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Studies in Modern Poetry: Paul Verlaine, Page 3  
by Federico Olivero (1921). Page protected by Copyscape DO NOT COPY

With Sagesse begins a new phase in his poetry; he emerges from the sensual, poisonous dreams that enthralled his soul; a new emotion, a mysterious joy, has followed in the train of sorrow; the horizon is no more an inscrutable, unanswering gloom; the first sunbeam of Hope glides on the water, tracing a golden path for heavenly apparitions. Henceforth his images, quickened by an intense inner life, assume a supernatural radiance; his songs have the rapture that springs from the deepest sources of religious meditation. His work takes on a new grace, the charm of an almond-tree, in full bloom, mystically white, near some dark lonely pool, all its blossoms quivering like tiny silver wings in the breeze. The stain of guilt is washed away, a blissful calm enfolds the mind; yet the remembrance of sins remains, a sincere remorse, mingling a dim sadness with his exultation; the chilliness of the bleak Night lingers in his soul drunk with the splendour of the Dawn. He lifts his mind to eternal hopes and his prayer rises to an ecstatic chant. It is not the limpid hymn of Faber, the introspective poetry of Newman; he never rises to the ardours of Crashaw; but his lyrics are full of a secret beauty, of deep tenderness and love; they glow with a subdued fire, as when through a thin veil of mist a lily reveals its core of burning gold. In his wanderings through the Land of Evil, the night had closed above his soul, he seemed to stifle under the weight of sultry darkness; at last a serene tract of sky appeared, bright with stars, above the sombre plain; and, as he surveys the ruins wrought by sin in his heart, and, sick of vain desires, yearns to infinite peace, he sings the victory over temptations, the purification, the springing up of the soul, soaring on immortal wings.

There is also in Sagesse a striking change in his technique; he speaks of his novel ideals in lyrics unwearied in fervour, perfect in execution; the feeling is intensified by the simplicity and purity of the form. He shows his technical skill in the treatment of difficult metres; in his invocation to the Holy Virgin the short-lined strophes, in their smooth, free 'élan', are like the slender columns and spires of a Gothic cathedral. Although polished with utmost care, his lines retain no trace of the labour. He draws from simple expressions a grace unknown to more robust, but more superficial writers; in his sonnets, which remain matchless in their harmonious freedom, we find colloquialisms mixed up with exquisite phrases.


'God said to me: 'My son, you must love me. You see my pierced side, my radiant heart bleeding, and my bruised feet that Magdalen laves with her tears, and my arms aching under the weight of your sins, and my hands! — Have I not loved you even unto death, o my brother in my Father, o my son in the Holy Ghost? Have I not suffered as it was written? Have I not sobbed your agony supreme, o poor friend who are seeking me where I am?'

'You must love me; my love is the fire consuming for ever the flesh and evaporating it like a perfume. My love is the deluge destroying in its waves all wicked germs, so that one day the Cross may be raised up, and, by an incomparable miracle of mercy, I may possess you, trembling and daunted. It was my purpose, since all eternity, that you, poor soul forlorn, should love me, who alone remain to you!'

'I answered: 'Lord, you have truly described my soul. I love you; but look how low am I, and your love mounts up like a flame! — Look at my sad struggles! I would that at least your shadow covered my shame, but you have no shadow, you, uprising Love, calm fountain ('Quoniam apud te est fons vitae: et in lumine tuo vide bimus lumen' [Psalms, XXXV, 10]), bitter only to those who love their damnation, you, perfect light except to eyes sealed by a deadly kiss'. In another sonnet the images embody in their living splendour the beauty of mystic passion. 'But, even on earth, you will enjoy my gifts: peace in your heart, love of poverty, and my mystic evenings, when the soul unfolds to a serene hope, and seems to taste, according to my promise, of the eternal Chalice; the moon glides on the religious calm of the sky, when the angelus-bell rings, rose and black; then the spirit waits to be raised into my Light, into the endless awakening in my perennial Charity, the unceasing music of my praise, — to be in Myself, in the lovely radiance of your sorrows, — of your sorrows, at last mine, and that I loved!'

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AUTHOR: Olivero, Federico (1921).
TITLE OF WEBPAGE: "Studies in Modern Poetry: Paul Verlaine:Page3".
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