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Docteur lapin et Mister tigre! Don't worry, Be happy. Donne moi ton amour!


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If what folio ws seems a little fanciful, what shall be said of those who insist on reading the rhetorical question in the famous Ballade as a sort of confession of unfaith? The poet, like everybody else, believed in heaven, hell, purgatory and limbo: And Villon, while he revives one of the eternal commonplaces of ail poetry, touches for the first time that modem chord of a nostalgie regret for the antiquity of the ancients, and because the past is past.

The man was an imperfect artist, writing disjointedly, using a hieratic framework, mixing the gross and the grotesque with the poignant everywhere. Of one French measure at least, the ancient octosyllable, he discovered for himself ail the deep resources ; and whoever compares the Grant Testament with Hugo's Songs of the Streets and the Woods will grant that the virtuosity of the modem master goes no further than Villon's in varying the speed and shift- ing the pauses.

He knew also the need of varying the pace of thought, the value of alternate leisureliness and density. He is the first French poet with whom imagery, the giving a sensuous form to ideas, is spontaneous and not a device of rhetoric. For us, Villon is both the capital figure among the elder poets of his race, and the head of an illustrious line: Meantime the nation slowly shook off its nightmare, and its fits of falling sickness were followed by the distemper of a second adolescence.

But in the midst of this native ferment there was an almost absolute stagnation of French poetry, gravelled by fashion and authority. II The revival of learning in France began without Italian intervention and, before it affected at ail profoundly the currents of the French literature, it was become a European thing, and the apocalypse of a scholar's paradise had lit up ail the West.

It is true that, when French artists went to school to the ancients, they saw the paragon of docility in a living people ; and it is at least a colourable opinion that, at the Renaissance, the infant arts of France were strangled by the silken cords of a foreign enchantress. The continuity of the French prose literature was rescued by the prodigious diversity and freedorn of Rabelais, who touches Cominynes with one elbow and Amyot and Mon- taigne with the other.

Fortune made Marot the poet of a court tinged with an alien politeness ; where the adulterate valour of a windy Amadis passed for the mirror of Frankish heroism ; but where also, for the first time, there was a zest for prompt and lively talk. The old national fabulists live again in. The influence of the Pleiad upon the lyrical poets of the English Renaissance has recently been recognised by English criticism.

The old Roman writers, instead of using Greek in despair at the inadequacy of Latin for certain purposes of literature, had deliberately forged for themselves a worthier instrument by analogy with the Greek. It was for French poets to enrich French similarly. Neither Du Bellay nor Ronsard himself recommended an arbitrary multiplication of words: But they erred by taking the indigence of the language too readily for granted, as if, because Marot's talent was content with a few words, it was the want of words that had strait- ened it.

Time has approved at almost every point Ronsard's treat- ment of the national prosody. And his choice of the short-breathed decasyllable for his unlucky epic La Franciade, shows clearly enough how little he had divined the resources and the dignity of that magnificent type. Ronsard is the author of the French ode — of the name and of the thing.

Allured at first by the Pindaric divisions, strophe and antistrophe and epode, he came to see the futility of those appellations, and retained only the essential conception of one poem with several parts converging to a climax. He is a great master of movement. The very notions of design, structure, composition, were new to his contemporaries, and for the first time the French lyric gained noble proportions in his hands.

A sounder know- ledge of mediaeval poetry has reduced the number of structural inventions which can be ascribed to Ronsard — and still he remains the most fertile inventor in the whole history of French poetry. Queens and cardinals and what was more to him his peers and scholars promised him immortality: Without false shame, he sang of it constantly, thinking less of his own person than of his illustrious tribe. For it is this after ail which, more than his positive achievement, makes Ronsard stand out among the poets of France — that he lifted his art, once and for ail, out of the domesticity in which it languished, and proclaimed the poet his own tyrant, with a royal conscience to guard and govern his inspiration.

In his view facility and servility were one: He failed disastrously with his Franciade, partly because he wanted the genius of sustained narration, partly because he had not access to the genuine matter of French epic and was easily seduced by the prestige of a bookish argument. But love, landscape and the praise of noble men are not ail the stuff of Ronsard's finest work: Their aims were Ronsard's: Those Danaan gifts of the Renaissance, the curiosity of life and the theory of beauty, came charged with dangers for the poise of the French mind.

The poem belongs to the fiercest period of the civil wars, though it was not published before the first years of the seventeenth century, which saw the final ruin of the protestant feudalism. But his precepts, formai and informai, were even more valuable than his example. He tilted against the Gascon brogue of King Henry's court, and referred a dispute over a common word to the porters of the hay-market, thus signifying his confidence in the usage of the Parisis, that cradle of the language.

Malherbe was not insensible to the sonorous virtues of speech, but he under- stood by harmony a continuai propriety of expression, and a connection of parts which the reason can appreciate. To eliminate caprice and chasten personality seemed to him a necessary airn of the poetical discipline. The elder Balzac takes up French prose at the point where Montaigne had left it, and gives it equality and cadence. Vau gelas, the grammarian from Savoy, reveals that sort of purity in the form of words and structure of phrase which only a passionate attachrnent to idiom can attain.

Delight in verbalisms, and a rage for recondite allusions and allegorical politeness were fostered by the vogue of a new Italianism which set in with the brilliant pastorals of Marino and Guarini, and complicated by a very superficially Spanish strain of strutting and fantastical extravagance. The lessons of Malherbe anticipated the consolidation of a fastidious public, secured against the charms of an exces- sive personal adventure in poetry by the ascertainment of its true intellectual bench-marks.

There were men of talent among the ' bedside poets ': Saint-Amant, a pensioner of queens and one of the hardest drinkers of his time, wrote plentifully and most unequally, but with extraordinary mastery of rime, variety, and power of sensuous presentment. III In the brief Augustan period 1 a nice and spontaneous compromise almost effaced the eternal antagonism between the world of poets and the world outside them, by the free acceptance of conventional limits on one side and on the other by an unique alertness of the imaginative intelligence among the ruling class of Frenchmen.

The admirable poetry made in the Great King's reign supposed the rigorous distinction of mind from matter, and dealt exclusively with mind ; its paramount concern being the conflict of passions, reason or discernment, and freewill in the social man. King Lewis the Fourteenth suceeeded in and died in Its peculiar virtues were ail his: Smoothness is not its merit, nor diapason, nor opulence of figures; and his manner, sometimes truculent and not seldom precious, yields to the alternative temptations of his time: They are a world of themselves almost as much as fairyland.

And the style deserves to be called national. He is not quite the greatest of French poets, nor even the most French, if we look for the intense affirmation of a characteristic drift — but simply the flower of the French mind. To us Englishmen Racine appears usually as an intelligence: The rust is washed off the old lustre of metaphors, and what seemed the sign only of an idea recovers the vitality of an original sensation.

Being a poet, not an archaeologist, he held the ancients rather by their sure points of likeness to us modems than by their problematical diversity: The 'sensible critic' in Candide ad vises that a dramatist should be always a poet, but take care none of his characters should seem poets. Voltaire was thinking of Racine, who echoed many voices with one voice — the triumph of illusion — and had the secret of a unity of tone that was never inappropriate.

Racine possessed the instinct and the science of melody in a degree which has left him still without a rival: As to rhythm, he carried the principle of variety to the utmost point, while obeying the prescription of a fixed breathing-space in the middle of a line: And the Alexandrine does not contain ail his art. There was also Nicolas Boileau. In default of majesty or tenderness Boileau's verse does not want colour for this bookish, sedentary person could use his eyes and wears at its best a very natural air: He made turgidity ridiculous, drove out the foreign fashions, and wrenched the poetical succession from the hands of gifted amateurs when their jargon and their driftless experiments were mighty.

It is important that this should be admitted. It is noteworthy that he placed the mythological superstition under a religious sanction. But, in one word, the counsels of Boileau are good and bad inextricably mingled. It was positive, therefore serene ; intense, not comprehensive ; it knew its frontiers, and made a common conception of the world, of life and its business, the basis of a patient and solid psychological invention.

