George Moore

 

 

Confessions of a Young Man

Chapter IV.

 

Text
Editionsbericht
Literatur

»   »   »
Texte zur Baudelaire-Rezeption
Texte zur Verlaine-Rezeption
Texte zur Mallarmé-Rezeption
Texte zur Theorie und Rezeption des Symbolismus

 

AFTER three months spent in a sweet seaside resort, where unoccupied men and ladies whose husbands are abroad happily congregate, I returned to Paris refreshed.

Marshall and I were no longer on speaking terms, but I saw him daily, in a new overcoat, of a cut admirably adapted to his figure, sweeping past the fans and the jet ornaments of the Passage des Panoramas. The coat interested me, and I remembered that if I had not broken with him I should have been able to ask him some essential questions concerning it. Of such trifles as this the sincerest friendships are made; he was as necessary to me as I to him, and after some demur on his part a reconciliation was effected.

Then I took an appartement in one of the old houses in Rue de la Tour des Dames, for the windows there overlooked a bit of [135] tangled garden with a few dilapidated statues. It was Marshall of course who undertook the task of furnishing, and he lavished on the rooms the fancies of an imagination that suggested the collaboration of a courtesan of high degree and a fifth-rate artist. Nevertheless, our salon was a pretty resort — English cretonne of a very happy design — vine leaves, dark green and golden, broken up by many fluttering jays. The walls were stretched with this colourful cloth, and the arm-chairs and the couches were to match. The drawing-room was in cardinal red, hung from the middle of the ceiling and looped up to give the appearance of a tent; a faun, in terra cotta, laughed in the red gloom, and there were Turkish couches and lamps. In another room you faced an altar, a Buddhist temple, a statue of the Apollo, and a bust of Shelley. The bedrooms were made unconventual with cushioned seats and rich canopies; and in picturesque corners there were censers, great church candlesticks, and palms; then think of the smell of incense and burning wax, and you will have imagined the sentiment of our apartment in Rue de la Tour des Dames. I bought a Persian cat, and a python that made a monthly meal off guinea pigs; Marshall, who did not care for pets, filled his rooms with flowers — he used to sleep beneath a tree of gardenias in full bloom. We were so, Henry Marshall and Edwin Dayne, when we went to live in 76, Rue de la Tour des Dames, we hoped for the rest of our lives. He was to paint, I was to write.

Before leaving for the seaside I had bought some volumes of Hugo and De Musset; but in pleasant, sunny Boulogne poetry went flat, and it was not until I got into my new rooms that I began to read seriously. Books are like individuals; you know at once if they are going to create a sense within the sense, to fever, to madden you in blood and brain, or if they will merely leave you indifferent, or irritable, having unpleasantly disturbed sweet intimate musings as might a draught from an open window. Many are the reasons for love, but I confess I only love woman or book, when it is as a voice of conscience, never heard before, heard suddenly, a voice I am at once endearingly intimate with. This announces feminine depravities in my affections. I am feminine, morbid, perverse. But above all perverse, almost everything perverse interests, fascinates me. Wordsworth is the only simple-minded man I ever loved, if that great austere mind, chill even as the Cumberland year, can be called simple. But Hugo is not perverse, nor even personal. Reading him was like being in church with a strident-voiced preacher shouting from out of a terribly sonorous pulpit, "Les Orientales ..." An East of painted card-board, tin daggers, and a military band playing the Turkish patrol in the Palais Royal ... battlements lined with heads, and the heads hold conversation; plenty of Arab hosts profuse of hospitable gest[136]tures, ennuchs, skiffs shooting through the silent shadows of dome and minaret. The verse is grand, noble, exhaustive; I liked it, I admired it, but it did not — I repeat the phrase — awake a voice of conscience within me; and even the structure of the verse was too much in the style of public buildings to please me. Of "Les Feuilles d'Automne" and "Les Chants du Crépuscule" I remember nothing, except that they did not interest me. In "La Légende des Siècles" the bloated quality of the verse is wearisome; ten lines, fifty lines, and I always think that it is the greatest poetry I have ever read, but after a few pages I invariably put the book down and forget it. Having composed more verses than any man that ever lived, Hugo can only be taken in the smallest doses; if you repeat any passage to a friend across a café table, you are both appalled by the splendour of the imagery, by the thunder of the syllables.

