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Essays from the Chap-Book: Verlaine: A Feminine Appreciation, Page 1  
by Mrs. Reginald de Koven (1896). Page protected by Copyscape DO NOT COPY

IN early days, when the triumphs and the torments of his overwhelming vitality swept at will across his soul, Paul Verlaine was sometimes god and sometimes satyr. From aspiring altitudes of spiritual emotions he swung like a pendulum to unspoken depths of vice.

The world spirit doubly charged his strange and terrible personality, pouring into it the essences and intuitions of the body and the soul. Into the alembic were dissolved the entities of Baudelaire and Villon, floating still upon the earth.

Then the whole was set to the vibration of a new rhythm as strange and as remote from the consciousness of men as the songs of inter-lunar space, so that his utterances with the naturalness of a bird's song or an infant's lisp should have the accents of melody undreamed of. And this is not all — strangest and most tragically terrible in its possibilities of pain — the chrism of conscience burns his sinister brow. The phantom of the immortal soul drives him into the outer darkness.

What are the undiscovered laws of spiritual heredity and of a poetic paternity, such as are suggested in the likeness of Baudelaire and Verlaine to their prototype Villon? The secret is yet to find. It is all as strange as the mystery of Bernhardt's strayed existence in this modern day. An emanation from some Egyptian tomb, wild spirit of genius and of vice is she, vampire-like, inhuman, wandering among a people who have thrilled to her voice and wondered, not knowing whence she came.

Behind them both — Baudelaire with his luminous, despairing eyes, and Verlaine with his terrible glabrous head — the madcap figure of Villon shines out of a cloud of time, and we hear the sound of his reckless laughter and the music of his tears.

But if the relation between these two moderns and this singing renegade of the Middle Ages is that of mysterious paternity, between Baudelaire and Verlaine there is a brotherhood which is as wonderful as an oriental dream of metempsychosis.


Baudelaire's verses, read in early youth, so saturated and possessed the new-born soul of Paul Verlaine that he became more a reincarnation of Baudelaire than a separate existence. The passions and the madness of Baudelaire became his own — he heard the same strange music — saw the same visions. Incarnate of the mad poet, Verlaine, his second soul, fled a second slave in the footsteps of the same strange goddess — beauty in decay.

And where one had madly followed, so the other fled, enamoured of her fatal loveliness, wherever her fickle steps should lead. Sometimes she would escape them, disappearing in mists and mysterious darkness, and sometimes they would come upon her suddenly in glimpses of green light, dancing strange frivolous steps, and the color of her robes would be mingled rose and mystic blue, and the halo of her head the phosphor of decay.

And she has led them through strange paths into the dwelling-place of death, and where love and life live together, for these two are never separated, and, through many places of terror and delight, to that ultimate spot, occult, remote, where dwells the soul of woman.

There the youngest of her slaves found himself one day outstripping his brother, and saw with living eyes the mystery, — and thenceforward he was no more Paul Verlaine; he was the prophet and interpreter of woman.

To him alone has the secret been revealed; to him alone, the mantle of deceit she wears, the slavish dress of the centuries, is no concealment. He has seen, has known, and he understands. "The very worst thing in the world,'' says an unknown writer, "is the soul of a woman." Forced to inaction, and fed on lies, her principal power, founded on man's weakness, curiosity, and the imagination of the intellect, lead her in many wandering ways. Tasting but few of the actual joys, the triumphs, and the trials of life, from the harem of her slavery her fancy has wandered with the winds. In her mind the unique and fatal experimenter, she has known all crimes, all horrors, as well as martyrdoms and joys. And this, while her gentle feminine hands have ministered to suffering, her voice has cheered, her smile has illumined, and her divine patience has endured.

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APA Style:
de Koven, Mrs. R (1896). Essays from the Chap-Book: Verlaine: A Feminine   
	Appreciation:Page1. Retrieved , from La Nouvelle Décadence 
	Web site:

MLA Style:
de Koven, Mrs. Reginald. "Essays from the Chap-Book: Verlaine: A Feminine   
	Appreciation:Page1." La Nouvelle Décadence. 1896.  < http:
	// >.

Turabian Style:
de Koven, Mrs. Reginald. "Essays from the Chap-Book: Verlaine: A Feminine    
	Appreciation:Page1." La Nouvelle Décadence. Available from http://webspace Internet; 
        accessed . 

Chicago Style:
de Koven, Mrs. Reginald. "Essays from the Chap-Book: Verlaine: A Feminine   
	Appreciation:Page1." 1896. 
	/lanouvelledecadence/verbiokov01.html (accessed ).

AUTHOR: de Koven, Mrs. Reginald (1896).
TITLE OF WEBPAGE: "Essays from the Chap-Book: Verlaine: A Feminine Appreciation:Page1".
TITLE OF WEBSITE: La Nouvelle Décadence.
PUBLISHER: Lannie Brockstein.
LAST UPDATED: December 29th, 2009.

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