The poetry then made in France was in the main abstract, and imitative, and unskilful. This was the broad tendency, 1 never so despotic indeed as not to 1 It affected the prose literature in a less degree— nearly ail the vertebrate authors of the time are writers of prose. Confined almost to the traffic of ideas, the French language became in the eighteenth century incomparably apt for that employment: A verbal art aspiring to express the immaterial by signs that open out no avenues of sensuous memory is, if not a contradiction in terms, at the utmost a frail, shadowy, wire-drawn affair ; and such an art, in certain exquisite examples, the eighteenth century did actually achieve.

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Voltaire and the protests of fashion saved from the assaults of La Motte-Houdart what was in truth very little worth preserving — the prestige of a troublesome full-dress for ceremonious occasions, the mere- tricious attractions of a slender envelope for bulky pamphlets. The poets had ceased to think in verse.

It offers models of neatness, niceness, ingenuity, wherever it is enough to scintillate without fatigue and without emphasis — in epistles, madrigals, compliments, anecdotes, and in the comic, acute or merely malicious as opposed to the indignant and lyrical satire, which aims only at raising against the victim 'the laughter of the mind. In Gresset, though he has no real models, the strain of Marot reappears, run somewhat thin.

Didactic verse is, of course, as legiti- mate as didactic prose, though now far less useful which is the test , because a kind of discourse in which the argument makes its own measures as it proceeds, can convey know- ledge or opinions with greater subtlety and fullness, and the old advantage of verse that it is more easily remembered belongs to the childhood of letters and learning. Its conception is irremedi- ably systematic and frigid: La Henri- ode is immensely inferior to La Pucelle ; and this is perhaps the place to say that that burlesque epic has the same qualities as the shorter Taies of Voltaire.

It is very un- equal, and the grimace of its ricanement libertin is dis- agreeable: A particular species of didactic verse — the descriptive — in which the latter half of the period was amazingly prolific, must be mentioned, because nowhere else is the indigence of imaginative resources, the timidity and levity of the poets so conspicuous. But the polemical conception of some characters, the flatulent diatribes against priests and rulers of the people, were contributory disabilities. The insipidity of Saint-Lambert's para- phrase is in perfect contrast with Thomson's large harmony of effects and weighty manner.

The fashion of descriptive poetry is, however, positively interesting for this reason, that it was ostensibly an effort to bring poetry into contact with everyday life and to make it contain more things. The starch and atrophy of classicism were first repudiated in prose — in the magnetical cadenced prose of Rousseau, the logician of instinct whose introspective idealism, at once profoundly unsociable and vehemently expansive, wrought miracles with a faded language long disused to express the correspondence between the inner and the outer world, and the eternal priority of the man who feels over the philosopher who reasons.

Yerse, its essence being conformity, 1 It was Mademoiselle de Lespinasse who said of Diderot, quite justly: That time of stress held in suspense the hopes of disinterested art. Officiai encouragement urged some inefficient talents to heroic narrative, and historical accident reinforcing the prestige of Rome and Sparta revived a pseudo-classical poetry in its most odious forms. Our own litera- ture has profited little in comparison with the French by such associations of groping talent: But the French intelligence is eminently gregarious.

It will hardly be said that, in the last eighty years at least, genius in France has been sacrificed to System or sterilised by fashion: She connected it also with the legends and sentiments of chivalry. After various fortunes it has been long accepted as an inexact but serviceable name for the new and char- acteristic form in which the imaginative spirit, as it rose from its ashes, appeared invested.

French poetry recovered because poets were born in France. What determined its common features in the first i In the eighteenth century it meant what is now expressed in French by romanesque and is still called romantic in English — an epithet of character. It is a derivative of roman, a word which once signified the speech of provincial Romans, and specifically of the Gallic provincials ; thence, any composition in the vernacular, and finally a story in verse or prose.


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Three factors seem essential: It proclaimed ail subjects legitimate. Literature is the expression of society, and therefore governed by the law of change. The vital principles of verse — variety and order — are secured when a poet receives his measures and invents his rhythms.

