Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891) was a French poet who wrote some of the most remarkable poetry and prose of the nineteenth century. He prefigured Surrealism and free verse, and was a major figure in Symbolism. Precocious and miserable in provincial France, he ran away to Paris at sixteen, where he read voraciously and lived in alcoholic squalor, sometimes with Paul Verlaine. Widely regarded as a prodigy, he wrote all of his poetry in the space of less than five years. Before age twenty-one, he burned his last manuscripts and is not known to have written other work.
Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1897) holds the most wide-ranging influence of the French Symbolist poets. A respected reviewer and critic whose translations of Edgar Allan Poe were much admired in his time, he died young, at only forty-six, but left behind a legacy of work at the center of which stands his masterpiece, the poems of Les Fleurs du mal, first published in 1857 to shock and acclaim.