"Quel dieu, quel moissonneur dans l'éternel été
 Avait s'en allant négligemment jeté
 Cette faucille d'or dans les champs des étoiles."

But if I read an entire poem I never escape that sensation of the ennui which is inherent in the gaud and the glitter of the Italian or Spanish improvisatore. There never was anything French ahout Hugo's genius. Hugo was a cross between an Italian improvisatore and a metaphysical German student. Take another verse —

"Le clair de lune bleu qui baigne l'horizon."

Without a like or an as, by a mere statement of fact, the picture, nay more, the impression, is produced. I confess I have a weakness for the poem which this line concludes "La fête chez Thérèse;" but admirable as it is with its picture of mediæval life, there is in it, like in all Hugo's work, a sense of fabrication that dries up emotion in my heart. He shouts and raves over poor humanity, while he is gathering coppers for himself; he goes in for an all round patronage of the Almighty in a last stanza; but of the two immortalities he evidently considers his own the most durable; he does not, however, become really intolerable until he gets on the subject of little children; he sings their innocence in great bombast, but he is watching them; the poetry over, the crowd dispersed, he will appear a veritable Mr. Hyde.

The first time I read of une bouche d'ombre I was astonished, nor the second nor third repetition produced a change in my mood of mind; but sooner or later it was impossible to avoid conviction, that of the two "the rosy fingers of the dawn," although some three thousand years older was younger, truer, and more beautiful. Homer's similes can never grow old; une bouche d'ombre was old the first time it was said. It is the birthplace and the grave of Hugo's genius.

[137] Of Alfred de Musset I had heard a great deal. Marshall and the Marquise were in the habit of reading him in moments of relaxation, they had marked their favourite passages, so he came to me highly recommended. Nevertheless, I made but little progress in his poetry. His modernisms were out of tune with the present strain of my aspirations, and I did not find the unexpected word and the eccentricities of expression which were, and are still, so dear to me. I am not a purist; an error of diction is very pardonable if it does not err on the side of the commonplace; the commonplace, the natural, is constitutionally abhorrent to me; and I have never been able to read with any very thorough sense of pleasure even the opening lines of "Rolla," that splendid lyrical outburst. What I remember of it now are those two odious chevilles — marchait et respirait, and Astarte fille de l'onde amère; nor does the fact that amere rhymes with mère condone the offence, although it proves that even Musset felt that perhaps the richness of the rhyme might render tolerable the intolerable. And it is to my credit that the Spanish love songs moved me not at all; and it was not until I read that magnificently grotesque poem "La Ballade à la Lune," that I could be induced to bend the knee and acknowledge Musset a poet.

I still read and spoke of Shelley with a rapture of joy, — he was still my soul. But this craft, fashioned of mother o' pearl, with starlight at the helm and moonbeams for sails, suddenly ran on a reef and went down, not out of sight, but out of the agitation of actual life. The reef was Gautier: I read "Mdlle. de Maupin." The reaction was as violent as it was sudden. I was weary of spiritual passion, and this great exaltation of the body above the soul at once conquered and led me captive; this plain scorn of a world as exemplified in lacerated saints and a crucified Redeemer opened up to me illimitable prospects of fresh beliefs, and therefore new joys in things and new revolts against all that had come to form part and parcel of the commonalty of mankind. Till now I had not even remotely suspected that a deification of flesh and fleshly desire was possible, Shelley's teaching had been, while accepting the body, to dream of the soul as a star, and so preserve our ideal; but now suddenly I saw, with delightful clearness and with intoxicating conviction, that by looking without shame and accepting with love the flesh, I might raise it to as high a place and within as divine a light as even the soul had been set in. The ages were as an aureole, and I stood as if enchanted before the noble nakedness of the elder gods: not the infamous nudity that sex has preserved in this modern world, but the clean pagan nude, — a love of life and beauty, the broad fair breast of a boy, the long flanks, the head thrown back; the bold fearless gaze of Venus is lovelier than the lowered glance of the Virgin, and I cried with my master [138] that the blood that flowed upon Mount Calvary "ne m'a jamais baigné dans ces flots."