But indeed it was not content with re- pudiating Parny and Delille. Undoubtedly also the great upheaval helped to bring the French mind into closer contact with the mind of Europe. It was not quite as when the Valois carried home over the Alps a spiritual booty more precious than many kingdoms: But it is easy to overestimate the degree in which foreign examples impregnated French poetry at this critical stage. Before the eighteenth century, the attraction was usually Southern: But what distinguishes the exoticism of the Romantic period is not that it was particularly fertile, but that it was above ail else dogmatic.

The Romantic poets read Shakespeare: Those two Romantic figures impressed the French imagina- tion profoundly, but their racial characteristics — the senti- mental mediocrity of the German student, the insolent misanthropy of the English oligarch — could not really be absorbed. If ' the return to Nature ' means attending to the beauty of landscape, or the perception of its analogies with the character of our passions, both are in Rousseau. There are faithful renderings of natural effects in Bernardin de Saint-Pierre.

Chateaubriand is full of the genius loci. The conspicuous place of nature in French Romantic poets may almost be reduced to this — that they studied nature for the sake of metaphors, and that they revived an eternal common- place of ail poetry — the contrast between its serenity and our agitations. Nature, for the Romantics, was still a part of man.

The establishment of a new principle — the principle of freedom in art — was the permanent benefit of Romanticism. In its broadest application it means, not that perfection is relative, but that the roads to perfection are innumerable ; not that there are no rules, but that the rule of rules is to be oneself. And this is to deny the statical conception of 1 Anthropomorphism is of course the life of poetry: The foundation of scepticism in France has been consistently psychological: Johnson's splendid phrase are simply ' level with life.

To the young poets whose noviciate began with the return of the Bourbons, the bounds of the meagre traditional dialect appeared ail at once as a preposterous obstacle: The republic of words, wherein domicile and service confer citizenship and from which a conscientious distribution of labour excludes the corruption of synonyms, was not to be founded in a day, though the metaphorical faculty was reawakened and seeking its nourishment in a fresh study of the external world.

The right to use every genuine word in the language on occasion is a fundamental condition of sincerity. Lamartine was no metrician: The elegiao smoothness, the eelestial euphony of his song is ail his own and is not, perhaps, a virtue which wears well ; but after Lamartine no French poet could afford to neglect sonority. Lamartine's originality did not lie in his forin, however.

He was content with traditional cadences. Victor Hugo is the sovereign forger of rhythms, as he is the absolute lord of metaphors. This sort of equivo- cation, or discord, was no new thing: The introduction of a discord prepared the way for a new concordance which differed from the old by making pros- ody obey instead of governing the purpose of the poet.


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  • Rhythm, in the Romantic Alexandrine, is expressive, or we might say realistic: That it should be exact was not enough: This was to return to the precepts of Malherbe; but Hugo's conception of rime is imaginative as well as material. He conceived it as not only sonorous, but suggestive, symbolical — not only a bell which enforces the sensation of time, but a beacon to the vision and the understanding. It happened that the fall, in , of Hugo's fine drama, Les Burgraves, which revealed the epic poet in him, was hailed as a public sign that Romanticism had lost ground ; and Ponsard, whose agreeable talent was essentially eclectic, appeared for a moment to stand for the revenge of common- sense over a magnificent absurdity that had held the stage too long.

    The charge against Romanticism of being a foreign thing is easily refuted. The autonomy of the imagination had been vindi- cated against the despotism of a taste and a code which once were held immutable: The next phase, though it repudiated none of the Romantic achievements, was reactionary as well as deri- vative, and in so far it interpreted the repentant sanity of the race, after a surfeit of rebellious splendours. And some of them had written their lives.

    In the seventeenth century a native jealousy of the self- assertion which would exalt a singer above his song had expressed itself characteristically as a social virtue and as a rule of reason: Art,' they thought, is a sanctuary, a refuge from the transient. Fur- ther, to invent is not to imagine. An imagination which is not continually fed by reality, necessarily drops into vague- ness or convention — chews the cud or starves. The poet must remain invisible and neutral, using his intelligence to sift and harmonise the chaos of sensations, not to betray the reaction of his person- ality upon the mater ial life offers.

    Insensibility has been laid to their charge; and realism. Another test of absolute sincerity they imposed — minute attention and re- search — a homage to ascertainable truth which often strikes us as disproportionate ; and in order to escape out of them- selves they too readily submitted their credentials to archae- ology, physics and the study of comparative religions.

    Yet nothing, in fact, is more certain than that the multiplication of obstacles and delight in overcoming them are entirely compatible with a poetry of reproduction. The instrument was in truth not so supple but that our pleasure in ail save the greatest poets of the school can be dissociated frorn our interest. They had dreams of an art more discreetly supple and less monotonously accomplished, entirely intimate and vital, willing to relax its grip upon the world outside us, to forgo its pretensions to be absolute and even to reject the pomp of approved harmonies, in order to be truer to the gaps and ellipses, the gropings and the embryonic velleities which are so large a part of our con- sciousness.

    Verlaine is familiar and exquisite. In the Parnassian System description was paramount, and feeling sprang from it immediately: Faith in the correspondence between sensible and spiritual is common to ail mystics ; but it would be useless to assign to the French poets of to-day and yesterday a place in any mystical tradition.

    Their very starting-point is impatience of approved methods, the will to be oneself to the verge of mental insulation. Hence that scruple of sincerity which has applied the precept of fidelity rather to the distant emotional effects of sensation than to things perceived, and recommended, as a condition, that poetical forms should be improvised to suit the needs of a mood. In a word, the Symbolists conceived self-expression as the triumph of the arbitrary.

    For what are rhythmical intentions which do not command the voice and which no inveterate expectations help us to interpret? That is not, of course, the only obscurity that shrouds the characteristic productions of the school. It was very well to abandon description for its own sake: Ail nature, let us grant, is a symbol. The pure Symbolist perhaps is indiscoverable. And this curious and in some degree chaotic adventure has furnished, at any rate, a striking testimony to the poetical vitality of the French, at the close of a century so eminently fertile in poets.

    Bernard by the French troops was substantially rewarded ; but it was his elegiac verse which won the applause of society. The other poets of the First Empire Andrieux, the author of ' Le Meunier Sans-Souci,' belongs rather to the preceding period are entirely forgotten: Fatal oracle d'Epidaure, Tu m'as dit: It was often said foolishly that he raised the song to the rank of an Ode: His typical song is a dialogue, even when one of the parties is suppressed ; and something is going forward before our eyes and we are impelled to intervene. Move- ment, facile enthusiasm, an undeniable dexterity in the combination of his measures, a knack of unforgettable refrains — this is almost the sum of his qualities.

    He is full of the old Adam of the eighteenth century, with his odds and ends of mythology, his abstract words, the poverty of his rimes and, above ail, with the gay but prudent materialism which is essential to him. Kipling for the man in the street, he did really feel sometimes for the outcast of cities and highways ; and if in the evil days of the Restoration it was Courier, the scholar-husbandman, who wielded what Mr.

    II Ma Vocation Air: Chante, Chante, pauvre petit! Le bon Dieu me dit: Chante, 15 Chante, pauvre petit! Tous ceux qu'ainsi j'amuse s Ne m'aimeront-ils pas? Quand un cercle m'enchante, Quand le vin divertit, Le bon Dieu me dit: C'est le gros Thomas. Saints du paradis, Priez pour Charles dix. Bossu, louche et roux, Un serpent lui sert de cravate. L'homme rouge venait 25 En sabots, en bonnets.

    M'endormais-je un peu sur ma chaise, Il entonnait la Marseillaise. Saints du paradis Priez pour Charles dix. Vie errante Est chose enivrante. Quand nous mourrons, vieux ou bambin, On vend le corps au carabin. Nous n'avons donc, exempts d'orgueil, Ni berceau, ni toit, ni cercueil. Conscrits, au pas ; Ne pleurez pas ; Ne pleurez pas ; 10 Marchez au pas, Au pas, au pas, au pas, au pas! Un morveux d'officier m'outrage ; Je lui fends! On me condamne, c'est l'usage: Puis, moi, j'ai servi le grand homme. Conscrits, au pas, etc.

