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Studies in Modern Poetry: Paul Verlaine, Page 1  
by Federico Olivero (1921). Page protected by Copyscape DO NOT COPY

BESIDE the glaring colours and hard outlines of the 'Parnassiens', the poetical world of Verlaine appears wrapt in misty lights and transparent shadows. For Leconte de Lisle and Hérédia the aesthetic charm lay in the exterior glow of beautiful things, for Verlaine in their inmost significance. Therefore he gave, with Mallarmé, a powerful impulse to bring about the transition from the 'Parnasse' to Symbolism. The result of the Parnassian technique is the nearest approach to painting; Verlaine's, to music; the work of the former school is a pageant of vivid dreams, that of the latter a set of melodies. He is rather a musician than a poet; he gives us arabesques instead of clear profiles, the emotion produced by the subject rather than its shape or hue. Nevertheless the influence of the 'Parnasse' lingers in his early poems; the pictorial style is manifest for instance in Caesar Borgia, a full-length portrait; the duke Caesar stands out from the dusky background of a rich vestibule, at the end of which glimmer the white marble busts of Horace and Tibullus; 'his black eyes, black hair and black velvet dress contrast with the sumptuous evening gold, with the dull, noble pallor of his face, furrowed with deep shades, according to the manner of Spanish and Venetian painters. And his forehead, full of formidable projects, broods under the cap, on which a feather quivers, springing out of a brooch of fiery rubies'.

In the book where this poem is found, Poèmes Saturniens, his inspiration may be traced back to Hugo, Lamartine and Vigny; but the technique of these singers has here undergone a strange refinement; the images seem to rise through a mellower atmosphere; they appear vaguely, as things seen through floating mist or half-lost in the mystery of distance; they melt into each other like clouds; we only catch glimpses of them, as they steal away on rapid wings. He foresaw that the distinct melody of these poets and the excessive and artificial splendour of Poèmes Barbares and Les Trophées were apt to cloy, to dazzle and tire, and preferred a scenery of subdued tints and softened outlines. His landscapes, bathed in a shimmering light, undergo a gradual transformation; perfumes turn into colours and sounds; feeling and sensation are so intimately fused that we cannot disentangle their elements; yet the freshness of the original, genuine perception breathes from his verse. In The Shepherd's hour he thus evokes the moment when the crimson harvest moon rises on the darkening meadows spangled with fireflies; 'The moon hangs red and low over the hazy horizon; the meadows, covered with a dancing mist, fall asleep; there is a croaking of frogs in the green rushes, through which wanders a shiver. The water-flowers close their chalices, the zenith fills with dim gleams; white, the Evening Star emerges; and it is Night'. As he gazes on the leaves blown by the autumn wind, an image of his life comes to his mind: 'The prolonged sobbing of the violins of autumn pierces my heart with a monotonous languor;... and I go drifting on the evil wind that carries me hither and thither, as a dead leaf'.


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There is a subtle toning of hues in his pictures, in which a chord of colours is developed into harmonies through almost imperceptible gradations. His poetical realm appears sometimes as a symbolical, shifting, intangible world; in Crépuscule du soir mystique, 'the Remembrance, blending with the Twilight, burns with a quivering red light on the glowing horizon of flaming Hope'; yet his images preserve their vitality, being in close union with life. As in the paintings of Eugène Carrière, the lines of the figures are blurred, but their emotional power is intense; he says, in Mon rêve familier: 'Her name? I remember that it is sweet and sonorous, as the names of people whom I loved, now exiled from Life. Her look is like the look of statues, and in her remote, calm and grave voice she has the inflexions of voices now hushed in death, and once so dear to me '.

In Poèmes Saturniens we are struck by the predominance of the pictorial element, in Romances sans paroles of the musical; these lyrics charm us by mere beauty of sound. He preferred, above all metrical forms, the 'song', conscious of the effects of which it is capable, of the resources that lie within its narrow compass. He treats the poetic material with a rigid economy, so that no insignificant details are admitted, and there is not a syllable but adds a suggestive note to the melody, a fine and unforeseen modulation to the cadence. With their vague rhythm and hovering accents, these poems seem to be set to the fitful music of winds and waters. These subtle variations in a minor key acquire a high expressiveness, as if a magic were hid in the words; as we listen to the subtly modulated chant we seem to perceive the sounds and hues of a twilight land. 'O frail and fresh murmur! it is like the soft voice of wind-stirred grass, or the rolling of pebbles under swirling water'. Life comes but vaguely, with fugitive emotions, into these reveries; 'I descry in a murmur the subtle outlines of ancient voices, and in the musical gleams the future sunrise of a pale dawning love'. It is a series of dreamy landscapes, exquisite, if somewhat wan and evanescent, the fruit of visionary hours; they lead us to a region of freshness and calm, where, in the deepening gloaming, rain-wet flowers nod in the glens and floating mist scents like frankincense the path. There is a new note, a dying loveliness, in these 'lieder', indefinite like old half-remembered airs, melodies whispered, not sung. Here words, without ceasing to be poetry, grow to the intensity of music.

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Olivero, F (1921). Studies in Modern Poetry: Paul Verlaine:Page1.    
	Retrieved , from La Nouvelle Décadence Web site: 
	http://webspace.webring.com/people/tl/lanouvelledecadence
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MLA Style:
Olivero, Federico. "Studies in Modern Poetry: Paul Verlaine:Page1."    
	La Nouvelle Décadence. 1921.  < http://webspace
	.webring.com/people/tl/lanouvelledecadence/verbiooli01.html >.
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Turabian Style:
Olivero, Federico. "Studies in Modern Poetry: Paul Verlaine:Page1."     
	La Nouvelle Décadence. Available from http://webspace.webring.com
	/people/tl/lanouvelledecadence/verbiooli01.html. Internet; 
        accessed . 
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Chicago Style:
Olivero, Federico. "Studies in Modern Poetry: Paul Verlaine   
	:Page1." 1921.http://webspace.webring.com/people/tl 
	/lanouvelledecadence/verbiooli01.html (accessed ).
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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
AUTHOR: Olivero, Federico (1921).
TITLE OF WEBPAGE: "Studies in Modern Poetry: Paul Verlaine:Page1".
TITLE OF WEBSITE: La Nouvelle Décadence.
PUBLISHER: Lannie Brockstein.
LAST UPDATED: December 31st, 2009.
URL: http://webspace.webring.com/people/tl
/lanouvelledecadence/verbiooli01.html
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