Arthur Symons



Ernest Dowson.



Literatur: Symons
Literatur: The Fortnightly Review

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Dowson was the only poet I ever knew who cared more for his prose than his verse; but he was wrong, and it is not by his prose that he will live, exquisite as that prose was at its best. He wrote two novels in collaboration with Mr. Arthur Moore: A Comedy of Masks, in 1893, and Adrian Rome, in 1899, both done under the influence of Mr. Henry James, both interesting because they were personal studies, and studies of known surroundings, rather than for their actual value as novels. A volume of "Stories and Studies in Sentiment," called Dilemmas, in which the influence of Mr. Wedmore was felt in addition to the influence of Mr. James, appeared in 1895. Several other short stories, among his best work in prose, have not yet been reprinted from the Savoy. Some translations from the French, done as hack-work, need not be mentioned here, though they were never without some traces of his peculiar quality of charm in language. The short stories were indeed rather "studies in sentiment" than stories; studies of singular delicacy, but with only a faint hold on life, so that perhaps the best of them was not unnaturally a study in the approaches of death: "The Dying of Francis Donne." For the most part they dealt with the same motives as the poems, hopeless and reverent love, the ethics of renunciation, the disappointment of those who are too weak or too unlucky to take what they desire. They have a sad and quiet beauty of their own, the beauty of second thoughts and subdued emotions, of choice and scholarly English, moving in the more fluid and reticent harmonies of prose almost as daintily as if it were moving to the measure of verse. Dowson's care over English prose was like that of a Frenchman writing his own language with the respect which Frenchmen pay to French. Even English things had to come to him through France, if he was to prize them very highly; and there is a passage in Dilemmas which I have always thought very characteristic of his own tastes, as it refers to an "infinitesimal library, a few French novels, an Horace, and some well-thumbed volumes of the modern English poets in the familiar edition of Tauchnitz." He was Latin by all his affinities, and that very quality of slightness, of parsimony almost in his dealings with life and the substance of art, connects him with the artists of Latin races, who have always been so fastidious in their rejection of mere nature, when it comes too nakedly or too [955] clamorously into sight and hearing, and so gratefully content with a few choice things faultlessly done.

And Dowson, in his verse (the Verses of 1896, The Pierrot of the Minute, a dramatic phantasy in one act, of 1897, the posthumous volume Decorations), was the same scrupulous artist as in his prose, and more felicitously at home there. He was quite Latin in his feeling for youth, and death, and "the old age of roses," and the pathos of our little hour in which to live and love; Latin in his elegance, reticence, and simple grace in the treatment of these motives; Latin, finally, in his sense of their sufficiency for the whole of one's mental attitude. He used the commonplaces of poetry frankly, making them his own by his belief in them: the Horatian Cynara or Neobule was still the natural symbol for him when he wished to be most personal. I remember his saying to me that his ideal of a line of verse was the line of Poe:

"The viol, the violet, and the vine";

and the gracious, not remote or unreal beauty, which clings about such words and such images as these, was always to him the true poetical beauty. There never was a poet to whom verse came more naturally, for the song's sake; his theories were all aesthetic, almost technical ones, such as a theory, indicated by his preference for the line of Poe, that the letter "v" was the most beautiful of the letters, and could never be brought into verse too often. For any more abstract theories he had neither tolerance nor need. Poetry as a philosophy did not exist for him; it existed solely as the loveliest of the arts. He loved the elegance of Horace, all that was most complex in the simplicity of Poe, most birdlike in the human melodies of Verlaine. He had the pure lyric gift, unweighted or unballasted by any other quality of mind or emotion; and a song, for him, was music first, and then whatever you please afterwards, so long as it suggested, never told, some delicate sentiment, a sigh or a caress; finding words, at times, as perfect as the words of a poem headed, "O Mors! quam amara est memoria tua homini pacem habenti in substantiis suis":

"Exceeding sorrow
    Consumeth my sad heart!
Because to-morrow
    We must depart,
Now is exceeding sorrow
    All my part!

"Give over playing,
    Cast thy viol away:
Merely laying
    Thine head my way:
Prithee, give over playing,
    Grave or gay.

"Be no word spoken;
    Weep nothing: let a pale
Silence, unbroken
    Silence prevail!
Prithee, be no word spoken,
    Lest I fail!

"Forget to-morrow!
    Weep nothing: only lay
In silent sorrow
    Thine head my way:
Let us forget to-morrow,
    This one day!"

[956] There, surely, the music of silence speaks, if it has ever spoken. The words seem to tremble back into the silence which their whisper has interrupted, but not before they have created for us a mood, such a mood as the Venetian Pastoral attributed to Giorgione renders in painting. Languid, half inarticulate, coming from the heart of a drowsy sorrow very conscious of itself, and not less sorrowful because it sees its own face looking mournfully back out of the water, the song seems to have been made by some fastidious amateur of grief, and it has all the sighs and tremors of the mood, wrought into a faultless strain of music. Stepping out of a paradise in which pain becomes so lovely, he can see the beauty which is the other side of madness, and, in a sonnet, To One in Bedlam, can create a more positive, a more poignant mood, with this fine subtlety:

"With delicate, mad hands, behind his sordid bars,
Surely he hath his posies, which they tear and twine;
Those scentless wisps of straw that, miserable, line
His strait, caged universe, whereat the dull world stares.
Pedant and pitiful.   O, how his rapt gaze wars
With their stupidity!   Know they what dreams divine
Lift his long, laughing reveries like enchanted wine,
And make his melancholy germane to the stars'?

"O lamentable brother! if those pity thee,
Am I not fain of all thy lone eyes promise me;
Half a fool's kingdom, far from men who sow and reap,
All their days, vanity?   Better then mortal flowers,
Thy moon-kissed roses seem: better than love or sleep,
The star-crowned solitude of thine oblivious hours!"

Here, in the moment's intensity of this comradeship with madness, observe how beautiful the whole thing becomes; how instinctively the imagination of the poet turns what is sordid into a radiance, all stars and flowers and the divine part of forgetfulness! It is a symbol of the two sides of his own life: the side open to the street, and the side turned away from it, where he could "hush and bless himself with silence." No one ever worshipped beauty more devoutly, and just as we see him here transfiguring a dreadful thing with beauty, so we shall see, everywhere in his work, that he never admitted an emotion which he could not so transfigure. He knew his limits only too well; he knew that the deeper and graver things of life were for the most part outside the circle of his magic; he passed them by, leaving much of himself unexpressed, because he would permit himself to express nothing imperfectly, or according to anything but his own conception of the dignity of poetry. In the lyric in which he has epitomised himself and his whole life, a lyric which is certainly one of the greatest lyrical poems of our tinie, "Non sum qualis eram bonæ sub regno Cynaræ," he has for once said everything, and he has said it to an intoxicating and perhaps immortal music:

"Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine,
There fell thy shadow. Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

"All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
    When I awoke and found the dawn was grey:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

"I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

"I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion."

Here, perpetuated by some unique energy of a temperament rarely so much the master of itself, is the song of passion and the passions, at their eternal war in the soul which they quicken or deaden, and in the body which they break down between them. In the second book, the book of Decorations, there are a few pieces which repeat, only more faintly, this very personal note. Dowson could never have developed; he had already said, in his first book of verse, all that he had to say. Had he lived, had he gone on writing, he could only have echoed himself; and probably it would have been the less essential part of himself; his obligation to Swinburne, always evident, increasing as his own inspiration failed him. He was always without ambition, writing to please his own fastidious taste, with a kind of proud humility in his attitude towards the public, not expecting or requiring recognition. He died obscure, having ceased to care even for the delightful labour of writing. He died young, worn out by what was never really life to him, leaving a little verse which has the pathos of things too young and too frail ever to grow old.





Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Fortnightly Review.
1900, Juni, S. 947-957.

Unser Auszug: S. 954-957 (= III; vollständig)

Gezeichnet: ARTHUR SYMONS.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).

The Fortnightly Review   online

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





Aufgenommen in






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.

Symons, Arthur: Silhouettes.
London: Matthews & Lane 1892.
S. 13: Pastel.

Symons, Arthur: Paul Verlaine.
In: The National Review.
Bd. 19, 1892, Nr. 112, Juni, S. 501-515.

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.

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

Symons, Arthur: London Nights.
London: Smithers 1895.

Symons, Arthur: Silhouettes.
Second edition. Revised and enlarged.
London: Smithers; New York: Richmond 1896.

Symons, Arthur: Studies in Two Literatures.
London: Smithers 1897.

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.

Symons, Arthur: Jules Laforgue.
In: Ders., The Symbolist Movement in Literature.
London: Heinemann 1899, S. 105-114.

Symons, Arthur: A Book of French Verse.
In: Literature. An International Gazette of Criticism.
1899, 10. November, S. 413-414.

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.

Symons, Arthur: Poems.
Bd. 2. New York: John Lane 1902.
URL:   [London 1902]

Symons, Arthur: Lyrics.
Portland, Me.: Mosher 1903.

Symons, Arthur: Studies in Prose and Verse.
London: Dent; New York: Dutton o.J. [1904].

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.

Symons, Arthur: Qu'est-ce que la Poésie?
In: Vers et prose.
Bd. 3, 1905, September-November, S. 29-33.

Symons, Arthur: Studies in Seven Arts.
London: Constable 1906.
URL:   [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.

Symons, Arthur: London. A Book of Aspects.
London: Privately printed 1909.

Symons, Arthur: Plays, Acting and Music. A Book of Theory.
London: Dutton & Company 1909.

Symons, Arthur: Art. Goncourt, DE.
In: The Encyclopædia Britannica. Eleventh Edition.
Volume XII. Cambridge, England; New York 1911, S. 231.

Symons, Arthur: Art. Mallarmé, Stéphane.
In: The Encyclopædia Britannica. Eleventh Edition.
Volume XVII. Cambridge, England; New York 1911, S. 490.

Symons, Arthur: Art. Verlaine, Paul.
In: The Encyclopædia Britannica. Eleventh Edition.
Volume XXVII. Cambridge, England; New York 1911, S. 1023-1024.

Symons, Arthur: Figures of Several Centuries.
London: Constable and Company 1916.
URL:   [New York o.J. (1916)]

Symons, Arthur: Colour Studies in Paris.
New York: Dutton & Company 1918.

Symons, Arthur: Claude Debussy.
In: The Egoist.
Bd. 5, 1918: Nr. 6, Juni-Juli, S. 82-83; Nr. 7, August, S. 93-94.

Symons, Arthur: The Symbolist Movement in Literature.
Revised and enlarged edition. New York: Dutton & Company 1919.

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: Symons

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.

Bristow, Joseph (Hrsg.): The Fin-de-Siècle poem. English Literary Culture and the 1890s. Athens 2005.

Creasy, Matthew: 'The Neglected, the Unutterable Verlaine'. Arthur Symons, the Saturday Review, and French Literature in the 1890s. In: Victorian Periodicals Review 52.1 (2019), S. 103-123.

Creasy, Matthew: La Décadence à l'ère numérique. Paul Verlaine et les périodiques victoriens. In: Revue d'Histoire littéraire de la France 120.1 (2020), S. 59-75.

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.

Fox, C. Jay / Stern, Carol S. / Means, Robert S.: Arthur Symons, Critic Among Critics: An Annotated Bibliography. Greensboro, NC 2007.

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).

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

Jauß, Hans R.: Ursprünge der Naturfeindschaft in der Ästhetik der Moderne. In: Romantik: Aufbruch zur Moderne. Hrsg. von Karl Maurer u.a. München 1991 (= Romanistisches Kolloquium, 5), S. 357-382.

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

Oelmann, Ute: Anklänge. Stefan George und Ernest Dowson. In: Goethezeit - Zeit für Goethe. Auf den Spuren deutscher Lyriküberlieferung in die Moderne. Festschrift für Christoph Perels zum 65. Geburtstag. Hrsg. von Konrad Feilchenfeldt u.a. Tübingen 2003, S. 313-321.

Scott, Clive: Channel Crossings. French and English Poetry in Dialogue 1550-2000. Oxford 2002.

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.

Waithe, Marcus / White, Claire (Hrsg.): The Labour of Literature in Britain and France, 1830-1910. Authorial Work Ethics. London 2018.

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



Literatur: The Fortnightly Review

Brake, Laurel: The "Wicked Westminster", "The Fortnightly" and Walter Pater's "Renaissance".  In: Literature in the Marketplace. Nineteenth-Century British Publishing and Reading Practices.  Hrsg. von John O'Jordan u. Robert L. Patten. Cambridge 1995, S. 289-305.

King, Andrew u.a. (Hrsg.): The Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-Century British Periodicals and Newspapers. London u. New York 2019.

Small, Helen: Liberal Editing in the Fortnightly Review and the Nineteenth Century. In: Authorship in Context. From the Theoretical to the Material. Hrsg. von Kyriaki Hadjiafxendi and Polina Mackay. Basingstoke u.a. 2007, S. 56-71.

Morrisson, Mark S.: The Public Face of Modernism. Little Magazines, Audiences, and Reception, 1905-1920. Madison, Wis. u.a. 2001.
Kap 1: The Myth of the Whole and Ford's English Review: Edwardian Monthlies, the Mercure de France, and Early British Modernism (S. 17-53); hier: S. 39-48: The Edwardian Reviews: The English Review and the Fortnightly Review.

Stead, Évanghélia / Védrine, Hélène (Hrsg.): L'Europe des revues II (1860-1930). Réseaux et circulations des modèles. Paris 2018.



Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer