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Impressions and opinions: A Great Poet (Verlaine), Page 2  
by George Moore (1913). Page protected by Copyscape DO NOT COPY

Is not this plaintive as water gurgling underground and sad as reeds sighing in eventide? Verlaine is exclusively a poet, and may leave for no moment the immortality of his verse for the daily bread of prose. His rhythms become disintegrated in prose, his thoughts — gentle reveries — die in the looseness of prose.

But besides the disadvantage of being entirely and exclusively a poet, the disorder of his private life has reckoned heavily against Verlaine. For many years hardly any newspaper dared to print his name; only the ephemeral reviews that the ardour of enthusiasts called into existence for a season published his verse. He has lived the prey of strange passions that have ruined and dishonoured him. He has been in prison, and has lived many years in exile, sometimes gaining a precarious livelihood as a French teacher in English schools. Of late years sickness has not left him; from hospital to hospital he has dragged a pitiful body, and when discharged partly cured he has found shelter only in distant quarters of the town, among the working folk that herd together, dans le quartier du Temple.

I once saw Verlaine. I shall not forget the glare of the bald prominent forehead (une téte glabre), the cavernous eyes, the macabre expression of burnt-out lust smouldering upon his face. He had promised a friend of mine, a young enthusiast décadent et symboliste, a sonnet on Parsifal for his review. The sonnet had not arrived, and the review was going to press. Nothing for it but to start in search of Verlaine. My friend asked me to accompany him. I raised objections. First, I did not care about knowing him; secondly, I was not inclined for the trip. My objections were overruled. My friend said: "In ten years hence, when he is dead, you will regret that you did not see him. You had better take advantage of this occasion, another may not occur; he will probably not last out a couple of years." I recognised the validity of the argument, and away we went. We got into an omnibus and then we got into a tram. Then we took a cab, and I believe we had to take another tram. We passed factories and canals, and at one moment I thought we were going to take the boat.


We at last penetrated into a dim and eccentric region which I had never heard of before; we traversed curious streets, inhabited apparently by people who in dressing never got further than camisoles and shirt sleeves; we penetrated musty-smelling and clamorous courtyards, in which lingered Balzacian concierges; we climbed slippery stair-cases upon which doors stood wide open, emitting odours and permitting occasional views of domestic life — a man in his shirt hammering a boot, a woman, presumably a mother, wiping a baby. The address! I give it for the sake of local colour: "C'est là-bas, là-bas, là-bas — à la Bastille, mais plus loin, rue Moreau, cour Saint-François, 6, Hôtel du Midi."

In a dark corner, at the end of a narrow passage situated at the top of the last flight of stairs, we discovered a door, knocked, entered, and saw the terrible forehead, bald and prominent, under a filthy nightcap; a nightshirt full of the grease of the bed covered his shoulders; a stained and discoloured pair of trousers were hitched up somehow about his waist. He was drinking wine at sixteen sous the litre. He told us that he had just come out of the hospital; that his leg was better, but it still gave him a great deal of pain. He pointed to it. We looked away.

He said he was writing the sonnet, and promised that we should have it on the morrow. Then, in the grossest language, he told us of the abominations he had included in the sonnet; and seeing that our visit would prove neither pleasant nor profitable, we took our leave as soon as we could. But I remember one thing that seems characteristic. Speaking of a career for his son, whom he had not seen for twenty years, he said he regretted he had not brought him up as a garçon de café, avowing his belief that he could imagine no trade more advantageous than that of a garçon de café.

PAGE 2 OF 4.

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Moore, G (1913). Impressions and opinions: A Great Poet (Verlaine)   
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Chicago Style:
Moore, George. "Impressions and opinions: A Great Poet (Verlaine)   
	:Page2." 1913. 
	/lanouvelledecadence/verbiomoo02.html (accessed 

AUTHOR: Moore, George (1913).
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