I will not turn to the book to find the exact words of this sublime vindication, for ten years I have not read the Word that has become so expressionably a part of me; and shall I not refrain as Mdlle. de Maupin refrained, knowing well that the face of love may not be twice seen? Great was my conversion. None more than I had cherished mystery and dream: my life until now had been but a mist which revealed as each cloud wreathed and went out, the red of some strange flower or some tall peak, blue and snowy and fairylike in lonely moonlight; and now so great was my conversion that the more brutal the outrage offered to my ancient ideal, the rarer and keener was my delight. I read almost without fear: "My dreams were of naked youths riding white horses through mountain passes, there were no clouds in my dreams, or if there were any, they were clouds that had been cut out as if in cardboard with scissors."

I had shaken off all belief in Christianity early in life, and had suffered much. Shelley had replaced faith by reason, but I still suffered: but here was a new creed which proclaimed the divinity of the body, and for a long time the reconstruction of all my theories of life on a purely pagan basis occupied my whole attention. The exquisite externality evoked by the genius of Gautier – the marvellous castle, the romantic woods, the horses moving, the lovers leaning to each other's faces; and then the indescribably beautiful description of the performance of "As you like it", and the supreme relief and perfect assuagement it brings to Rodolph, who then sees Mdlle. de Maupin for the first time in woman's attire. If she were dangerously beautiful as a man, that beauty is forgotten in the rapture and praise of her unmatchable woman's loveliness.

But if Mdlle. de Maupin was the highest peak, it was not the entire mountain. The range was long, and each summit offered to the eye a new and delightful prospect. There were the numerous tales, — tales as perfect as the world has ever seen: "La Morte Amoureuse," "Jettatura," "Une Nuit de Cléopâtre," etc., and then the very diamonds of the crown, "Les Emaux et Camées," "La Symphonie en Blanc Majeure," in which the adjective blanc and blanche is repeated with miraculous felicity in each stanza. And then Contralto, that pearl above pearls price, –

"Mais seulement il se transpose
    Et passant de la forme au son,
 Trouvant dans la métamorphose
    La jeune fille et le garçon."

Transpose, — a word never before used except in musical application, and now for the first time applied to material form, and with a beauty-giving touch that Phidias might be proud [139] of. I know not how I quote; such is my best memory of the stanza, and here, that is more important than the stanza itself. And that other stanza, "The Châtelaine and the Page;" and that other, "The Doves;" and that other, "Romeo and Juliet," and the exquisite cadence of the line ending "balcon." Novelists have often shown how a love passion brings misery, despair, death, and ruin upon a life, but I know of no story of the good or evil influence awakened by the chance reading of a book, the chain of consequences so far-reaching, so intensely dramatic. Never shall I open these books again, but were I to live for a thousand years, their power in my soul would remain unshaken. I am what they made me. Belief in humanity, pity for the poor, hatred of injustice, all that Shelley gave may never have been very deep or earnest; but I did love, I did believe. Gautier destroyed these illusions. He taught me that our boasted progress is but a pitfall into which the race is falling, and I learned that the correction of external forms is the sole ideal. It was not in me to share his scorn of our modern world; but the plain, simple conscience of the pagan world as the perfect solution of the problem that had vexed me so long; I cried, "ave" to it all: lust, cruelty, slavery, and I would have held down my thumbs in the Colosseum that a hundred gladiators might die and wash me free of my soul with their blood.

The study of Baudelaire aggravated the course of the disease. No longer is it the grand barbaric face of Gautier; now it is the clean shaven face of the mock priest, the slow, cold eyes and the sharp, cunning sneer of the cynical libertine who will be tempted that he may better know the worthlessness of temptation. "Les Fleurs du Mal!" beautiful flowers, beautiful in sublime decay. What great record is yours, and were Hell a reality how many souls would we find wreathed with your poisonous blossoms. The village maiden goes to her Faust; the children of the nineteenth century go to you, O Baudelaire, and having tasted of your deadly delight all hope of repentance is vain. Flowers, beautiful in your sublime decay, I press you to my lips; never shall I forget you. These northern solitudes, far from the rank Parisian garden where I gathered you, are for me full of you, even as the sea-shell of the sea, and the sun that sets on this wild moorland evokes the magical verse: —

"Un soir fait de rose et de bleu mystique
 Nous échangerons un éclair unique
 Comme un long sanglot tout chargé d'adieux."

For months I fed on the mad and morbid literature that the enthusiasm of 1830 called into existence. The gloomy and sterile little pictures of Gaspard de la Nuit, or the elaborate criminality, "Les Contes Immoraux," laboriously invented lifeless things with creaky joints, pitiful lay figures that fall to dust [140] as soon as the book is closed, and in the dust only the figures of the terrible ferryman and the unfortunate Dora remain. "Madame Potiphar" cost me forty francs, and I never read more than a few pages.

Like a pike after minnows, I pursued the works of Les Jeune France along the quays and through every passage in Paris. The money spent was considerable, the waste of time enormous. One man's solitary work (he died very young, but he is known to have excelled all in length of his hair and the redness of his waistcoats) resisted my efforts to capture it. At last I caught sight of the precious volume in a shop on the Quai Voltaire. Trembling I asked the price. The man looked at me earnestly and answered, "A hundred and fifty francs." No doubt it was a great deal of money, but I paid it and rushed home to read. Many that had gone before had proved disappointing, and I was obliged to admit had contributed little towards my intellectual advancement; but this — this that I had heard about so long — not a queer phrase, not an outrage of any sort of kind, not even a new blasphemy, nothing, that is to say, nothing but a hundred and fifty francs. Having thus rudely, and very pikelike, knocked my nose against the bottom — this book was, most assuredly, the bottom of the literature of 1830 — I came up to the surface and began to look around my contemporaries for something to read.

I have remarked before on the instinctiveness of my likes and dislikes, on my susceptibility to the sound of and even to the appearance of a name upon paper. I was repelled by Leconte de Lisle from the first, and it was only by a very deliberate outrage to my feelings that I bought and read "Les Poèmes Antiques," and "Les Poèmes Barbares;" I was deceived in nothing, all I had anticipated I found — long, desolate boredom. Leconte de Lisle produces on me the effect of a walk through the new Law Courts, with a steady but not violent draught sweeping from end to end. Oh, the vile old professor of rhetoric! and when I saw him the last time I was in Paris, his head — a declaration of righteousness, a cross between a Cæsar by Gerome, and an archbishop of a provincial town, set all my natural antipathy instantly on edge. Hugo, is often pompous, shallow, empty, unreal, but he is at least an artist, and when he thinks of the artist and forgets the prophet, as in "Les Chansons des Rues et des Bois," his juggling with the verse is magnificent, superb.

"Comme un geai sur un arbre
    Le roi se tient fier;
 Son cœur est de marbre,
    Son ventre est de chair.

"On a pour sa nuque
    Et son front vermeil
 Fait une perruque
    Avec le soleil.

[141] "Il règne, il végète
    Effroyable zéro;
 Sur lui se projette
    L'ombre du bourreau.

"Son trône est une tombe,
    Et sur le pavé
 Quelque chose en tombe
    Qu'on n'a point lavé"

But how to get the first line of the last stanza into five syllables I cannot think. If ever I meet with the volume again I will look it out and see how that rude dompteur de syllables managed it. But stay, son trône est la tombe; that makes the verse, and the generalisation would be in the "line" of Hugo. Hugo — how impossible it is to speak of French literature without referring to him. Let these, however, be the concluding words: he thought that by saying everything, and saying everything twenty times over, he would for ever render impossible the advent of another great poet. But a work of art is valuable, and pleasurable in proportion to its rarity; one beautiful book of verses is better than twenty books of beautiful verses. This is an absolute and incontestable truth; a child can burlesque this truth — one verse is better than the whole poem; a word is better than the line; a letter is better than the word; but the truth is not thereby affected. Hugo never had the good fortune to write a bad book, nor even a single bad line, so not having time to read all, the future will read none. What immortality would be gained by the destruction of one half of his magnificent works; what oblivion is secured by the publication of these posthumous volumes.

To return to the Leconte de Lisle. See his "Discours de Reception." Is it possible to imagine anything more absurdly arid? Rhetoric of this sort, "des vers d'or sur une écume d'airain" and such <sententious> platitudes (speaking of the realists), "Les épidémies de cette nature passent, et le génie demeure."

