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Paul Verlaine: Arthur Rimbaud, Page 11
by Harold Nicolson (1921).

He finds it less easy to forget Mathilde than it was to desert her: the sound of some familiar mutual tune caught as he passes by brings a sudden stab of remembrance; the picture of her in her light summer dress comes back to him with disturbing frequency: and Rimbaud, wonderful as he is, has his moments of violence, he plays their joint game of truancy with too morose a maturity.

Il faut, voyez-vous, nous pardonner les choses.
De cette façon nous serons bien heureuses,
Et si notre vie a des instants moroses,
Du moins nous serons, n'est-ce pas ? deux pleureuses. . . .

Soyons deux enfants, soyons deux jeunes filles
Éprises de rien et de tout étonnées,
Qui s'en vont pâlir sous les chastes charmilles
Sans même savoir qu'elles sont pardonnées.


In September they crossed to London, and in his uneasy heart Verlaine carried with him the leaden sense of what he had so whimsically sacrificed. How shadowy indeed is the line which divides an adventure from an ordeal, an escape from exile! Verlaine began to be frightened. Supposing that what he had done were irremediable? Supposing that he could never return to the calm of matrimony? Supposing, more immediate terror, that Rimbaud were suddenly to leave him? Then indeed he would be a frail vessel driven rudderless before the storm.

O triste, triste était mon âme
A cause, à cause d'une femme.

Je ne me suis pas consolé
Bien que mon cœur s'en soit allé.

Bien que mon cœur, bien que mon âme
Eussent fui loin de cette femme.

Je ne me suis pas consolé,
Bien, que mon cœur s'en soit alle.

Et mon cœur, mon cœur trop sensible
Dit à mon âme: Est-il possible,

Est-il possible, — le fut-il, —
Ce fier exil, ce triste exil ?


To make matters worse, Verlaine learnt, shortly after his arrival in London, that his wife had instituted proceedings for a legal separation. He wrote letter after letter to Lepelletier, in which he gave vent to the most extravagant threats and proposals. He would come over and make a scene. He would come over and assault his wife's lawyers. Rimbaud and he would come over together and submit themselves to an examination. Meanwhile Lepelletier must send over his books, his pictures and his son! And through all this hysterical correspondence runs a little thread of anxiety as to what people are saying in Paris. What do his friends think? Has any one dared to breathe a word of scandal? If so, they will have to answer for it. Meanwhile Lepelletier must deny everything, he must be combative and contradictory. Or perhaps, after all, it would better to leave things alone. What does Lepelletier think? "If there is a scandal," Verlaine writes, "you must deny everything," and then pitiably he concludes, "unless you think it better to keep silent."


PAGE 11 OF 21.

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