Leconte de Lisle, Charles

Leconte de Lisle, Charles


Born Oct. 22, 1818, in Saint-Paul on the island of Réunion; died July 18, 1894, in Louveciennes, near Versailles. French and Réunion poet; public figure and republican. Member of the Académie Française (1886).

Leconte de Lisle was the son of a Creole woman and a French surgeon’s assistant who had emigrated after the Restoration. He studied in Brittany and later worked in a court of law on Réunion. Leconte de Lisle took part in the Revolution of 1848. He sponsored a law to abolish slavery in the colonies.

Leconte de Lisle’s verse in the collection Poèmes antiques (1852) is marked by a majestic calm and completeness in the spirit of classical art (for example, “Vénus de Milo”). Leconte de Lisle founded the Parnassian school of aesthetics but lacked its cold academicism. In his Poèmes barbares (1862; enlarged edition, 1872), relying upon the achievements of scholarship, Leconte de Lisle strove to re-create accurately scenes from history. He rejected religion, especially Catholicism, the “beast in purple,” as the moral justification of bourgeois society (in “Qaïgn” and other poems). He created majestic, static, and richly colored verse that affirms the power and beauty of nature, especially tropical nature (“Eléphants,” “La Forêt vierge”); he poeticized primitive barbarians (“Le Coeur de Hialmar”) and even beasts (“Le Jaguar”), while condemning the insignificant bourgeois barbarians (“Aux Modernes”). In Poèmes barbares, pessimistic pictures of the triumph of reactionism (“La Tristesse du Diable”) alternate with proud calls to struggle at any cost (“Ultra Coelos”).

Leconte de Lisle did not comprehend the significance of the Paris Commune of 1871, but he wrote pamphlets against the Versailles reactionaries: Catéchisme populaire républicain and Histoire populaire du Christianisme.

Leconte de Lisle also wrote a tragedy, Les Erinnyes (1873), and the collections Poèmes tragiques (1884) and Derniers poèmes (published posthumously, 1895).


Oeuvres [vols. 1–6]. Paris, 1881–1925.
In Russian translation:
Erinii. Translated by M. Lozinskii. Petrograd, 1922.
Iz chetyrekh knig: Stikhi Translated and annotated by I. Postupal’skii.[Introduction by N. I. Balashov.] Moscow, 1960.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Plekhanov, G. V. Iskusstvo i literatura. Moscow, 1948.
Rykova, N. “Lekont de Lil’.” In Pisateli Frantsii. Moscow, 1964.
Flottes, P. Leconte de Lisle. Paris, 1954.
Priou, J.-M. Leconte de Lisle [Paris, 1967.] (Contains bibliography.)