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French Portraits: An Impression of Paul Verlaine, Page 2  
by Vance Thompson (1900). Page protected by Copyscape DO NOT COPY

Eh bien! some of us, however, carried the oriflamme of Verlaine. He sat among us there, this old man, with the dirty neckerchief and the ribald and unclean speech. And is it thus I remember him? No. I remember him best when, with his glowing eyes half closed, he recited some new sonnet or unforeseen verses, — splendid as golden coins.

* * * * * * *

His face was like the mask of Socrates, with its high cheek-bones and simian mouth. The nose was flat, camous, broken; the great bald head covered with knobs, like a battered helmet; a draggled beard hung about the cheeks and chin; the ears were flat and large. The eyes, those deep-set, dreamy, intolerably vague eyes, glowered at one from beneath rugged, square-hewn brows.

This was Paul Verlaine, as you might have seen him any day, slouching along the street or lounging over a marble-topped table in the Café François Premier. Or at other times you might have seen him sitting in his bed in some foul mansarde, an old man, grimy and drunk, in a greasy night-cap and abominable linen. George Moore saw him thus, once upon a time, blaspheming. Degas, the great painter, has recorded an impression of Verlaine in one of his most famous pictures, "The Absinthe Drinker." Verlaine is sitting at a table over an opalescent glass of absinthe. Near by sprawls a woman of the streets, wretched, tipsy, pitiable. It is well that this impression should be recorded. In this poor, great poet there was much of Walt Whitman's fine humanity. He, too, might have sung, —

The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and pimpled neck;
The crowd laughs at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink at each other —
Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you!



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He was a very gentle poet, and in all the world's misery there was nothing alien to him.

* * * * * * *

He had a face vizard-like, unchanging, made impudent with the use of evil deeds. But the eyes were those of the penitent thief turned toward Him on the middle cross.

* * * * * * *

I would rather talk of his books. He was the greatest poet of this generation.

His life was a tragedy of passion: his work is a shadow of his life. Once I called him a Socratic Pierrot. Morice approved the phrase, and made it classic. There were two men in Verlaine, — Socrates and Pierrot, Saint Francis of Assisi and the Marquis de Sade. Even in age — when his pale soul was fatigued by the years — he was still, like the saint and the mountebank, a child. Life excited and irritated him. Then, fatigued, he wept like a tired child. The tears and laughter, — these are his poems. He had dreams, horribly beautiful, in which Bonus Angelus wrestled with Malus Angelus. These, too, are his poems.

He lived feverishly. He was a lover of life. Life as it is he loved, — the gust of pleasure and the fear of pain, the idolatry of appearances, the make-believe of virtue: he loved even life's mediocrities. He had a horror of sin even when he sinned. The defunct symbols of the Pardoner haunted him. The pendulum of his life swung between riot and renunciation, from the hair-cloth to the cloth of gold.

"How do you write?" I asked him.

"En fièvre" he said.

PAGE 2 OF 4.

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APA Style:
Thompson, V (1900). French Portraits: An Impression of Paul Verlaine:Page2.  
	Retrieved , from La Nouvelle Décadence Web site: http:
	//webspace.webring.com/people/tl/lanouvelledecadence/verbiotho02.html
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MLA Style:
Thompson, Vance. "French Portraits: An Impression of Paul Verlaine:Page2."   
	La Nouvelle Décadence. 1900.  < http://webspace.webring.com
	/people/tl/lanouvelledecadence/verbiotho02.html >.
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Turabian Style:
Thompson, Vance. "French Portraits: An Impression of Paul Verlaine:Page2."    
	La Nouvelle Décadence. Available from http://webspace.webring.com
	/people/tl/lanouvelledecadence/verbiotho02.html. Internet; accessed 
        . 
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Chicago Style:
Thompson, Vance. "French Portraits: An Impression of Paul Verlaine:Page2." 1900.  
	http://webspace.webring.com/people/tl/lanouvelledecadence/verbiotho02.html 
	(accessed ).
______________________________________________

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
AUTHOR: Thompson, Vance (1900).
TITLE OF WEBPAGE: "French Portraits: An Impression of Paul Verlaine:Page2".
TITLE OF WEBSITE: La Nouvelle Décadence.
PUBLISHER: Lannie Brockstein.
LAST UPDATED: December 31st, 2009.
URL: http://webspace.webring.com/people/tl
/lanouvelledecadence/verbiotho02.html
.

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