    Ce que c'est pourtant que la gloire! Robert, enfant de mon village, Retourne garder tes moutons. Avril fleurit mieux nos cantons. Conscrits, au pas ; Ne pleurez pas, Ne pleurez pas ; Marchez au pas, 55 Au pas, au pas, au pas, au pas! Derniers Chants, lyrics and stories from Italy, where he travelled extensively, show another side of his poetical talent.

    His personal character did not want dignity — as a poet of the opposition he refused a pension from Charles the Tenth. He had material independence, precarious health, lived much in the south, and died comparatively young at Lyons. The merit of composition, the science of transitions, smoothness and taste may be conceded to him, and he knew his language well. Dieu du jour, Dieu des vers, ils brisent ton image.

    Il leur dit en versant des pleurs: A tes pompeux travaux, Aux Pujet, aux Lebrun, ma douleur fait injure. Parmi ses nourrissons il compte des rivaux. Qui dois-je couronner du peintre ou des guerriers? On peut les effacer sur le marbre ou l'airain ; Qui les effacera du livre de l'histoire? Ils n'ont pour sentinelles Que les chiens des bergers. Mais ce palais superbe, Quel bois peut le cacher?

    Non, tu n'as plus d'asile: Le lierre en ces vallons A tes dieux qu'on exile Offre seul des festons. Prends ce faible salaire, 45 Berger, c'est moins que rien: Misfortune and poverty clouded lier child- hood. When she was fourteen, her mother, hoping to mend the family fortunes, sailed with Marceline for Guadeloupe, where a relative was settled: When, a little later, it was necessary to earn her living, as she could sing and had a graceful person, she turned to the stage: The rest of her life was uneventful: She is the first in time of the personal lyrists of France, and the first to express passion.

    Her later volumes are: Attends-moi, m'as- tu dit: Ainsi le temps prolonge et nourrit ma souffrance: Il ne veut pas qu'on aime! Notre amour, c'est le ciel sur la terre. Alphonse and his sisters grew up at Milly in idyllic surroundings: Madame de Lamartine was a tender mother, deeply pious and a little romantic. His schoolmasters were the Fathers of the Faith at Belley. After leaving school, he spent four years at home in fruitful idleness, nursing a passion for the country, writing verses every day, reading the Bible, Tasso, Petrarch, Eacine, J. In Lamartine's parents sent him to recover in Italy from a disappointed fancy: He came back and was well received in Paris drawing-rooms ; then, on the first return of Lewis xviii.

    It was disbanded during the Hundred Days, and the young ensign did not serve again. The romantic friendship with this lady ripened in Paris in ; her death in the following year was an ineffaceable sorrow. The most practical resuit was a diplomatie post, which had been his ambition for some time. On the way, at Beyrout, the poet's daughter died — a terrible blow ; and in his absence he was returned to the Chamber as deputy for Bergues.

    He began by supporting Louis-Philippe's government ; was, like the great majority of French- men, gradually estranged by the irksome and unimaginative System it pursued ; and became a political personage only on the eve of the King's dethronement. During this period poetry had become a secondary occupation: As minister for foreign affairs in a government he had joined without positive Republican convictions, Lamartine, during several weeks, incarnated the spirit of the Re- public in the minds of his countrymen.

    Henceforth, though a few more strophes fell from him, his publications were ail to be prose, and not even imaginative prose. Having lived long in comparative seclusion, he died almost un- lamented, save by the peasantry of Saint-Point, his last home. He is without doubt the most poetical of French poets — that is, the personality his writings reflect answers most completely to the expectations popularly attached to the name.

    Lamar- tine's early poetry shines with the transparent sincerity of unconscious egoism: On the other hand they are frequently superior in craftsmanship, a thing which the poet with quite as much candour as fatuity ail his life professed to disdain. Emulation rather than self-criticism had braced the languor of his lines and lent more intensity to his vision of the outer world.

    In the latter collec- tion, too, he shows himself the master of his thoughts and capable of severer composition: A certain similarity in design which connects La Chute d'un Ange with Vigny 's Eloa on one hand, and on the other with the posthumous and fragmentary masterpiece of Hugo, La Fin de Satan, has been often noticed. He held that poetry is not an exacting vocation, but an occasional expansion, depending for its sincerity upon spasmodic and involuntary inspiration ; and it happened that the character of his gifts and of his limitations gave an apparent justification to that view.

    He is the poet of superb improvisations. His originality lay wholly in the intensity with which he could translate his moods, not at ail in the force of an imagination which could provoke, prolong and govern them. His imagery is habitually hazy ; the very formula of his metaphors is successive: Il n'est rien de commun entre la terre et moi. Emportez-moi comme elle, orageux aquilons! Doux reflet d'un globe de flamme, Charmant rayon, que me veux-tu? La foudre en mes veines circule: Pour tout peindre, il faut tout sentir. Mais ce flambeau qu'on nous envie S'allume au feu des passions.

    Ce n'est que d'un luth magnanime Que partent les divins accords. Tu veux que je lui sacrifie Ce dernier souffle de rna vie! Je veux le garder pour aimer. Un soir, t'en souvient-il? Nous voguions en silence ; On n'entendait au loin, sur l'onde et sous les cieux, Que le bruit des rameurs qui frappaient en cadence 15 Tes flots harmonieux. L'homme n'a point de port, le temps n'a point de rive ; 35 Il coule, et nous passons! Ce temps qui les donna, ce temps qui les efface, Ne nous les rendra plus?

    Qu'il soit dans ton repos, qu'il soit dans tes orages, Beau lac, et dans l'aspect de tes riants coteaux, Et dans ces noirs sapins, et dans ces rocs sauvages 55 Qui pendent sur tes eaux! Dieu de toutes les heures! Laisse-moi m'envoler sur les feux du soleil! Quel Dieu nous imposa nos lois? Quel est celui qui nous gourmande? Sais-tu comment ton Dieu se nomme? Mais les astres, la terre et l'homme Ne peuvent achever son nom.

    Tombez, murs impuissants, tombez! Et moi, pour te louer, Dieu des soleils, que suis-je? Nous le saurons un jour, plus tard, plus haut. Je me suis dit souvent: At the first Restoration he received a commission in the Gendarmes Rouges, was transferred the next year to the Foot Guards, and served until Later, Auguste Barbier was perhaps his only intimate friend ; for his reserve was almost proverbial.

    The other works published in his lifetime were written in prose: Vigny's other plays and the novels Cinq- Mars and Stello, are far inferior. He married an Englishwoman: Baudelaire alone excepted, he is the loneliest of the great French poets ; and the dignity of his life, outwardly so tranquil, offers no temptation to found upon an unedifying legend a worship essentially unintelligent and insincere.

    His poetry is small in quanti ty: He helped little to orchestrate the great romantic commonplaces. Keen and steady as was his gaze into the future of society, public zeal scarcely inspired him, nor the prestige of distant lands, nor A CENTURY OF FRENCH POETS archaeology ; and though much that he wrote is flawless and a careful reading of his earliest poems reveals a freer handling of the Alexandrine than might be expected from their date, it is not as an initiator of new rhythms that any part of his glory was won.

    And it may be that this graduai charm of his verses adds to their gravity of carriage and tends to insulate beauties that are hardly to be appreciated without pauses for reflexion. Eclipsed by his great contemporaries, Vigny had every right to assert his priority in some fresh fields of poetry which they made illustrious.

    Nor is Leconte de Lisle without some obligations to the poet who embodied a consistent philosophy in plastic and strenuous forms. Ames des chevaliers, revenez-vous encor? Roland gardait les monts ; tous passaient sans effroi. I Sire, on voit dans le ciel des nuages de feu ; Suspendez votre marche ; il ne faut tenter Dieu. Elle va doucement avec ses quatre roues, 50 Son toit n'est pas plus haut que ton front et tes yeux ; La couleur du corail et celle de tes joues Teignent le char nocturne et ses muets essieux.

