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Some Remarks on Baudelaire's Influence
upon Modern Poetry and Thought, Page 6

by Guy Thorne (1915).

Pater was curious of everything in life and Art that offered a new sensation—that should enable men to realise themselves in the completest and most varied way. Baudelaire was certainly not Walter Pater's master in the same degree that he was the master of Swinburne and of Wilde. Yet, none the less certainly, the Frenchman's work made expression possible to the recluse of Oxford.

Hellenic thought, with its dangerous conclusions, was restated by Pater because "Les Fleurs du Mal" had paved the way.

Here again, within the compass of a brief essay it is impossible to set forth these contentions in detail. But those who have read Baudelaire, and what Gautier says about him—those who have studied contemporary thought and contemporary literature when Pater began to weave his magical prose—will confirm what is no discovery of mine, but a fact of literature. They will recognise that, in the "Conclusion" of Walter Pater's "Renaissance," the following words could hardly have been written had it not been for the daring expression of the poet whom Frenchmen admit to be second to Hugo alone.

"The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face ; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest ; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive for us—for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?

"To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits ; for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem like. While all melts under our feet, we may well catch at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or work of the artists's hands, or the face of one's friend. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening.

With this sense of the splendour of our experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make theories about the things we see and touch. What we have to do is to be for ever curiously testing new opinions and courting new impressions, never acquiescing in a facile orthodoxy of Comte, or of Hegel, or of our own. Philosophical theories or ideas, as points of view, instruments of criticism, may help us to gather up what otherwise might pass unregarded by us. 'Philosophy is the microscope of thought.' The theory or idea or system which requires of us the sacrifice of any part of this experience, in consideration of some interest into which we cannot entre, or some abstract theory we have not identified with ourselves, or what is only conventional, has no real claim upon us."

What is this most perfect piece of prose but an expansion of Baudelaire's poem "Correspondances"?

"La Nature est un temple ou de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles ;
L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

"Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent,

"Il est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
—Et d'autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,

"Ayant l'expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l'ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l'encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l'esprit et des sens."


PAGE 6 OF 13.

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