Arthur Symons

 

 

Stéphane Mallarmé.

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It is the distinction of Mallarmé to have aspired after an impossible liberation of the soul of literature from what is fretting and constraining in "the body of that death," which is the mere literature of words. Words, he has realised, are of value only as a notation of the free breath of the spirit; words, therefore, must be employed with an extreme care. in their choice and adjustment, in setting them to reflect and chime upon one another; yet least of all for their own sake, for what they can never, except by suggestion, express. "Every soul is a melody," he has said, "which needs to be readjusted; and for that are the flute or viol of each." The word, treated indeed with a kind of "adoration," as he says, is so regarded in a magnificent sense, in which it is apprehended as a living thing, itself the vision rather than the reality; at least the philtre of the evocation. 'The word, chosen as he chooses it, is for him a liberating principle, by which the spirit is extracted from matter; takes form, perhaps assumes immortality. Thus an artificiality, even, in the use of [683] words, that seeming artificiality which comes from using words as if they had never been used before, that chimerical search after the virginity of language, is but the paradoxical outward sign of an extreme discontent with even the best of their service. Writers who use words fluently, seeming to disregard their importance, do so from an unconscious confidence in their expressiveness, which the scrupulous thinker, the precise dreamer, can never place in the most carefully chosen among them. To evoke, by some elaborate, instantaneous magic of language. without the formality of an after all impossible description; to be, rather than to express: that is what Mallarmé has consistently, and from the first, sought in verse and prose. And he has sought this wandering, illusive, beckoning butterfly, the soul of dreams, over more and more entangled ground; and it has led him into the depths of many forests, far from the sunlight. To say that he has found what he sought is impossible; but (is it possible to avoid saying?) how heroic a search, and what marvellous discoveries by the way!

I think I understand, though I cannot claim his own authority for my supposition, the way in which Mallarmé wrote verse, and the reason why it became more and more abstruse, more and more unintelligible. Remember his principle: that to name is to destroy, to suggest is to create. Note, further, that he condemns the inclusion in verse of anything but, "for example, the horror of the forest, or the silent thunder afloat in the leaves; not the intrinsic, dense wood of the trees." He has received, then, a mental sensation: let it be the horror of the forest. This sensation begins to form in his brain, at first probably no more than a rhythm, absolutely without words. Gradually thought begins to concentrate itself (but with an extreme care, lest it should break the tension on which all depends) upon the sensation, already struggling to find its own consciousness. Delicately, stealthily, with infinitely timid precaution, words present themselves, at first in silence. Every word seems like a desecration, seems, the clearer it is, to throw back the original sensation farther and farther into the darkness. But, guided always by the rhythm, which is the executive soul (as, in Aristotle's definition, the soul is the form of the body), words come slowly, one by one, shaping the message. Imagine the poem already written down, at least composed. In its very imperfection, it is clear, it shows the links by which it has been riveted together; the whole process of its construction can be studied. Now most writers would be content; but with Mallarmé the work has only begun. In the final result there must be no sign of the making, there must be only the thing made. He works over it, word by word, changing a word here, for its colour, which is not precisely the colour required, a word there, for the break it makes in the music. A new image occurs to him, rarer, subtler, than the one [684] he has used; the image is transferred. By the time the poem has reached, as it seems to him, a flawless unity, the steps of the progress have been only too effectually effaced; and while the poet, who has seen the thing from the beginning, still sees the relation of point to point, the reader, who comes to it only in its final stage, finds himself in a not unnatural bewilderment. Pursue this manner of writing to its ultimate development; start with an enigma, and then withdraw the key of the enigma; and you arrive, easily, at the frozen impenetrability of those latest sonnets, in which the absence of all punctuation is scarcely a recognisable hindrance.

That, I fancy to myself, was his actual way of writing; here, in what I prefer to give as a corollary, is the theory. "Symbolist, Decadent, or Mystic, the schools thus called by themselves, or thus hastily labelled by our information-press, adopt, for meeting-place, the point of an Idealism which (similarly as in fugues, in sonatas) rejects the 'natural' materials, and, as brutal, a direct thought ordering them; to retain no more than suggestion. To be instituted, a relation between images, exact; and that therefrom should detach itself a third aspect, fusible and clear, offered to the divination. Abolished, the pretension, æsthetically an error, despite its dominion over almost all the masterpieces, to enclose within the subtle paper other than, for example, the horror of the forest, or the silent thunder afloat in the leaves; not the intrinsic, dense wood of the trees. Some few bursts of personal pride, veridically trumpeted, awaken the architecture of the palace, alone habitable; not of stone, on which the pages would close but ill." For example (it is his own): "I say: a flower! and out of the oblivion to which my voice consigns every contour, so far as anything save the known calyx, musically arises, idea, and exquisite, the one flower absent from all bouquets." "The pure work," then, "implies the elocutionary disappearance of the poet, who yields place to the words, immobilised by the shock of their inequality; they take light from mutual reflection, like an actual trail of fire over precious stones, replacing the old lyric afflatus or the enthusiastic personal direction of the phrase." "The verse which out of many vocables remakes an entire word, new, unknown to the language, and as if magical, attains this isolation of speech." Whence, it being "music which rejoins verse, to form, since Wagner, Poetry," the final conclusion: "That are now precisely at the moment of seeking, before that breaking up of the large rhythms of literature, and their scattering in articulate, almost instrumental, nervous waves, an art which shall complete the transposition, into the Book, of the symphony, or simply recapture our own: for, it is not in elementary sonorities of brain, strings, wood, unquestionably, but in the intellectual word at its utmost, [685] that, fully and evidently, we should find, drawing to itself all the correspondences of the universe, the supreme Music."

Here, literally translated, in exactly the arrangement of the original, are some passages out of the theoretic writings, which I have brought together, to indicate what seem to me the main lines of Mallarmé's doctrine. It is the doctrine which, as I have already pointed out in these pages (FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW, January, 1898), had been divined by Gérard de Nerval; but what, in Gérard, was pure vision, becomes in Mallarmé a logical sequence of meditation. Mallarmé was not a mystic, to whom anything came unconsciously; he was a thinker, in whom an extraordinary subtlety of mind was exercised on always explicit, though by no means the common, problems. "A seeker after something in the world, that is there in no satisfying measure, or not at all," he pursued his search with unwearying persistence, with a sharp mental division of dream and idea, certainly very lucid to himself, however he may have failed to render his expression clear to others. And I, for one, cannot doubt that he was, for the most part, entirely right in his statement and analysis of the new conditions under which we are now privileged or condemned to write. His obscurity was partly his failure to carry out the spirit of his own directions; but, apart from obscurity, which we may all be fortunate enough to escape, is it possible for a writer, at the present day, to be quite simple, with the old, objective simplicity, in either thought or expression? To be naïf, to be archaic, is not to be either natural or simple I affirm that is not natural to be what is called "natural" any longer. We have no longer the mental attitude of those to whom a story was but a story, and all stories good; we have realised, since it was proved to us by Poe, not merely that the age of epics is past, but that no long poem was ever written; the finest long poem in the world being but a series of short poems linked together by prose. And, naturally, we can no longer write what we can no longer accept. Symbolism, implicit in all literature from the beginning, as it is implicit in the very words we use, comes to us now, at last quite conscious of itself, offering us the only escape from our many imprisonments. We find a new, an older, sense in the so worn out forms of things; the world, which we can no longer believe in as the satisfying material object it was to our grand-parents, becomes transfigured with a new light; words, which long usage had darkened almost out of recognition, take fresh lustre. And it is on the lines of that spiritualising of the word, that perfecting of form in its capacity for allusion and suggestion, that confidence in the eternal correspondences between the visible and the invisible universe, which Mallarmé taught, and too intermittently practised, that literature must now move, if it is in any sense to move forward.

 

 

 

 

Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Fortnightly Review.
1898, New Series, November, S. 677-685.

Gezeichnet: ARTHUR SYMONS.

Unser Auszug: S. 682-685 (Teil III).

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).


The Fortnightly Review   online
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008882609
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/006056638
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Zeitschriften-Repertorium

 

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Werkverzeichnis


Verzeichnis

Beckson, Karl u.a.: Arthur Symons.
A Bibliography.
Greensboro, NC: ELT Press 1990.



Symons, Arthur: Days and Nights.
London: Macmillan and Co. and New York 1889.
URL: https://archive.org/details/cu31924013557099
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001775307

Symons, Arthur: Silhouettes.
London: Matthews & Lane 1892.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005261328
S. 13: Pastel.

Symons, Arthur: Paul Verlaine.
In: The National Review.
Bd. 19, 1892, Nr. 112, Juni, S. 501-515.
URL: https://archive.org/details/nationalreview1918unse

Symons, Arthur: Mr. Henley's Poetry.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
1892, August, S. 182-192. [PDF]

Symons, Arthur: The Decadent Movement in Literature.
In: Harper's New Monthly Magazine.
Bd. 87, 1893, Nr. 522, November, S. 858-867.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008919716
URL: http://www.unz.org/Pub/Harpers/

Symons, Arthur: Paul Verlaine.
In: The New Review.
1893, Dezember, S. 609-617. [PDF]

Symons, Arthur: London Nights.
London: Smithers 1895.
URL: https://archive.org/details/londonnights00symogoog
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001024643

Symons, Arthur: Silhouettes.
Second edition. Revised and enlarged.
London: Smithers; New York: Richmond 1896.
URL: https://archive.org/details/cu31924013557172
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007693022

Symons, Arthur: Studies in Two Literatures.
London: Smithers 1897.
URL: https://archive.org/details/cu31924013257666
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000927181

Symons, Arthur: Mallarmé's "Divagations".
In: The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science, and Art.
Bd. 83, 1897, 30. Januar, S. 109-110.

Symons, Arthur: Le mysticisme de Maeterlinck.
In: La Revue des Revues.
Bd. 22, 1897, 15. September, S. 531-536.

Symons, Arthur: Stéphane Mallarmé
In: The Fortnightly Review.
1898, 1. November, S. 677-685. [PDF]

Symons, Arthur: The Symbolist Movement in Literature.
London: Heinemann 1899.
URL: https://archive.org/details/cu31924027213994
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100769199
URL: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k82456t

Symons, Arthur: Jules Laforgue.
In: Ders., The Symbolist Movement in Literature.
London: Heinemann 1899, S. 105-114.
URL: https://archive.org/details/cu31924027213994
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100769199
URL: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k82456t

Symons, Arthur: A Book of French Verse.
In: Literature. An International Gazette of Criticism.
1899, 10. November, S. 413-414.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/012173307

Symons, Arthur: Ernest Dowson.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
1900, Juni, S. 947-957.

Symons, Arthur: What is Poetry?.
In: The Saturday Review.
Bd. 92, 31. August 1901, S. 271-272.

Symons, Arthur: Poems.
Bd. 1. New York: John Lane 1902.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/006059461

Symons, Arthur: Poems.
Bd. 2. New York: John Lane 1902.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/006059461
URL: https://archive.org/details/poemssymons02symo   [London 1902]

Symons, Arthur: Lyrics.
Portland, Me.: Mosher 1903.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008973059

Symons, Arthur: Studies in Prose and Verse.
London: Dent; New York: Dutton o.J. [1904].
URL: https://archive.org/details/studiesinprosevesymo00symo
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001775310

Symons, Arthur (Hrsg.): The Poems of Ernest Dowson.
With a Memoir by Arthur Symons, Four Illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley and a Portrait by William Rothenstein.
London u. New York: Lane 1905.
URL: https://archive.org/details/poemsernestdows00symogoog
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/002104379

Symons, Arthur: Qu'est-ce que la Poésie?
In: Vers et prose.
Bd. 3, 1905, September-November, S. 29-33.
URL: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb34505309x/date1905

Symons, Arthur: Studies in Seven Arts.
London: Constable 1906.
https://archive.org/details/studiesinsevenar00symouoft
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001919997   [New York 1906]

Symons, Arthur: Aspects of Verlaine.
In: The Smart Set. A Magazine of Cleverness.
Bd. 18, 1906, Nr. 1, Januar, S. 79-83.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008881616

Symons, Arthur: London. A Book of Aspects.
London: Privately printed 1909.
URL: https://archive.org/details/londonbookofaspe00symo
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007704096

Symons, Arthur: Plays, Acting and Music. A Book of Theory.
London: Dutton & Company 1909.
URL/ https://archive.org/details/playsactingmusic00symo
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001186866

Symons, Arthur: Art. Goncourt, DE.
In: The Encyclopædia Britannica. Eleventh Edition.
Volume XII. Cambridge, England; New York 1911, S. 231.
URL: https://archive.org/details/encyclopaediabrit12chisrich

Symons, Arthur: Art. Mallarmé, Stéphane.
In: The Encyclopædia Britannica. Eleventh Edition.
Volume XVII. Cambridge, England; New York 1911, S. 490.
URL: https://archive.org/details/encyclopaediabri17chisrich

Symons, Arthur: Art. Verlaine, Paul.
In: The Encyclopædia Britannica. Eleventh Edition.
Volume XXVII. Cambridge, England; New York 1911, S. 1023-1024.
URL: https://archive.org/details/encyclopaediabri27chisrich

Symons, Arthur: Figures of Several Centuries.
London: Constable and Company 1916.
URL: https://archive.org/details/figuresofseveral00symouoft
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596406   [New York o.J. (1916)]

Symons, Arthur: Colour Studies in Paris.
New York: Dutton & Company 1918.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001186861
URL: https://archive.org/details/colourstudiesinp01symo

Symons, Arthur: Claude Debussy.
In: The Egoist.
Bd. 5, 1918: Nr. 6, Juni-Juli, S. 82-83; Nr. 7, August, S. 93-94.
URL: http://modjourn.org/journals.html

Symons, Arthur: The Symbolist Movement in Literature.
Revised and enlarged edition. New York: Dutton & Company 1919.
URL: https://archive.org/details/symbolistmovemen00symo
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100114633


Symons, Arthur: Letters to W. B. Yeats, 1892-1902.
Edited by Bruce Morris.
Edinburgh: The Tragara Press 1989.

Symons, Arthur: Selected Letters, 1880-1935.
Edited by Karl Beckson and John M. Munro.
Basingstoke: Macmillan 1989.

Symons, Arthur: Selected Writings.
Edited with an introduction by Roger Holdsworth.
Manchester: Fyfield Books 2003.

Symons, Arthur: The Symbolist Movement in Literature.
Edited by Matthew Creasy.
Manchester: Carcanet 2014.

Duclos, Michèle: Un regard anglais sur le symbolisme français.
Arthur Symons, Le mouvement symboliste en littérature (1899), généalogie, traduction, influence.
Paris: L'Harmattan 2016.

Symons, Arthur: Selected Early Poems.
Edited with an introduction and notes by Jane Desmarais and Chris Baldick.
Cambridge: Modern Humanities Research Association 2017.

Symons, Arthur: Spiritual Adventures.
Edited with an introduction and notes by Nicholas Freeman.
Cambridge: Modern Humanities Research Association 2017.

 

 

 

Literatur

Bizzotto, Elisa / Evangelista, Stefano-Maria (Hrsg.): Arthur Symons. Poet, Critic, Vagabond. Cambridge 2018.

Boyiopoulos, Kostas: The Decadent Image. The Poetry of Wilde, Symons and Dowson. Edinburgh 2015.

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.

Corbett, David P.: Symbolism in British 'Little Magazines': The Dial (1889-97), The Pageant (1896-7), and The Dome (1897-1900). In: The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Hrsg. von Peter Brooker u.a. Bd. 1: Britain and Ireland 1880-1955. Oxford 2009, S. 101-119.

Dierkes-Thrun, Petra: Arthur Symons' Decadent Aesthetics. Stéphane Mallarmé and the Dancer Revisited. In: Decadences. Morality and Aesthetics in British Literature. Hrsg. von Paul Fox. Stuttgart 2006, S. 31-62.

Ducrey, Guy: Le passeur du symbolisme français, Arthur Symons. In: 'Curious about France'. Visions littéraires victoriennes. Hrsg. von Ignacio Ramos Gay. Bern u.a. 2015, S. 137-152.

Erzgräber, Willi: Arthur Symons' The Symbolist Movement. In: Fin de siècle. Hrsg. von Monika Fludernik u.a. Trier 2002, S. 43-61.

Hall, Jason D. u.a. (Hrsg.): Decadent Poetics. Literature and Form at the British Fin de Siècle. New York 2013 (= Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture).

Herold, Katharina: Dancing the Image. Sensoriality and Kinesthetics in the Poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Symons. In: Decadence and the Senses. Hrsg. von Jane Desmarais u. Alice Condé. Cambridge 2017, S. 141-161.

Higgins, Jennifer: English Responses to French Poetry 1880-1940. Translation and Mediation. Leeds 2011.

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).

Morris, Bruce: Mallarmé's Letters to Arthur Symons: Origins of the Symbolist Movement. In: English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920. 28 (1985), S. 346-353.

Stevens, Mary A.: Symbolism – A French Monopoly? In: The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones & Watts. Symbolism in Britain, 1860-1910. Ed. by Andrew Wilton and Robert Upstone. Paris u.a. 1997, S. 47-63.

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

Thain, Marion: Lyric Poem and Aestheticism. Forms of Modernity. Edinburgh 2016.

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

 

 

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Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer