Ours is a world of toxins and vices -- be it nicotine or
heroin, alcohol or
cocaine. Societies have followed a very telling pattern of taking away any
substance that might alter the mind of its citizens. On October 7, 1910, a
substance by the name of absinthe was banned (Switzerland had rid itself of
this "evil" two years earlier).
Both Rimbaud and Verlaine were well acquainted with the substance, which
seemed to be en vogue with the Parissian artists of this time period.
Baudelaire, Manet, Wilde, Dowson, Degas, Lautrec, Van Gogh, Monticelli,
and Gauguin were all too familiar with the "green fairy", some just
experimenting, others completely immersed in her pleasures.
Perhaps the most deferring and equally arousing attribute of absinthe is its
strength. The average recipe renders 130 proof, give or take and is far stronger
than most anything available on the market today. The controversies
surrounding the health conditions of absinthe abusers, along with public
outcry and fear have made the drink illegal in all but Spain and the Czech
Republic. It's more than addictive, producing delirium and irrational behavior
Rimbaud used it for his work, as did many of the aforementioned artists.
Verlaine was one that abused it, and it eventually led to his early demise. His
addiction and love of absinthe was the source of his sorrow, and naturally
therefore the subject of many of his works. Said Verlaine:
For me, my glory is but an "humble ephemeral absinthe"
drunk on the sly, with fear of treason and if I drink no
longer, it is for good reason!"