    Que m'importe le jour? Je dirai qu'ils sont beaux quand tes yeux l'auront dit. Mais il faut triompher du temps et de l'espace, 85 Arriver ou mourir. Les marchands sont jaloux. L'or pleut sous les charbons de la vapeur qui passe, Le moment et le but sont l'univers pour nous. Tous se sont dit: La distance et le temps sont vaincus. La science Trace autour de la terre un chemin triste et droit. Le Loup le quitte alors et puis il nous regarde. Comment on doit quitter la vie et tous ses maux, 75 C'est vous qui le savez, sublimes animaux! A voir ce que l'on fut sur terre et ce qu'on laisse, Seul le silence est grand ; tout le reste est faiblesse.

    The poet thought his family noble on his father's side: His mother, a Voltairian and a Royalist, was the daughter of a Nantes shipowner. The success of the first Odes was mainly political: From this point his poetical career falls into three periods. Four successive volumes of lyrical poetry marked the stages in his progress from virtuosity to genuine self-expression. But it was his dramas that brought him most celebrity: Marion Delorme suppressed for a little by the thin-skinned government of Charles x.

    Constructive skill, passages of real pathetic force, an incom- parable vigour balance, perhaps, the psychological poverty, the irrelevant tirades, the false emphasis and perverse situations which are their manifest weakness. The July Monarchy gave him a seat in the House of Peers and he had much personal intercourse with Louis-Philippe, though, early in the reign, the poet was already a theoretical Republican. A second period, the most glorious, may be dated between and In the spring of the former year, Les Burgraves, a drama full of epical intention, was produced and fell immediately before the efforts of a clique.

    This was the greatest sorrow of his life, and its effect upon his poetry was as profound as that of Arthur Hallam's death upon the genius of Tennyson. Hugo's In Memoriam is contained in Les Contemplations — the very finest assuredly of his lyrical works — of which the flrst part was already written at this time, but which saw the light many years later. The ' crime of December ' was a rude awakening.

    First Jersey and then Guernsey was the home of his exile, which lasted for he refused to benefit by an amnesty until the fall of the Empire. He voted against the peace and resigned his seat, and after the Commune, which he disapproved and excused, did his best to initigate the horrors of retaliation. He had overrated his political authority: But his mastery of rhythm and language never grew less, and among the works produced in this final period of his long career are several volumes which may almost rank with his best achievement.

    Ail the great sources of his inspira- tion enrich Les Quatre Vents de V Esprit, and especially the heroical. A last drama, Torquemada, and a last historical novel, the admirable Quatre-vingt-treize, must be added to the list. Not even Toute la Lyre could add to his glory.

    He contains he is perhaps the only modem writer who contains the whole of a living language. When he chose, he could be measured and gracef ul ; he is always verbal ly perspicuous and logical. Words had a mysterious power over him: Of verse he is the absolute sovereign, the indefatigable forger of rhythms, the magical equilibrist, the constantly fortunate manipulator of rime. What he did for French verse has been indicated elsewhere in this volume: In the gift of structure and inventiveness he is only matched by Ronsard. He gave wings to qualities, a human heart to the inanimate, and expressed no idea without metaphor.

    He is the poet of pity, still more the poet of terror earthly and spectral ; the poet of childhood and the sea; a masterly painter of war, havoc and confusion. Ail tones are his, but especially a tone of inexorable majesty and solemnity. Hugo has little humour, but much wit — of a curious, original sort. Emphasis is his constant enemy: For the rest, he is not a philosopher, but he interests philosophers. No poet in his century, or any century of our era, threw more ideas into circulation by giving them a sensuous shape and a voice to enchant and to haunt the memory of men.

    The following is a list of his works in verse: Odes et Ballades, Les Feuilles d'Automne, Les Rayons et les Ombres, Chansons des Eues et des Bois, If you receive an error message, please contact your library for help. Try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, there may be a network issue, and you can use our self test page to see what's preventing the page from loading.

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