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Paul Verlaine

Paul Verlaine
Born 30 March 1844(1844-03-30)
Metz, France
Died 8 January 1896 (aged 51)
Paris, France
Occupation Poet
Genres Symbolist
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Paul-Marie Verlaine (French pronunciation: [vɛʁˈlɛn]; 30 March 1844 – 8 January 1896) was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement. He is considered one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siècle in international and French poetry.

Contents

Biography

Early life

Born in Metz, he was educated at the Lycée impérial Bonaparte (now the Lycée Condorcet) in Paris and then took up a post in the civil service. He began writing poetry at an early age, and was initially influenced by the Parnassien movement and its leader, Leconte de Lisle. Verlaine's first published poem was published in 1863 in La Revue du progrès, a publication founded by poet Louis-Xavier de Ricard. Verlaine was a frequenter of the salon of the Marquise de Ricard [1] (Louis-Xavier de Ricard's mother) at 10 Boulevard des Batignolles and other social venues, where he rubbed shoulders with prominent artistic figures of the day: Anatole France; Emmanuel Chabrier; inventor-poet and humorist Charles Cros; the cynical anti-bourgeois idealist Villiers de l'Isle-Adam; Theodore de Banville; François Coppée; Jose-Maria de Heredia; Leconte de Lisle; Catulle Mendes, et alii. Verlaine's first published collection, Poèmes saturniens (1866),[2] though adversely commented upon by Sainte-Beuve, established him as a poet of promise and originality.

Marriage and military service

Verlaine's private life spills over into his work, beginning with his love for Mathilde Mauté. Mauté became Verlaine's wife in 1870. At the proclamation of the Third Republic in the same year, Verlaine joined the 160th battalion of the Garde nationale, turning Communard on 18 March 1871.

He became head of the press bureau of the Central Committee of the Paris Commune. Verlaine escaped the deadly street fighting known as the Bloody Week, or Semaine Sanglante, and went into hiding in the Pas-de-Calais.

Relationships with Rimbaud and Létinois

Verlaine returned to Paris in August 1871, and, in September, he received the first letter from Arthur Rimbaud. By 1872, he had lost interest in Mathilde, and effectively abandoned her and their son, preferring the company of his new lover.[2] Rimbaud and Verlaine's stormy affair took them to London in 1872. In July 1873 in a drunken, jealous rage, he fired two shots with a pistol at Rimbaud, wounding his left wrist, though not seriously injuring the poet. As an indirect result of this incident, Verlaine was arrested and imprisoned at Mons, where he underwent a conversion to Roman Catholicism, which again influenced his work and provoked Rimbaud's sharp criticism.

The poems collected in Romances sans paroles (1874) were written between 1872 and 1873, inspired by Verlaine's nostalgically colored recollections of his life with Mathilde on the one hand and impressionistic sketches of his on-again off-again year-long escapade with Rimbaud on the other. Romances sans paroles was published while Verlaine was imprisoned. Following his release from prison, Verlaine again traveled to England, where he worked for some years as a teacher and produced another successful collection, Sagesse. He returned to France in 1877 and, while teaching English at a school in Rethel, fell in love with one of his pupils, Lucien Létinois, who inspired Verlaine to write further poems. Verlaine was devastated when Létinois died of typhus in 1883.

Final years

Verlaine's last years saw his descent into drug addiction, alcoholism, and poverty. He lived in slums and public hospitals, and spent his days drinking absinthe in Paris cafes. Fortunately, the French people's love of the arts was able to resurrect support and bring in an income for Verlaine: his early poetry was rediscovered, his lifestyle and strange behavior in front of crowds attracted admiration, and in 1894 he was elected France's "Prince of Poets" by his peers.

His poetry was admired and recognized as ground-breaking, serving as a source of inspiration to composers such as Gabriel Fauré, who set many of his poems to music – including La bonne chanson – and Claude Debussy, who set to music six of the Fêtes galantes poems, forming part of the mélodie collection known as the Recueil Vasnier.[3] The Belgian-British composer Poldowski (daughter of Henryk Wieniawski) set 21 of Verlaine's poems.

Paul Verlaine died in Paris at the age of 51 on 8 January 1896; he was buried in the Cimetière des Batignolles.

Style

Verlaine in a café

Much of the French poetry produced during the fin de siècle was characterized as "decadent" for its lurid content or moral vision. In a similar vein, Verlaine used the expression poète maudit ("accursed poet") in 1884 to refer to a number of poets like Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud who had fought against poetic conventions and suffered social rebuke or were ignored by the critics. But with the publication of Jean Moréas' Symbolist Manifesto in 1886, it was the term symbolism which was most often applied to the new literary environment. Along with Verlaine, Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Paul Valéry, Albert Samain and many others began to be referred to as "Symbolists". These poets would often share themes that parallel Schopenhauer's aesthetics and notions of will, fatality and unconscious forces, and used themes of sex (such as prostitutes), the city, irrational phenomena (delirium, dreams, narcotics, alcohol), and sometimes a vaguely medieval setting.

In poetry, the symbolist procedure—as typified by Verlaine—was to use subtle suggestion instead of precise statement (rhetoric was banned) and to evoke moods and feelings through the magic of words and repeated sounds and the cadence of verse (musicality) and metrical innovation.

Portrayals

Numerous artists painted Verlaine's portrait. Among the most illustrious were Henri Fantin-Latour, Antonio de la Gándara, Eugène Carrière, Gustave Courbet, Frédéric Cazalis, and Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen.

The time Verlaine and Rimbaud spent together was the subject of the 1995 film Total Eclipse, directed by Agnieszka Holland and with a screenplay by Christopher Hampton, based on his play. Verlaine was portrayed by David Thewlis.

Works

Verlaine's Complete Works are available in critical editions from the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.

  • Poèmes saturniens (1866)
  • Les Amies (1867)
  • Fêtes galantes (1869)
  • La Bonne Chanson (1870)
  • Romances sans paroles (1874)
  • Sagesse (1880)
  • Les Poètes maudits (1884)
  • Jadis et naguère (Verlaine) (1884)
  • Amour (1888)
  • À Louis II de Bavière (1888)
  • Parallèlement (1889)
  • Dédicaces (1890)
  • Femmes (1890)
  • Hombres (1891)
  • Bonheur (1891)
  • Mes hôpitaux (1891)
  • Chansons pour elle (1891)
  • Liturgies intimes (1892)
  • Mes prisons (1893)
  • Élégies (1893)
  • Odes en son honneur (1893)
  • Dans les limbes (1894)
  • Épigrammes (1894)
  • Confessions (1895)

References

  1. ^ Shapiro, Norman R., One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine, University of Chicago Press, 1999
  2. ^ a b "Paul Verlaine". Litweb.net. http://www.litweb.net/biography/425/Paul_Verlaine.html. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  3. ^ Rolf, Marie. Page 7 of liner notes to Forgotten Songs by Claude Debussy, with Dawn Upshaw and James Levine, Sony SK 67190.
  • Paul Verlaine, Correspondance générale : [Vol.] I, 1857-1885 (edited and annotated by Michael Pakenham). Paris : Fayard, 2005. 16 x 24 cm. 1,122 pages. ISBN 2-213-61950-6

External links

See also


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Paul-Marie Verlaine (1844-03-301896-01-08) was a French Symbolist poet. He is often characterized as a poète maudit and an example of fin-de-siècle decadence in literature.

Translations and page-numbers are from Martin Sorrell (trans.) Selected Poems (Oxford University Press, 1999)

Sourced

  • Les sanglots longs
    Des violons
    De l'automne
    Blessent mon cœur
    D'une langueur
    Monotone.
    • The long sobs of
      The violins
      Of autumn
      Lay waste my heart
      With monotones
      Of boredom.
    • "Chanson d'automne", line 1, from Poèmes saturniens (1866); Sorrell p. 24.

  • Et je m'en vais
    Au vent mauvais
    Qui m'emporte
    Deçà, delà,
    Pareil à la
    Feuille morte.
    • And so I leave
      On cruel winds
      Squalling
      And gusting me
      Like a dead leaf
      Falling.
    • "Chanson d'automne", line 13, from Poèmes saturniens (1866); Sorrell p. 27.

  • La lune blanche
    Luit dans les bois;
    De chaque branche
    Part une voix
    Sous la ramée.
    • White moon gleaming
      Among trees,
      From every branch
      Sound rising into
      Canopies.
    • "La lune blanche", line 1, from La Bonne Chanson (1872); Sorrell p. 57.

  • Il pleure dans mon cœur
    Comme il pleut sur la ville.
    Quelle est cette langueur
    Qui pénètre mon Cœur?
    • Falling tears in my heart,
      Falling rain on the town.
      Why this long ache,
      A knife in my heart.
    • "Il pleur dans mon cœur" line 1, from Romances sans paroles (1874); Sorrell p. 69.

  • C'est bien la pire peine
    De ne savoir pourquoi
    Sans amour et sans haine
    Mon cœur a tant de peine!
    • By far the worst pain
      Is not to understand
      Why without love or hate
      My heart's full of pain.
    • "Il pleur dans mon cœur" line 13, from Romances sans paroles (1874); Sorrell p. 71.

  • Qu'as-tu fait, ô toi que voilà
    Pleurant sans cesse,
    Dis, qu'as-tu fait, toi que voilà
    De ta jeunesse?
    • What have you done, you standing there
      In floods of tears?
      Tell me what you have done
      With your young life?
    • "Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit", line 13, from Sagesse (1880); Sorrell p. 111.

"Art poétique", from Jadis et naguère (1884)

  • De la musique avant toute chose,
    Et pour cela préfère l'Impair
    Plus vague et plus soluble dans l'air
    Sans rien en lui qui pèse ou qui pose.

    Il faut aussi que tu n'ailles point
    Choisir tes mots sans quelque méprise:
    Rien de plus cher que la chanson grise
    Où l'Indécis au Précis se joint.
    • Let's hear the music first and foremost,
      And that means no more one-two-one-twos…
      Something more vague instead, something lighter
      Dissolving in air, weightless as air.

      When you choose your words, no need to search
      In strict dictionaries for pinpoint
      Definitions. Better the subtle
      And heady Songs of Imprecision.
    • Line 1; Sorrell p. 123.

  • Pas la Couleur, rien que la nuance!
    • Colour's forbidden, only Nuance!
    • Line 14; Sorrell p. 125.

  • Prends l'éloquence et tords-lui son cou!
    Tu feras bien, en train d'énergie,
    Du rendre un peu la Rime assagie.
    Si l'on n’y veille, elle ira jusqu’où?

    Ô qui dira les torts de la Rime!
    Quel enfant sourd ou quel nègre fou
    Nous a forgé ce bijou d'un sou
    Qui sonne creux et faux sous la lime?
    • Grip eloquence by the throat and squeeze
      It to death. And while you're about it
      You might corral that runaway, Rhyme,
      Or you'll get Rhyme Without End, Amen.

      Who will denounce that criminal, Rhyme?
      Tone-deaf children or crazed foreigners
      No doubt fashioned its paste jewellery,
      Tinplate on top, hollow underneath.
    • Line 21; Sorrell p. 125.

  • Que ton vers soit la bonne aventure
    Éparse au vent crispé du matin
    Qui va fleurant la menthe et le thym…
    Et tout le reste est littérature.
    • You must let your poems ride their luck
      On the back of the sharp morning air
      Touched with the fragrance of mint and thyme…
      And everything else is LIT-RIT-CHER.
    • Line 33, Sorrell p. 125.

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PAUL VERLAINE (1844-1896), French lyric poet, was born at Metz on the 30th of March 1844. He was the son of one of Napoleon's soldiers, who had become a captain of engineers. Paul Verlaine was educated in Paris, and became clerk in an insurance company. He was a member of the Parnassian circle, with Catulle Mendes, Sully Prudhomme, Francois Coppee and the rest. His first volume of poems, the Poemes saturniens (1866), was written under Parnassian influences, from which' the Fetes galantes (1869), as of a Watteau of poetry, began a delicate escape; and in La Bonne Chanson (1870) the defection was still more marked. He married in 1870 Mlle. Mautet. During the Commune he was involved with the authorities for having sheltered his friends, and was obliged to leave France. In 1871 the strange young poet Jean Arthur Rimbaud came somewhat troublingly into his life, into which drink had already brought a lasting disturbance. With Rimbaud he wandered over France, Belgium, England, until a pistol-shot, fortunately ill-aimed, against his companion brought upon him two years of imprisonment at Mons. Solitude, confinement and thought converted a pagan into a Catholic, without, however, rooting out what was most human in the pagan; and after many years' silence he published Sagesse (1881), a collection of religious poems, which, for humble and passionate conviction, as well as originality of poetic beauty, must be ranked with the finest religious poems ever written. Romances sans paroles, composed during the intervals of wandering, appeared in 1874, and shows us Verlaine at his most perfect moment of artistic self-possession, before he has quite found what is deepest in himself. He returned to France in 1875. His wife had obtained a divorce from him, and Verlaine made another short stay in England, acting as a.

teacher of French. After about two years' absence Verlaine was again in France. He acted as teacher in more than one school and even tried farming. The death of his mother, to whom he was tenderly attached, dissolved the ties that bound him to "respectable" society. During the rest of his life he lived in poverty, often in hospital, but always with the heedless and unconquerable cheerfulness of a child. After a long obscurity, famous only in the Latin Quarter, among the cafes where he spent so much of his days and nights, he enjoyed at last a European celebrity. In 1894 he paid another visit to England, this time as a distinguished poet, and lectured at London and Oxford. He died in Paris on the 8th of January 1896. His eighteen volumes of verse (among which may be further mentioned Jadis et naguere, 1884; Amour, 1888; Parallelement, 1889; Bonheur, 1891) vary greatly in quality as in substance; they are all the sincere expression, almost the instantaneous notation, of himself, of his varying moods, sensual passion, the passion of the mystic, the delight of the sensitive artist in the fine shades of sensation. He brought into French verse a note of lyrical song, a delicacy in the evocation of sound and colour, which has seemed almost to create poetry over again, as it provides a language out of which rhetoric has been cleansed and a rhythm into which a new music has come with a new simplicity. (A. SY.) His CEuvres completes (3 vols.) were published in 1899, &c.; CEuvres posthumes (1903). See also Paul Verlaine, sa vie, son oeuvre, by E. Lepelletier (1907); monographs by M. Dullaert (Ghent, 1896), C. Morice (1888); also Anatole France, La Vie litteraire (3rd series, 1891); J. Lemaitre, Nos contemporains (1889), vol. iv.; E. Delille, "The Poet Verlaine," in the Fortnightly Review (March 1891); A. Symons, in the National Review (June 1892); V. Thompson, French Portraits (Boston, U.S.A., 1900); and the poet's own Confessions (1895) and his Poetes maudits (1888). A bibliography of Verlaine with an account of the existing portraits of him is included in the Poetes d'Aujourd'hui (1 1th ed., 1905) of MM. A. van Bever and P. Leautaud. The Vie by Lepelletier has been translated into English by E. M. Lang (1909).


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