Theodore de Banville. At first I thought him cold, tinged with the rhetorical ice of the Leconte de Lisle. He had no new creed to proclaim nor old creed to denounce, the inherent miseries of human life did not seem to touch him, and of the languors and ardours of animal or spiritual passion there are none. What is there? a pure, clear song, an instinctive, incurable and lark-like love of the song. The lily is white, and the rose is red, such knowledge of, such observation of nature is enough for the poet, and he sings and he trills, there is silver magic in every note, and the song as it ascends rings, and all the air quivers with the everwidening circle of the echoes, sighing and dying out of the ear until the last faintness is reached, and the glad rhymes clash and dash forth again on their aerial way. Banville is not the poet, he is the bard. The great questions that agitate the mind of man have not troubled him, life, death, and love he only [142] perceives as stalks whereon he may weave his glittering web of living words. Whatever his moods may be, he is lyrical. His wit flies out on clear-cut, swallow-like wings as when he said, in speaking of Paul Alexis' book "Le Besoin d'aimer," "Vous avez trouvé un titre assez laid pour faire reculer les divines étoiles." I know not what instrument to compare with his verse. I suppose I should say a flute; but it seems to me more like a marvellously toned piano. His hands pass over the keys, and he produces Chopin-like music.

It is now well known that French verse is not seventy years old. If it was Hugo who invented French rhyme it was Banville who broke up the couplet. Hugo had perhaps ventured to place the pause between the adjective and its noun, but he had gone no farther, and it was not until Banville wrote the line, "Elle filait pensivement la blanche laine," that the cesura received its final coup de grace. This verse has been probably more imitated than any other verse in the French language. It is not to much to say that it created a school. Pensivement was replaced by some similar four-syllable adverb, Elle tirait nonchalamment les bas de soie, etc. It was the beginning of the end.

I read the French poets of the modern school — Coppée, Mendès, Léon <Dierx>, Verlaine, José Maria Heredia, Mallarmé, Richepin, Villiers de l'Isle Adam. Coppée, as may be imagined, I only was capable of appreciating in his first manner, when he wrote those exquisite but purely artistic sonnets "La Tulipe" and "Le Lys." In the latter a room decorated with daggers, armour, jewellery and china is beautifully described, and it is only in the last line that the lily which animates and gives life to the whole is introduced. But the exquisite poetic perceptivity Coppée showed in his modern poems, the certainty with which he raised the commonest subject, investing it with sufficient dignity for his purpose, escaped me wholly, and I could not but turn with horror from such poems as "La Nourrice" and "Le Petit Epicier." How anyone could bring himself to acknowledge the vulgar details of our vulgar age I could not understand. The fiery glory of José Maria de Heredia, on the contrary, filled me with enthusiasm. Opulent Orient; the somnolent shadow and decoration of the palms, the vast portals. As great copper pans go the clangour of the rhymes.

"Entre le ciel qui brûle et la mer qui moutonne,
 Au somnolent soleil d'un midi monotone,
 Tu songes, O guerrière, aux vieux conquistadors;

 Et dans I'énervement des nuits chaudes et calmes,
 Berçant ta gloire éteinte, O cité, tu t'endors
 Sous les palmiers, au long frémissement des palmes."

Catulle Mendès, a perfect realisation of his name, of his pale hair, of his fragile face illuminated with the idealism of a depraved [143] woman. He takes you by the arm, by the hand, he leans towards you, his words are caresses, his fervour is delightful, and listening to him is as sweet as drinking a fair perfumed white wine. All he says is false — the book he has just read, the play he is writing, the woman who loves him, ... he buys a packet of bonbons in the streets and eats them, and it is false. An exquisite artist; physically and spiritually he is art; he is the muse herself, or rather, he is one of the minions of the muse. Passing from flower to flower he goes, his whole nature pulsing with butterfly voluptuousness. He has written poems as good as Hugo, as good as Leconte de Lisle, as good as Banville, as good as Baudelaire, as good as Gautier, as good as Coppée; he never wrote an ugly line in his life, but he never wrote a line that some one of his brilliant contemporaries might not have written. He has produced good work of all kinds "et voilà tout." Every generation, every country, has its Catulle Mendès. Robert Buchanan is ours, only in the adaptation Scotch gruel has been substituted for perfumed white wine. No more delightful talker than Mendès, no more accomplished littérateur, no more fluent and translucid critic. I remember the great moonlights of the Place Pigale, when, on leaving the café, he would take me by the arm, and expound Hugo's or Zola's last book, thinking as he spoke of the Greek sophists. Then there were for contrast Mallarmé's Tuesday evenings, a few friends sitting round the hearth, the lamp on the table. Few men I have ever met whose conversation was more fruitful; but with the exception of his early verses I cannot say I ever frankly enjoyed his poetry. When I knew him he had published the celebrated "L'Après Midi d'un Faun:" the first poem written in accordance with the theory of symbolism. But when it was given to me (this marvellous brochure furnished with strange illustrations and wondorful tassels), I thought it absurdly obscure. Since then, howover, it has been rendered by force of contrast with the brain-curdling enigmas the author has since published a marvel of lucidity; and were I to read it now I should apprciate its many beauties. It bears the same relation to the author's later work as Rienzi to The Walkyrie. But what is symbolism? Vulgarly speaking, saying the opposite to what you mean. For example, you want to say that music which is the new art, is replacing the old art, which is poetry. First symbol: a house in which there is a funeral, the pall extends over the furniture. The house ia poetry, poetry is dead. Second symbol: "notre vieux grimoire," grimoire is the parchment, parchment is used for writing, therefore, grimoire is the symbol for literature, "d'où s'exaltent les milliers," thousands of what? of letters of course. We have heard a great deal in England of Browning obscurity. The "Red Cotton Nightcap Country" is child's play compared to a sonnet by a determined symbolist such [144] as Mallarmé, or better still his disciple Ghil who has added to the difficulties of symbolism those of poetic instrumentation. For according to Mr. Ghil and his organ Les Ecrits pour l'Art, it would appear that the syllables of the French language evoke in us the sensations of different colours; consequently the timbre of the different instruments. The vowel u corresponds to the colour yellow, and therefore to the sound of flutes.

Arthur Rimbaud was, it is true, first in the field with these pleasant and genial theories; but M. Ghil informs us that Rimbaud was mistaken in many things, particularly in coupling the sound of the vowel u with the colour green instead of with the colour yellow. M. Ghil has corrected this very stupid blunder and many others; and his instrumentation in his last volume, "Le Geste Ingénu," may be considered as complete and definitive. The work is dedicated to Mallarmé, "Père et seigneur des ors, des pierreries, et des poissons," and other works are to follow: — the six tomes of "Les Légendes de Rêves et des Songes," the innumerable tomes of "La Glose," and the single tome of La Loi.

And that man Gustave Kahn, who takes the French language as a violin, and lets the bow of his emotion run at wild will upon it producing strange acute strains, unpremeditated harmonies comparable to nothing that I know of but some Hungarian rhapsody, – a Chopin composing for the violin; verses of seventeen syllables interwoven with verses of eight, and even nine, masculine rhymes, richer than gold, above pearl's price, coupled with feminine rhymes in the middle of the line — "se fondre, souvenir, des lys âcre delices," etc.

Se penchant vers les dahlias,
Des paons <cabraient des rosaces lunaires>
L'assoupissement des branches vénère
Son pâle visage aux mourants dahlias.

Elle écoute au loin les brèves musiques
Nuit claire aux ramures d'accords,
Et la lassitude a bercé son corps
Au rhythme odorant des pures musiques.

Les paons ont dressé la rampe occellée
Pour la descente de ses yeux vers le tapis
    De choses et de sens
Qui va vers l'horizon, parure vemiculée
    De son corps alangui
    En âme se tapit
Le flou désir molli de récits et d'encens.

I laughed at these verbal eccentricities, but they were not without their effect, and that effect was a demoralising one; for in me they aggravated the fever of the unknown, and whetted my appetite for the strange, abnormal and unhealthy in art. Hence all pallidities of thought and desire were eagerly welcomed, and Verlaine became my poet. Never shall I forget [145] the first enchantment of "Les Fêtes Galantes." Here all is twilight.

The royal magnificences of the sunset have <passed>, the solemn beatitude of the night is at hand but not yet here; the ways are veiled with shadow, and lit with dresses, white, that the hour has touched with blue, yellow, green, mauve, and undecided purple; the voices? strange contraltos; the forms? not those of men or women, but mystic, hybrid creatures, with hands nervous and pale, and eyes charged with eager and fitful light . . . "un soir equivoque d'automne," ... "les belles pendent rêveuses à nos bras"... and they whisper "les mots spéciaux et tout bas."

Gautier sang to his antique lyre praise of the flesh and contempt of the soul; Baudelaire on a mediæval organ chaunted his unbelief in goodness and truth and his hatred of life. But Verlaine advances one step further: hate is to him as commonplace as love, unfaith as vulgar as faith. The world is merely a doll to he attired to-day in a modern ball dress, to-morrow in aureoles and stars. The Virgin is a pretty thing, worth a poem, but it would be quite too silly to talk about belief or unbelief; Christ in wood or plaster we have heard too much of, but Christ in painted glass amid crosiers and Latin terminations, is an amusing subject for poetry. And strangely enough, a withdrawing from all commerce with virtue and vice is, it would seem, a licentiousness more curiously subtle and penetrating than any other; and this licentiousness of the verse is equal to that of the emotion; every natural instinct of the language is violated, and the simple music native in French metre is replaced by falsetto notes sharp, and intense. The charm is that of an odour of iris exhaled by some ideal tissues, or of a missal in a gold case, a precious relic of the pomp and ritual of an archbishop of Persepolis.

Parsifal a vaincu les filles, leur gentil
Babil et la luxure amusante et sa pente
Vers la chair de ce garçon vierge que cela tente
D'aimer des seins légers et ce gentil babil.

Il a vaincu la femme belle au cœur subtil
Etalant ces bras frais et sa gorge excitante;
Il a vaincu l'enfer, il rentre dans sa tente
Avec un lourd trophée à son bras puéril.

Avec la lance qui perça le flanc suprême
Il a guéri le roi, le voici roi lui-même,
Et prêtre du très-saint trésor essentiel;

En robe d'or il adore, gloire et symbole,
Le vase pur où resplendit le sang réel,
Et, o ces voix d'enfants chantent dans la coupole.

I know of no more perfect thing than this sonnet. The hiatus in the last line is perhaps a little trying, but I have learned to love it; not in Baudelaire nor even in Poe is there more beautiful poetry to be [146] found. Poe, unread and ill-understood in America and England, here, thou art an integral part of our artistic life.

The Island o' Fay, Silence, Elionore, were the familiar spirits of an apartment beautiful with tapestry and palms, and pastilles; Swinburne and Rossetti were the English poets I read there; and in a golden bondage, I, a unit in the generation they have enslaved, clanked my fetters and trailed my golden chain. I had begun a set of stories in many various metres, to be called "Roses of Midnight." One of the characteristics of the volume was that daylight was banished from its pages. In the sensual lamplight of strange boudoirs, or the wild moonlight of centenarian forests, my fantastic loves lived out their lives, died with the dawn which was supposed to be an awakening to consciousness of reality.

 

 

 

 

Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

Time.
Bd. 17, 1887, August, S. 134-146.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).
Korrektur der Akzentfehler nicht markiert.


Time   online
URL: https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=timeuk1879
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000519851

 

 

Mit Änderungen aufgenommen in

 

 

 

Literatur

Ameille, Brice: George Moore, du rapin à l'écrivain: l'identité multiple et contrariée d'un Irlandais à Paris. In: Artistic Migration and Identity in Paris, 1870-1940 / Migration artistique et identité à Paris, 1870-1940. Hrsg. von Federico Lazzaro and Steven Huebner. New York u.a. 2020, S. 1-19.

Brandmeyer, Rudolf: Poetiken der Lyrik: Von der Normpoetik zur Autorenpoetik. In: Handbuch Lyrik. Theorie, Analyse, Geschichte. Hrsg. von Dieter Lamping. 2. Aufl. Stuttgart 2016, S. 2-15.

Gaspari, Fabienne: Une Jeunesse à Paris. Le Melting-Pot à l'irlandaise de George Moore. In: Études Irlandaises 39.1 (2014), S. 169-182.

Heilmann, Ann / Llewellyn, Mark (Hrsg.): George Moore. Influence and Collaboration. Newark 2014.

Lockerd, Martin: Decadent Catholicism and the Making of Modernism. London 2020.

Marcus, Laura u.a. (Hrsg.): Late Victorian into Modern. Oxford 2016.

Martus, Steffen u.a. (Hrsg.): Lyrik im 19. Jahrhundert. Gattungspoetik als Reflexionsmedium der Kultur. Bern u.a. 2005 (= Publikationen zur Zeitschrift für Germanistik, 11).

Pierse, Mary (Hrsg.): George Moore. Artistic Visions and Literary Worlds. Cambridge 2006.

Temple, Ruth Z.: The Critic's Alchemy. A Study of the Introduction of French Symbolism into England. New York 1953.

Warner, Eric / Hough, Graham (Hrsg.): Strangeness and Beauty. An Anthology of Aesthetic Criticism 1840–1910. 2 Bde. Cambridge u.a. 2009.

 

 

Edition
Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer