sagittarius is on the cusp of the 3rd House: this cusp is ruled by Jupiter, strengthening and emboldening Jupiter's presence in the third house. Jupiter here is both artistic and intellectual. Sitting at 19° Capricorn, it opposes Rimbaud’s midheaven: angle of public reputation. This angle is found at 26° Cancer. To divine greater insight into the path of the career, or vocation, we notice again the ruler of the midheaven angle, the Moon, located in House 12.
The 5th House is the astrological realm of selfhood, the fictional self, and self-expression. Drama, narcissism, play, the stage—these tendencies emanate from House 5, whose cusp is ruled in Rimbaud's chart by Pisces, sign of the fishes. This means that the 5th House energy is attuned to things ethereal, fantastical, poetic. This energy is emphasized by the presence of Neptune, ruler of Pisces, which resides in the 5th house—a mystical coincidence. As Neptune is the ruler of House 12, which as I said before is about the dismemberment of ego, the presence of Neptune in House 5, the house of self, serves to bring 12th House influence to the 5th, reinforcing that fragmentation of self. Rimbaud's creativity was shot through with vatic power. The presence of Neptune in the 5th House further strengthens his already robust 12th House.
We know from Rimbaud’s biography that his romantic-artistic relationship with Paul Verlaine, a major poetical forefather of French Symbolism and decadence, was a huge struggle during his time as a writer. The two were possessed by a passionate connection, despite living in poverty, using whatever money they had for absinthe and other mind-altering agents. We cannot deny the poet their chemical, or alchemical, support, yet it is notable that experimentation with substances was part of their very special dynamic, though it seemed to traumatize both men.
With that in mind, in Rimbaud's chart, we can see that Saturn sits in Gemini in House 8, domain of trauma, karma, death, sex, power struggle, rebirth. It is the realm of shadow, nightmare, not to mention the underworld. In House 8, Saturn can indicate an illicit affair with a much older (often male) partner, one which is tumultuous and difficult. Verlaine drew the suspicion of the Belgian authorities, eventually leading to a conviction of sodomy, when he drew a pistol and shot Rimbaud in the hand, a soul-level offense for someone who made art by the pen. It is notable that Saturn is in Gemini, sign of the writer, as Verlaine’s work was an inspiration for Rimbaud. Like celestial twins, the two men admired each other's work mutually, but the connection was violent and obsessive.
Rimbaud’s North Node also sits in House 8, indicating to us that his karmic path forward was indeed to dive headlong into that dark and violent realm of the 8th principle, purifying and self-immolating, in a sense, his soul of the accumulated energy of previous lifetimes. He was tasked in this lifetime with the project of engaging the fertile dirt of the underworld, and finding transformation through that point of entry.
The strangeness of Rimbaud’s fate as a businessman in a foreign country has always puzzled me. If his poetic work was so important to him, which it certainly was, how could he abandon that and simply become a businessman, a gun runner, no less? We can look to the midheaven to answer this question. The midheaven in Cancer is ruled by the Moon which sits in House 12. House 12’s cusp is ruled by Virgo, whose ruler Mercury sits in House 2 in Scorpio. Following this logic, which I call the midheaven path, we wind up at Mars in Sagittarius in House 2.
Mars, planet of war, weapons, conquest, violence, in the sign Sagittarius, sign of foreign culture, travel, and far-off lands, takes up residence in House 2, which is the house of financial resources (among other things). From here we get a pretty clear picture that Rimbaud’s finances (House 2) wind up being characterized by the sale of weapons or an affiliation with war (Mars) in a foreign country (Sagittarius).
Much more could be said of this chart, but we must stop here. It is undeniable that the life of this wild poet is reflected in his natal chart, from his visionary output of divine and surrealistic poetry to his tumultuous personal life, to his final phase of life as a wealthy businessman profiting off of Mars pursuits. I hold him in my heart, even if it means the chambers are poisoned with absinthe, alighted on by the spirit of the damned.
*AstroDatabank gives Rimbaud’s chart a AA rating, making it suitable for our purposes.