Impressions and Opinions: Two Unknown Poets, Page 2|
by George Moore (1913).
The mediævalism of this strange story has always had a singular fascination for me. I have dreamed the meeting of the poets at Stuttgart in many an unwritten poem, and I have seen in many a picture, the desolate convent and the single figure digging in the eastern twilight. The story is singularly romantic, especially when looked at in the light of Verlaine's subsequent conversion and the beauty of his religious poems — poems that take you back to the simple unquestioning faith of mediæval Christianity. Verlaine's genius has quite lately come to be accepted even by the general reader, and we are sure, though poor and afflicted with bodily ill, that he stands on the verge of glory; but of Rimbaud few know anything. The now Christian monk, the whilom scorner of all law, human and divine, left the poetic revolution to be achieved by Verlaine, and all that remains of this Marlowe of 1870 are a few poems and a few fragments; but these are sufficient to show that he carried in his heart all the riches of a great poet. To prove decisively that my words are not vain exaggerations, I need only quote Les Premières Communions, or La Mort des petits Poux, But I have no wish to prove anything. My object is rather to convey a sensation of this strange boy, and I cannot make more sure of doing this than by quoting a sonnet (never, I believe, before published), written between fifteen and sixteen, before Rimbaud came to Paris:
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"Je m'en allais, les poings dans mes poches crevées;
Mon paletot aussi devenait ideal;
J'allais sous le ciel, Muse! et j'étais ton féal;
Oh! là, là! que d'amours splendides j'ai rêvées.
Mon unique culotte avait un large trou.
Petit-Poucet réveur, j'égrenais dans ma course
Des rimes. Mon auberge était à la grande Ourse
Mes étoiles au ciel avaient un doux frou-frou.
"Et je les écoutais assis au bord des routes,
Des bon soirs de Septembre où je sentais des gouttes
De rosée à mon front comme un vin de vigneur;
Où, rimant au milieu des ombres fantastiques,
Comme des lyres, je tirai les élastiques
De mes souliers blessés, un pied prés de mon cur."
Did a child ever write such verse before? I think not.
But I have now to try, in a few English words, to give a sensation of the delicious talent of Jules Laforgue — delicious, delicate, and evanescent as French pastry. Can I help you to see this Watteau de café-concert? I will ask you to think of the beauty of a moth fluttering in the soft twilight of a summer month. Touch it not, lest you destroy the delicate dust of its wings. I hold it on my forefinger now, examine the beautiful markings. L'Imitation de Notre Dame la Lune, Fleurs de Bonne Volonté, Les Moralités Légendaires, Le Miracle des Roses, etc. Is there not in these titles something like genius? and is it possible that any one not touched with genius could have invented L'Imitation de Notre Dame la Lune? I have called Laforgue a Watteau de café-concert because his imagination was as fanciful as that painter's, and because he adopted in his style the familiarity of the café-concert, transforming, raising it by the enchantment of his genius. What I am writing should in truth be delivered in a literary academy with closed doors. But do not gather up your skirts, for in the end I may be able to leave on this page some faint shadow of my beautiful moth. Here is a little poem which appears to me to be wholly exquisite, and scintillant with French grace: —
"Mon Sort est orphelin, les vèpres ont tu leurs cloches. . . .
Et ces pianos ritournellent, jamais las! . . .
Oh! monter, leur expliquer mon apostolat!
Oh! du moins, leur tourner les pages, être là,
Les consoler! (J'ai des consolations plein les poches) . . .
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