Paul Verlaine was a French poet whose 19th century work sort of straddled the Romantic and Symbolist movements. Critics seem to love the guy, but I found his stuff rather uninspiring. While the case has been forwarded that Verlaine only sounds trite and prosaic now because it’s old and been done over and over since then, I would argue that it had all been done before by better poets (The Bard of Avon comes to mind).
Our assignment for World Lit was to read two of the five offered (translated by C. F. MacIntyre) selections and write a paragraph in response to each. As I was bored to tears with him and his shallow fling, I went a bit creative with my responses. About the only thing I found interesting about Verlaine was the progression of his style over time.
For my first response, I actually read and addressed two related poems, “Moonlight” (1869) and “The White Moonglow” (originally untitled from 1870). Those poems and my Sonnet in response lie below the fold. (Read the second reading and response here in another post.)
Your soul is like a painter’s landscape where
charming masks in shepherd mummeries
are playing lutes and dancing with an air
of being sad in their fantastic guise.
Even while they sing, all in a minor key,
of love triumphant and life’s careless boon,
they seem in doubt of their felicity,
their song melts in the calm light of the moon,
the lovely melancholy light that sets
the little birds to dreaming in the tree
and among the statues makes the jets
of slender fountains sob with ecstasy.
[The white moonglow]
The white moonglow
shines on the trees;
from each bough
a voice flees
as the leaves move…
Oh, my love.
The pond reflects,
a mirror deep,
the black silhouette
of the willow tree
where the wind weeps…
Now a tender
and vast appeasement
seems to descend
from the firmament
with the irised star…
Ah, exquisite hour.
English 262 Section 1
August 20, 2009
Sir, You Do Not Know the Moon
I’ve read your White Moonglow and Moonlight too,
How odd the chord you struck in minor key!
You see her light in melancholy hue,
Songs melt, not swell in nineteenth century.
Moonglow’s reflections on the night water,
They miss the gist of the Romantic name –
Ignore Passion and bare Lust her daughter,
French Dickinson you cause me to self-maim.
But Juliet knew her inconstancy,
Infatuate, her charms and passing need.
Edwin and Neil knew her intimately,
With her, more conjugal you must concede.
But like abandoned Collins almost kissed,
You reached for her with your lyrics and missed.
From whence came the art:
Those images are titled Moon in the Clear, Moonshine, and Blood Moon, by Lou FCD (me) and are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. They were taken this past weekend while I was nest-sitting Loggerhead Sea Turtles down on North Topsail Beach, NC.