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French Profiles: A First Sight Of Verlaine, Page 2  
by Edmund Gosse (1896). Page protected by Copyscape DO NOT COPY

It was all excessively amusing, but deep down in my consciousness, tolling like a little bell, there continued to sound the words, "We haven't seen Verlaine." I confessed as much at last to the sovereign of Golconda, and she was graciously pleased to say that she would make a great effort. She was kind enough, I believe, to send out a sort of search-party. Meanwhile, we adjourned to another café, to drink other things, and our company grew like a rolling snowball. I was losing all hope, and we were descending the Boulevard, our faces set for home; the Queen of Golconda was hanging heavily on my arm, and having formed a flattering misconception as to my age, was warning me against the temptations of Paris, when two more poets, a male and a female, most amiably hurried to meet us with the intoxicating news that Verlaine had been seen to dart into a little place called the Café Soleil d'Or. Thither we accordingly hied, buoyed up by hope, and our party, now containing a dozen persons (all poets), rushed into an almost empty drinking-shop. But no Verlaine was to be seen. M. Moréas then collected us round a table, and fresh grenadines were ordered.

Where I sat, by the elbow of M. Moréas, I was opposite an open door, absolutely dark, leading down, by oblique stairs, to a cellar. As I idly watched this square of blackness I suddenly saw some ghostly shape fluttering at the bottom of it. It took the form of a strange bald head, bobbing close to the ground. Although it was so dim and vague, an idea crossed my mind. Not daring to speak, I touched M. Moréas, and so drew his attention to it. "Pas un mot, pas un geste, Monsieur!" he whispered, and then, instructed in the guile of his race, insidias Danaûm, the eminent author of Les Cantilènes rose, making a vague detour towards the street, and then plunged at the cellar door. There was a prolonged scuffle and a rolling downstairs; then M. Moréas reappeared, triumphant; behind him something flopped up out of the darkness like an owl, — a timid shambling figure in a soft black hat, with jerking hands, and it peeped with intention to disappear again. But there were cries of "Venez done, Maître," and by-and-by Verlaine was persuaded to emerge definitely and to sit by me. I had been prepared for strange eccentricities of garb, but he was very decently dressed; he referred at once to the fact, and explained that this was the suit which had been bought for him to lecture in, in Belgium.


He was particularly proud of a real white shirt; "C'est ma chemise de conférence," he said, and shot out the cuffs of it with pardonable pride. He was full of his experiences of Belgium, and in particular he said some very pretty things about Bruges and its béguinages, and how much he should like to spend the rest of his life there. Yet it seemed less the mediæval buildings which had attracted him than a museum of old lace. He spoke with a veiled utterance, difficult for me to follow. Not for an instant would he take off his hat, so that I could not see the Socratic dome of forehead which figures in all the caricatures. I thought his countenance very Chinese, and I may perhaps say here that when he was in London in 1894 I called him a Chinese philosopher. He replied: "Chinois — comme vous voulez, mais philosophe — non pas!"

On this first occasion (April 2, 1893), recitations were called for, and Verlaine repeated his Clair de Lune: —

"Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques,"

and presently, with a strange indifference to all incongruities of scene and company, part of his wonderful Mon Dieu m'a dit: —

"J'ai répondu: 'Seigneur, vous avez dit mon âme.
C'est vrai que je vous cherche et ne vous trouve pas.
Mais vous aimer! Voyez comme je suis en bas,
Vous dont l'amour toujours monte comme la flamme

'Vous, la source de paix que toute soif réclame,
Helas! Voyez un peu tous mes tristes combats!
Oserai-je adorer la trace de vos pas,
Sur ces genoux saignants d'un rampement infame?'"

He recited in a low voice, without gesticulation, very delicately. Then M. Moréas, in exactly the opposite manner, with roarings of a bull and with modulated sawings of the air with his hand, intoned an eclogue addressed by himself to Verlaine as "Tityre." And so the exciting evening closed, the passionate shepherd in question presently disappearing again down those mysterious stairs. And we, out into the soft April night and the budding smell of the trees.


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Gosse, E (1896). French Profiles: A First Sight Of Verlaine:Page2. Retrieved  
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Gosse, Edmund. "French Profiles: A First Sight Of Verlaine:Page2."   
	La Nouvelle Décadence. 1896.  <
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Gosse, Edmund. "French Profiles: A First Sight Of Verlaine:Page2."    
	La Nouvelle Décadence. Available from
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Chicago Style:
Gosse, Edmund. "French Profiles: A First Sight Of Verlaine:Page2." 1896. 
	(accessed ).

AUTHOR: Gosse, Edmund (1896).
TITLE OF WEBPAGE: "French Profiles: A First Sight Of Verlaine:Page2".
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LAST UPDATED: December 29th, 2009.

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