The Influence of Arthur Rimbaud on Dai Wang Shu and Nakahara Chūya’s Poetry— The Construction of their Poetic Decadent World

Author: James Kin-Pong Au
Published: November 30, 2017

Citation: Kin-Pong Au, J. (2017). The Influence of Arthur Rimbaud on Dai Wang Shu and Nakahara Chūya’s Poetry—The Construction of their Poetic Decadent World
IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 6(1).


This article argues both Dai Wang-shu (戴望舒, 1905–1950) and Nakahara Chūya (中原中也, 1907–1937), as readers of French symbolist Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891)’s poetry, adopted similar stylistic elements because the three of them were trapped in times of turbulence. Rimbaud experienced the decline of the Second French Empire and its collapse after the Franco–Prussian War in 1870. Nakahara was situated in a revolutionary age—the aftermath of the First World War, the world’s economic depression and the rise of militarism in Japan—in which politics and rapid cultural change were causing most Japanese to have a crisis of identity; and similarly, Dai’s literary life flourished as China was being invaded by Japanese armies. While western scholars such as Gregory Lee and Donald Keene have hitherto, respectively, considered the biographical accounts of Dai’s poetry and hastened to label Nakahara as the “Japanese Rimbaud”, with at the same time Asian scholars in unison claiming the uniqueness of the two poets, few have addressed the issue of how a double identity—being both a poet and a translator—affects the stylistics of one’s poetry. To this end this article uses close readings of some of Dai’s poetry written during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, and Nakahara’s Collection of Goat Songs, written in the 1920s, to argue further that the reason why they had to narrate and confess their sentiment in such a French symbolist way is closely related to their crises of humanity, culture, war and identity.


crisis, decadence, Dai Wang-shu, Nakahara Chūya, world wars