Edward Dowden

 

 

The "Interviewer" Abroad.

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Texte zur Baudelaire-Rezeption
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Texte zur Theorie und Rezeption des Symbolismus

 

Just now, when English readers are discovering a most interesting, if not a great, poet in Paul Verlaine, and when the name of Stéphane Mallarmé rouses curiosity as that of a distinguished, if not a great, unknown, the younger representatives of the Symbolist movement in France disclaim their leadership, and assert their independence by declaring that Verlaine has halted at a point which it is impossible to regard as a resting-place. Mallarmé, whose nature is more sympathetic, whose temperament is less aggressive than Verlaine's, protests against so-called "schools" in literature, proclaims himself a solitary, yet bends graciously from his height of pride towards "les jeunes gens"; and hence he retains their affection. Even in presence of the interviewer, who at the moment was noting (in the graceful way of the profession) his medium height, his pointed beard already grizzled, his long satyr ears, his eyes which shone with extraordinary lustre, M. Mallarmé retained "un grand air de bonté." When he speaks "the word is always accompanied by a gesture, a liberal gesture, full of grace, precision, eloquence; his voice lingers a little on the ends of his words, with a dying fall; his personality affects you with a powerful charm; you feel in the man an undeclining pride, which floats calmly over all, the pride of a god or of an illuminated adept, before which you must needs bow the head – when once it is understood." It is unfortunate for us that M. Mallarmé has so rarely put himself, as they say, in evidence by his writings. He cannot understand, he told a friend, what induces a poet to go to the publishers; the birds sing in their bowers, but these are not commonly situated in Paternoster Row. To print our poems is surely nothing less than an indecent exposure of the soul. The author of L'Après-midi d'un Faune has not often offended in this way, and has on those rare occasions preserved something of his modesty by affixing an almost probibitive price on the article so indiscreetly offered for sale. For Mallarmé literature is essentially an outcome of the individual, bearing the impress of a distinct personality. Formerly poets may have sung, as it were in a choir, to the great organ tones of the official metres; now each singer retires into his corner to play upon the flute the air he loves. The demand for a versification, more free, more elastic, more living [725] than that so grandly wrought in bronze or in gold by the great Parnassiens, has been recognised and admitted as just and inevitable by M. Anatole France. The official verse – the Alexandrine – is not rejected by M. Mallarmé, but we would reserve its use for great occasions, when solemn movements of the soul require an utterance, and even then it should be freer, more spontaneous, more aërial than the Alexandrine as too commenly it is written. With this for grave and, as it were, imperial uses, the poetry of the future will exhibit an infinity of motives derived from the peculiar sensibility of finely-organised individuals. The themes of which future singers will treat must include all in thought, action, and emotion which is susceptible of poetic handling, and these themes will not be presented directly and fore-square after the manner of those old rhetoricians, the Parnassien poets; the younger poets will choose rather to suggest than to depict; they will not fear the indefinite or the mysterious; if they present an object it will be in order that the object may call up or adumbrate some spiritual, some emotional state or mood; or they will, through some state of the soul, shadow forth an object; they may be charged with obscurity, but all art whih demands the co-operation of the spectator's or the reader's feelings and imagination is obscure to those who do not bring that one thing needfull. In this statement of M. Mallarmé we have perhaps a better account of the aims of the symbolist school than can be obtained from any other of the subjects of M. Hurets examination.

For his own part, Mallarmé acknowledges that, with the marvellous mastery of verse possessed by certain recent writers – Banville, for example – the Alexandrine admits of infinite variety, is flexible for every purpose, can respoind to every movement of human passion. In an interesting paper on Modern Poetry, by Mr. Lewis Morris, published last July, the writer speaks of French as "the one European language in which poetry is well nigh impossible. . . . It may attain to fine rhetoric, it may even mount to the height of a tender and graceful lyric, but beyond this it cannot go." Doubtless, a nation which feeds exclusively on frogs cannot produce true epic verse, and any one British poet can beat any three French. That is a pious and patriotic opinion to which I give a loyal adhesion. Matthew Arnold informed as nearly thirty years ago that the power of French literature is in its prose-writers, the power of English literature is in its poets; and he added that the main vehicle for poetry in France, the Alexandrine, is an inadequate vehicle. I confess that I have always ventured to regard this statement as evidence that Mr. Arnolds feeling for what is excellent in French literature had its limitations. No one possessed of a true sense for what is great in French poetry can think of the Alexandrine in its history from Racine to Hugo, and Banville, and Leconte de Lisle, with a stinted [726] admiration. It is capable of infinite grace, sweetness, subtlety; the fall and folds of the robe of an antique statue are not more exquisite than it can be; and yet it can, when there is need, advance with the bounding, mounting motion of a wave of the sea, all srength, all joy, all harmony. I am glad to confirm my feeling, that of one to whom the more intimate beauties of French verse can never be fully known, by the words of such a master as M. Catulle Mendès: "The Alexandrine," he says "has been modified in a thousand ways; it may hereafter perhaps be transformed in a thousand other ways. I admit it, but – and this is its high disticntion and its glory – from the chanson de geste, where it appeared for the first time, and down through Ronsard and Malherbe, it has remained, and it will remain, that marvellous thing which the greatest artists have found adequate in so many magnificent masterpieces – the French Alexandrine."

 

 

 

 

Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 50, New Series, 1891, Nr. 299, 1. November, S. 719-733. [PDF]

Unser Auszug: S. 724-726.

Gezeichnet: EDWARD DOWDEN.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).


The Fortnightly Review   online
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The Fortnightly Review   inhaltsanalytische Bibliographie
The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900.
Hrsg. von Walter E. Houghton. Bd. 2. Toronto 1972.

 

 

Zeitschriften-Repertorium

 

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Literatur

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.

Christ, Carol T.: Victorian Poetics. In: A Companion to Victorian Poetry. Hrsg. von Richard Cronin u.a. Malden, MA 2002, S. 1-21.

Delille, Edward: French Authors on Each Other. In: The Nineteenth Century. A Monthly Review. Bd. 30, 1891, Nr. 177, November, S. 783-798.
URL: https://archive.org/details/nineteenthcentu00unkngoog

Gwynn, E. J. (revised by Arthur Sherbo): Dowden, Edward. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (03 October 2013).
URL: https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/32882

Habib, M. A. R. (Hrsg.): The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, 6: The Nineteenth Century, c. 1830-1914. Cambridge 2013.

Longley, Edna: Yeats and Modern Poetry. New York 2013.
Vgl. S. 13-16.

Ludwigson, Kathryn R.: Edward Dowden. New York 1973 (= Twayne's English Authors Series, 148).

Martin, Meredith: The Rise and Fall of Meter. Poetry and English National Culture, 1860-1930. Princeton u.a. 2012.

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

Ramos Gay, Ignacio: 'Curious about France'. Visions littéraires victoriennes. Bern u.a. 2015.

 

 

Edition
Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer