Paul Verlaine

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Verlaine, Paul

Verlaine, Paul (pōl vĕrlĕnˈ), 1844–96, French poet. He gained some notice with the Parnassian poetry of Poèmes saturniens (1866) and Fêtes galantes (1869) and became a figure in the bohemian literary world of Paris. Verlaine's turbulent marriage broke up as a result of his liaison with his young protégé, Arthur Rimbaud. The two poets traveled in Belgium and England; their relationship ended in tragedy when Verlaine shot and wounded Rimbaud and was imprisoned in Belgium for two years. In prison he was brought back to the Catholic faith of his childhood and wrote some noble religious poetry that appeared in Sagesse (1881). From that time also dates his Romances sans paroles (1874), which shows Verlaine as one of the first of the symbolists. The sensitive appreciation of the common incidents and sights of life and the haunting and simple music of his verse, combined with the melancholy and unreal disillusion of the decadents, distinguish his poetry. More striking, however, is the candor of Verlaine himself. Through the degrading incidents of his later life, which was marked by drunkenness, poverty, and debauchery, he preserved his honesty and inverted naïveté. Jadis et Naguère (1884) and Parallèlement (1889) were perhaps the best of his later volumes of poetry. Of his prose works the only one of importance is Les Poètes maudits (1884), sketches of his fellow symbolists, particularly Mallarmé and Rimbaud.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Verlaine, Paul


Born Mar. 30, 1844, in Metz; died Jan. 8, 1896, in Paris. French poet. Born into an officer’s family.

Verlaine began to write under the influence of the Parnassians, but he was also influenced by the romantics and C. Baudelaire. Verlaine was one of the founders of the symbolist movement. In his Poems of Saturn (1866) and Gallant Feasts (1869), along with the severely sculpted images done in the manner of the Parnassians, there also appeared melodious, melancholic, throbbing poems that were particularly characteristic of him. In his book of verse The Good Song (1870), Verlaine brought the lexicon and syntax of poetic language close to that of simple conversation. In 1871, Verlaine did not subordinate himself to the Versailles Group but instead remained in Paris and served in the press bureau of the Paris Commune. After the “bloody week” he lived mainly in the provinces until 1877, although he went on a trip to Belgium and England. In 1874, Verlaine published a book of verse entitled Songs Without Words, which to a great extent defined the aesthetics of symbolism. Intimate and unpretentious little songs were interspersed with poems that conveyed symbolically and by means of a minor-key resonance and rhythm an objectless sorrow and submissiveness to the sorrow. In his poem Poetic Art, Verlaine half jokingly advised that poets should strive after those qualities of vagueness, nuance, and musicality of verse that entice the imagination. His collections of poetry Formerly and Lately (1884) and In Parallel (1889), as well as his essays on A. Rimbaud, S. Mallarmé, and others (The Accursed Poets, 1884), have double meanings. At this point there is a strengthening of decadent tendencies, but at the same time the poet warns his new followers against decadent extremes. He also published revolutionary verses (the narrative poem The Vanquished in the collection Formerly and Lately). “The most intimate of poets,” in the words of V. Ia. Briusov, Verlaine was more humane than the other French symbolists; he enriched poetry with a refined lyricism and gave it an intense, musical expressiveness. He died in poverty.


Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1-2. Text established by H. de Bouillane de Lacoste and J. Borel. Paris, 1959-60.
Correspondance, vols. 1-3. Paris, 1927-29.
In Russian translation:
Stikhi, 2nd ed. Translated by F. Sologub. Moscow-Petrograd, 1923.
Sobr. stikhov. Translated by V. Briusov. Moscow, 1911.
Izbr. stikhotvoreniia. Compiled by P. N. Petrovskii. Moscow, 1912.
Izbr. stikhotvoreniia. Moscow, 1915.
[Stikhi.] In Zvezdnoe nebo: Stikhi zarubezhnykh poetov. Translated by B. Pasternak. Moscow, 1966.
[Stikhi.] In Ten’ derev’ev: Stikhi zarubezhnykh poetov. Translated by I. Ehrenburg. Moscow, 1969.
Lirika. Compiled by E. Etkind. Moscow, 1969.


Gorky, M. “Pol’ Verlen i dekadenty.” Sobr. soch., vol. 23. Moscow, 1953.
Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 3. Moscow, 1959.
Bornecque, J. H. Verlaine par lui-même. Paris, 1966.
Lepelletier, E. Paul Verlaine: Sa vie, son oeuvre. Paris, 1907.
Richer, J. Paul Verlaine. Paris, 1967.
Bever, A. van. Bibliographie et iconographie de Paul Verlaine. Paris, 1926.
Tournoux, G. A. Bibliographie verlainienne. Leipzig, 1912.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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