Letter from Rimbaud to his mother
Letter to his mother, 30th April 1891
Aden 30th April 1891

My dear mummy

space I got your letter and the two sockings all right, and I received them in sad circumstances. Seeing that the swelling in my right knee and the pain in the joint still continued to get worse, finding neither treatment nor advice because at Harer we are in the midst of Negroes and there are no Europeans here, I decided to come back. I had to leave the business, which was not very easy, for I had money out all over the place, but finally I succeeded to liquidate almost it all. For about twenty days, I had been lying in Harer, and not being able to make a movement, suffering frightful pains, and never sleeping. I hired sixteen Negro porters, for 15 thalaris each, from Harer to Zeilah, I had a stretcher made, covered with canvas, and in it I have just made, in 12 days, the 300 kilometres journey across the desert which separates the Harer hills from the port of Zeilah. no point in telling you what horrible suffering I went through on the way, I was never able to take a step from my stretcher, my knee swelled visibly, and the pain increased all the time.

spaceWhen I got here I went to the European Hospital. There is just one room for paying patients, I am in it. The English doctor as soon as I showed him my knee cried out that it was a synovitis which had arrived at a very dangerous stage owing to lack of attention and fatigue. Straightaway he talked of cutting the leg off. Then, he decided to wait a few days to see if the swelling could be diminished with medical treatment. That was six days ago, and there has been no improvement, except that, because I am resting, the pain is decreased a lot. You know that synovitis is a disease of the liquid of the knee joint, it can be due to heredity, or accidents, or a lot of other causes. With me it was certainly caused by the fatigue of riding and walking in Harer. At last in the situation I am in at the moment, there's no hope of my being better for at least three months, under the most favorable circumstances. And I am stretched out, with my leg bandaged, wound round and round and bound, so that I cannot move it. I have become a skeleton, I frighten people. My back is completely flayed from the bed, I don't sleep a minute. And the heat has become extreme here. The hospital food, which I pay quite a lot, is very bad. I do not know what to do. On the other hand I haven't yet closed my accounts with my associate, Mr Tian. It can't be done in less than another week. I shall get out of this business with about 35 thousand francs. I should have had more, but I am losing several thousand francs owing to my unlucky departure. I should like to get myself taken to a steamer, and come and get myself looked after in France, the journey would help to pass the time, at least. And in France both medical attention and medicines are cheap, and the air is healthy. So it is highly probable that I shall come. Unluckily the steamboats going to France now are always packed, because everyone is coming back from the colonies at this time of year. And I am a poor sick man and need carrying very gently, anyway, l shall make up my mind within a week.

Do not be too upset about all this, however. Better days will come. But it's a poor reward for so much work, so many privations and troubles! Alas! How miserable our life is.

I greet you all fondly

PS. As for the stockings, they are useless, I shall sell them again somewhere.

- Translation by Catherine, with the help of Oliver's Bernard book: Rimbaud's collected poems.