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Some Remarks on Baudelaire's Influence
upon Modern Poetry and Thought, Page 8

by Guy Thorne (1915).

Thus Wilde in "Intentions." It is not an acknowledgment of what he himself owed to Baudelaire, but it is a perfectly phrased, if veiled, recognition of his debt.

The cadences of the "Madrigal Triste" are heard over and over again in the poems of Oscar Wilde. We find them in "True Knowledge," in the "New Remorse," and in "Désespoir."

In the stanzas of the "Ballad of Reading Gaol" there is much that could never have been written had it not been that Wilde was saturated with the sombre melodies of such poems as "Le Vin de l'Assassin," and "Le Vin des Chiffonniers." It was Baudelaire who suggested a literary form in which such things as were said in "Reading Gaol" could be said.

Wilde, in his earlier days, when he was writing that extraordinary poem "The Sphinx," always used to express himself as a great admirer of "Une Charogne." Mr. Sherard, Wilde's biographer, says that in his opinion the poet's admiration for that frightful and distorted work of genius was merely assumed. But Mr. Sherard tells us also that the "Flowers of Evil" exercised a great influence over Wilde's mind during the earlier period of his artistic life. And in the "Sphinx" it is most marked.

Allowing for the difference of metre and the divergence of language, the two verses from Baudelaire's poem "Le Chat," which I am about to quote, are identical in thought and feeling with the opening stanzas of "The Sphinx." It is impossible not to believe—not to feel certain indeed—that when Wilde wrote—

"In a dim corner of my room for longer than my fancy thinks
A beautiful and silent Sphinx has watched me through the shifting gloom,"


he had not, consciously or unconsciously, in mind—

"Viens, mon beau chat, sur mon cœur amoureux ;
Retiens les griffes de ta patte,
Et laisse-moi plonger dans tes beaux yeux,
Mêlés de métal et d'agate."


Or—

"Upon the mat she lies and leers, and on the tawny throat of her
Flutters the soft and silky fur, or ripples to her pointed ears."


and—

"Et, des pieds jusque à la tête,
Un air subtil, un dangereux parfum,
Nagent autour de son corps brun."


This should be sufficient proof in itself, but there is evidence which is absolutely conclusive. In all the criticism of Wilde's work, I do not think that any one has taken the trouble to trace these origins.


PAGE 8 OF 13.

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