recorded in the interview with the great is nothing deliberate in his attitude, nothing poet whom M. Anatole France had been

affected. He, with entire simplicity. gives

me silence as others gave speech. We lunched so unlucky as to offend. The ladies rose,

together and exhibited an alarming appetite. but not without a feminine outbreak of 'Yes, I have a savage appetite,' he said. “I criticism : “Oh ! vos symbolistes ! Je take so much physical exercise, canoeing, les exècre.” Instantly the words were

dumb-bells ; in winter, skating, often to

as far as Holland ; every day transferred to the fortunate recorder's Bruges, or “But this is not part of the and I ain'in the courts so seldom.'

bicycling, that is when I am not in the courts, note-book.

"You are interview, surely ?” “No, madame," I

a lawyer,' I exclaimed. “Yes-a little, as I replied, with a smile in response to hers, have said. Now and again a poor peasant asks " but it is color-and so local !"

my aid and I plead for him in Flemish,' There is color, too, in the picture of

Once in motion, in the shadow of the M. Octave Mirbeau, the celebrated author venerable buildings of the city-for the of Calvaire and Sébastien Roch, in his rain had ceased--in the old streets or garden near Rouen, amid his Japanese among the network of canals and quays lilies and German irises ; or pointing out and bridges, M. Mæterlinck grew comto his visitor the Chinese Moréas, with its municative, and as discussion arose bis great orange petals, “ worth many Moréas apparent placidity disappeared ; the obof Athens [the author of the Passionate

server could recognize that keen nervous Pilgrim], I assure you.” But English sensibility which shows itself in his literreaders, at the present moment, will pre- ary work. He spoke freely and he spoke fer another picture—that of the “ Flemish well; few indeed of M. Huret’s interlocuShakespeare” (writer of genius, surely, tors uttered themselves more clearly and but a very Flemish Shakespeare), of effectively on the subject of the symbolic whom M. Mirbeau was the discoverer, in art. There are two kinds of symbols and about whom we have already heard a according to M. Mæterlinck; there is good deal, and shall soon hear more. In first the designed and deliberate syinbol ; order to find M. Maurice Mæterlinck, it the artist starts from an abstraction, and was necessary to take the train for Ghent. endeavors to clothe this abstraction with The weather was abominable, and under humanity and concrete form. A typical the melancholy sky the interviewer ex- example of such symbolism, which appected to sce, in a suitably gloomy envi- proaches allegory, may be found in the ronment, the spectral figure of the author Second Part of Faust, and in the Mährof La Princesse Maleine.

chen aller Mührchen, translated long since A surprise. Twenty-seven years old, large- for English readers by Carlyle. " ly built, square shoulders, blond mustache cut other kind of symbol is unconscious, close, Mæterlinck, with his regular features,

comes into existence although the poet be bright eyes, and cheeks of rosy bloom, realizes exactly the Flemish type. This, added to

not aware of it, or even against his will, his very simple manners, his almost timid and almost always has bearings which bearing, the absence of gestures and the ab- reach beyond his conscious thought ; this is sence also of embarrassment, aroused at once the symbol which is found in every genial a feeling of very agreeable surprise. This creation of humanity ; capital examples man, with his correct dress-black, with white silk cravat-will not play the part of the pre

may be seen in the dramas of Æschylus cocious genius, nor deal in mystery or menfout- and Shakespeare. I do not believe that ism; he is modest and he is sincere. But the a viable work can be born of a symbol ; charm has something to counterbalance it ; if but a symbol is always born from a work I do not succeed in making my interlocutor which is viable. . . As regards what forget the interview, which terrifies him, I shall elicit nothing for my Enquête, or next is symbolic, the poet ought to be passive : to nothing from his large tranquillity. A the symbol should be the flower of the quarter of an hour, and I began to reckon my vitality of the poem.” Asked as to what gains ; not a word about himself or others, or philosophic influences had most affected replies to my questions, a slight gesture, a nod him, Mæterlinck replied, " Kant, Carlyle, of the head, a movement of the lips or eye- Schopenhauer, who consoles you even in brows, such will be all I glean from the sub- the presence of death.” Of Shakespeare : ject of my interview so long as he feels him

“Oh yes, Shakespeare above all ! Shakeself a victim of the interviewer. Little by lit

When I wrote the Princesse tle I must make him forget the purpose of my travel, and break up bit by bit this blond Maleine I said to myself, “I an

am going to piece of silence. And again' I feel that there attempt a play in Shakespeare's manner

Pro The

speare !

for a theatre of marionettes.' And that for sale. For Mallarmé literature is es. was what in fact I did." Among recent sentially an outcome of the individual, English writers and artists the favorites of bearing the impress of a distinct personMæterlinck are Swinburne, Rossetti, Will- ality. Formerly poets may have sung, as iam Morris, and Barne-Jones. Edgar Poe it were in a choir, to the great organ is dear to him ; but The Fall of the House tones of the official metres ; now cach of Usher is qualified for his temperament singer retires into his corner to play upon by the wholesome whirl of the bicycle. the flute the air he loves. The demand

Just now, when English readers are dis- for a versification, more free, more elastic, covering a most interesting, if not a great, more living than that s0 grandly wrought poet in Paul Verlaine, and when the name in bronze or in gold by the great Parnasof Stéphane Mallarmé rouses curiosity as siens, has been recognized and admitted that of a distinguished, if not a great, un- as just and inevitable by M. Anatole known, the younger representatives of the France. The official verse—the AlexanSymbolist movement in France disclaim drine-is not rejected by M. Mallarmé, their leadership, and assert their indepen- but he would reserve its use for great ocdence by declaring that Verlaine has casions, when solemn movements of the halted at a point which it is impossible to soul require an utterance, and even then regard as a resting-place. Mallarmé, it should be freer, more spontaneous, whose nature is more sympathetic, whose more aërial than the Alexandrine as too temperament is less aggressive than Ver- commonly it is written. With this for laine's, protests against so-called “schools” grave and, as it were, imperial uses, the in literature, proclaims himself a solitary, poetry of the future will exbibit an infinity yet bends graciously from his height of of motives derived from the peculiar senpride towards “ les jeunes gens ;” and sibility of finely-organized individuals. bence he retains their affection, Even in The themes of which future singers will presence of the interviewer, who at the treat must include all in thought, action, moment was noting in the graceful way and emotion which is susceptible of poetic of the profession) his medium height, his handling, and these themes will not be pointed beard already grizzled, his long presented directly and four-square after satyr ears, his eyes which shone with the manner of those old rhetoricians, the extraordinary lustre, M. Mallarmé retained Parnassien poets ; the younger poets will “un grand air de bonté.'' When he choose rather to suggest than to depict ; speaks“ the word is always accompanied they will not fear the indefinite or the by a gesture, a liberal gesture, full of mysterious ; if they present an object it grace, precision, eloquence ; his voice will be in order that the object may call lingers a little on the ends of his words, up or adumbrate some spiritual, some with a dying fall; his personality affects emotional state or mood ; or they will, you with a powerful charm ; you feel in tbrough some state of the soul, shadow the man

an undeclining pride, which forth an object; they may be charged floats calmly over all, the pride of a god with obscurity, but all art which demands or of an illuminated adept, before which the co-operation of the spectator's or the you must needs bow the Lead--when once reader's feelings and imagination is obit is understood.” It is unfortunate for scure to those who do not bring that one us that M. Mallarmé has so rarely put thing needful. In this statement of M. himself, as they say, in evidence by his Mallarmé we have perhaps a better acwritings. He cannot understand, he told count of the aims of the symbolist school a friend, what induces a poet to go to the than can be obtained from any other of publishers ; the birds sing in their bowers, the subjects of M. Hurct's examination. but these are not commonly situated in For his own part, Mallarmé acknowl. Paternoster Row. To print our poems is edges that, with the marvellous mastery surely nothing less than an indecent ex- of verse possessed by certain recent writers posure of the soul. The author of — Banville, for example--the Alexandrine L'Après-midi d'un Faune bas not often admits of infinite variety, is flexible for offended in this way, and has on those every purpose, can respond to every moverare occasions preserved something of his ment of human passion. In an interestmodesty by affixing an almost probibitive ing paper on Modern Poetry, by Mr. price on the article so indiscreetly offered Lewis Morris, published last July, the

writer speaks of French as the one Eu- ney past factories and canals, and dim ropean language in which poetry is well streets and clamorous court-yards to find nigh impossible. ... It may attain to Verlaine : he was easily run to earth in fine rhetoric, it may even monnt to the his accustomed café, the François-Preheight of a tender and graceful lyric, but mier, Boulevard Saint-Michel. His atbeyond this it cannot go.' Doubtless a tacks of black misanthropy, his wild fits nation which feeds exclusively on frogs of silence, says M. Huret, vanish with cannot produce true epic verse, and any the least gleam of sunshine. He has one British poet can beat any three that beautiful resignation which made him French. That is a pions and patriotic declare in a soft voice, only faintly sugopinion to which I give a loyal adhesion. gestive of absinthe :-“I have no mother Matthew Arnold informed us nearly thirty now but one, the Assistance publique.years ago that the power of French litera- During the hours preceding the interview ture is in its prose-writers, the power of he had taken pains to replenish his pockEnglish literature is in its poets ; and heets, and now under his ample Macfarlane added that the main vehicle for poetry in of black and gray checks, glowed a superb France, the Alexandrine, is an inadequate yellow silk necktie. This was indeed vebicle. I confess that I have always splendor which contrasts favorably with ventured to regard this statement as evi- the filthy nigbt cap, the greasy shirt, the dence that Mr. Arnold's feeling for what discolored trousers, in which the author is excellent in French literature had its of Sagesse received Mr. George Moore. limitations. No one possessed of a true

Verlaine, as every one knows, is no great sense for what is great in French poetry talker ; he is a purely instinctive artist, who can think of the Alexandrine in its history utters his opinions in quick fits and starts, by from Racine to Hugo, and Banville, and means of concise imagery, sometimes with deLeconte de Lisle, with a stinted admira- sigued brutality, yet always qualified by a tion. It is capable of infinite grace,

gleam of unconstrained kindliness and charm

ing bonhomie. When I asked him for a sweetness, subtlety ; the fall and folds of definition of symbolism, he said, 'You know the robe of an antique statue are not more I have some common sense ; perhaps I hare exquisite than it can be ; and yet it can, nothing else, but I have that. "Symbolism ?when there is need, advance with the don't understand it. Must be a German word,

eh? What does it mean? It doesn't matter bounding, mounting motion of a wave of

a straw to me. When I suffer, when I am enthe sea, all strength, all joy, all harmony. joying myself

, or when I weep, I know well I am glad to confirm my feeling, that of that that is no symbol. Look now, all these one to whom the more intimate beauties distinctions and definitions are just Germanof French verse can never be fully known, opinions Kant, Schopenhauer, Hegel, and

isms; what does it matter to a poet what by the words of such a master as M. other blockheads may have on human emoCatulle Mendès : “ The Alexandrine,'' he tions. For my part, I am French - you take says, “has been modified in a thousand me?-rampantly French-that before all else. ways; it may hereafter perhaps be trans

I find in my instinct nothing which obliges formed in a thousand other ways ; I ad- tears ; when I am wretched, I write melan

me to inquire after the why of the why of my mit it, but—and this is its high distinction choly verses, that is the wholo of it, with no and its glory-from the chanson de geste, other rule than the instinct, as they say, of where it appeared for the first time, and good writing, which I believe I have. His down through Ronsard and Malherbe, it became slow and grave. All the same,' he

countenance fell into shadow, and his speech has remained, and it will remain, that went on,' there may be seen under my verses marvellous thing which the greatest artists the . Gulf stream of my being, where are have found adequate in so many magnifi. currents of glacial water and currents that cent masterpieces—the French Alexan. boil, débris, yes-sands, most certainly-flowdrine."

ers, perhaps.' Every moment in Verlaine's

conversation you are surprised and delighted Mr. George Moore has given to English by these unexpected antitheses of brutality readers a vivid portrait of Paul Verlaine and grace, of light irody and savage indigna--the “bald, prominent forchead, the tion." cavernous eyes, the macabre expression of Striking with his fist the niarble table burned-out lust smouldering upon his till the glasses of absinthe and vermouth face”—and we need not confirm that por- trembled, Verlaine went on to declaim trait by reproducing M. Huret's sketch. against the ridiculous “cymbalists,” their On this occasion it did not require a jour- big banner on which was inscribed the

NEW SERIES.-VOL, LIV., No. 6. 53



sublime word “Paffery," their absurd of Moréas ?' Ile drew himself up, im.
pretence of returning to the Renaissance, provised a long gesture with the right arm,
and recovering tradition by skipping the moistened his fingers, rhythmically twisted
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, their his mustache, and with strong emphasis
inventions in art which had all been in- uttered himself : « Voui !!!'" and so
vented before by Arthur Rimbaud, their this document in the study of French let-
ungainly prose announcing itself as verse, ters and of the poetical temperament came
rhythmless lines running on a thousand to a close.
feet,-" It is not French ! no, it is not The writer whose Passionate Pilgrim
French ; and we are neither Greeks nor was the convenient occasion for this in-
Roirans; we are French, sacré nom de quiry, M. Jean Moréas, while he admits
Dieu !'' And now he shrugged his that Verlaine will occupy a high place
shoulders, a frown upon his forehead ; among the immortals of French poetry,
now broke into gay, contagious laughter, refuses to acknowledge the master as other
while in the zeal of his declamation, his than a Parnassien-a dissentient Parnas-
pipe languished, or was lit and relit. sien, if you like, but essentially of that

But these young writers, do they not school. For his own part, he rejected the make use of your name?' said I.

· Let name of decadent,” which Verlaine had them prove that I have any part in their adopted as a war-cry, and, in 1885, proparentage ! Let then read my poems !' posed the term “symbolist," as indicating And in a comic tone, he added, sufficiently the direction of the new deQuai Saint-Michel, 3 francs ! Then : parture in poetry.

On this our English • I have had pupils, yes ; but I look on side of the narrow seas, literature somethem as pupils in revolt : Moréas is one how contrives to live and move and have of them.' Ah !' I exclaimed.

* Yes,

its being without banners and battle-cries, indeed ! I am a bird (as Zola is an ox), schools and manifestoes. We have not and there are evil tongues which say that found it necessary to label Mr. George I have formed a school of canaries. It is Meredith a "psychologue,” or Mr. Swinfalse. The symbolists, allowing for cer- burne a

" decadent.

Perhaps we do tain reserves, are birds, too. Moréas is not take art quite so seriously as one of them—but no. he is more of neighbors are accustomed to take it, for a peacock. And then he has reinained a in politics and in theology, where we are child-eighteen years old. True, I am a certainly serious, English men are not unyoungster myself' (here Verlaine assumed provided with parties and schools. Perhis accustomed pose—head thrown back, haps we have a deeper sense of the prihis lips outthrust, eyes looking straight mary importance of ind viduality in art. before him, arm extended): but a Perhaps we care less for intellectual abFrench youngster, 'cré nom de Dieu !!stractions, and are content without reducAnd here his peal of joyous laughter broke ing everything that is excellent to a docforth. ""But how is it that you have trine or a formula. At least, before a accepted the title of décadent, and what school is formed in literature or art, we do you understand by it ?' It is a very suppose it would be well that there should simple affair.

They flung the name at us be some work to show. Work done is as an insult ; I picked it up as a war-cry ; certainly not the strongest point in the but it means nothing in particular, that I school of symbolists. But what shall we know of. Decadent ! Is not the twilight say of M. René Ghil and his “ évolutiveof a glorious day worth many dawns ? instrumentiste” school, which can reckon And then, the sun which seems to set, up the names of twenty-six poets—two will it not rise next morning ? Decadent baker's-dozens of poets--all contending at bottom ineans just notbing at all. I tel! nobly, side by side with their master, you again it was a cry and a banner and for “ the evolutive method,'' all from nothing inore.

To fight, we want twenty years of age to eight-and-twenty, phrases ! Three colors and the black and nearly all of whom, as regards pubeagle—that is enough : men will fight for lished work of distinction, are still poetizthe banner.'The interviewer, who had ing in the paulo-post-future tense ? Shall enjoyed the dramatic quality of Verlaine's we repeat a word of M. Renan which declamations, closed with a courageous sums up his judgment on many of his stroke—“' Is it true that you are jealous young contemporaries and their endeav


[ocr errors]

ors : “ Ce sont des enfants qui se sucent they call on him they speak well, with a le pouce" ? It is a gentle word, describe clear intelligence, like Frenchmen ; and ing a harınless and perhaps a wholesome the moment they put pen to paper there pastime.

is a total eclipse of all that is characterisWith not a little happiness we find our- tically French, of clearness, of good sense. selves for a few moments in the presence They become forth with the “ amateurs de of that august master”-the word is délire,” of whom Baudelaire has spoken, M. Huret's, and it is the right word— As to the revolution which they would Leconte de Lisle, who needs not to point effect in verse, it aims at nothing less than to the monumental works with which he metrical anarchy : “Seriously, monsieur, has enriched the literature of France, for French verse lives by virtue of cquilibthey are known to us all, and we cannot rium ; it dies if its balance be disturbed ;"! praise them enough. But it is good to but Leconte de Lisle knows well that true be assured that the master himself is poble freedoin co-exists with order, and that the as his work is great.

" For all of us, balance is not mechanical merely, but said M. de Herédia, “ for Coppée, Sully- vital ; not the poise of a weighing maPrudhomme, Mendès, Mallarmé, Silvestre, chine, but the poise of a wave or of a Cazalis, France, and so many others, and bird upon the wing. “We are feeling for myself the least of them, but not the our way, dear Master,'

said Henri de least in sense of gratitude, this great poet Regnier, a young symbolist, who, however, had been an admirable educator, a worthy looks on the new school less as an abiding master. By bis illustrious example, even home of art than as a provisional place of more than by his advice, he has taught us refugo for those who are not disposed to respect for our noble language, and a dis- follow in a servile way the track of the interested love of poetry. We owe to him Parnassiens. “ Feel your way as much our artistic conscience. And thus any- as you please,'' replied Leconte de Lisle, thing that we may have done should go to you have a right to do so ; but at least form part of his sum of glory.” Gener- keep your gropings to yourself ; do not ous words, telling of the better and hap- grope in print. Everyone has had to pier side of the life and character of the feel his way. As for myself, I kept my man of letters ! The speaker not unjustly first collection of verse in my drawer for commented on the lack of fraternity seven years ; I burned four thousand among the aspirants of the new move- lines ; I recast most of my pieces several ment, and their irreverence for the elder times. The new poets elevate their gropmasters. We, in the Parnassien days, ings into the achievements of a school, I assure you, were not like this. ... 1 and would impose them on the world. can remember with what pleasure we met 'Tis a little too much.” We cannot but -Boulevard des Invalides—at the house admit that one who has attained supreme of our great fraternal friend, Leconte de mastery in an art which is virile and diffiLisle, where we went on Saturdays, “as cult is warranted in some feeling of imMussulmans go to Mecca.' The phrasc is patience with “ ces jeunes gens," who are Coppée's, and it does not say too much. experimenting, and with such incomplete Leconte de Lise ! he taught us all the art results. As to the accusation of impassiof poetry ! and the counsel that he be- bility brought against those who, en. stowed on us was not given in order that throned on Parnassus, we should make verses like his own; he

"Live and lie reclined entered into the position of each of us :

On the hill, like gods together," * In your place I should write this, I should alter that.' All said brightly, fra- the answer of Leconte de Lisle is admiraternally! Yes, indeed, we must honor, ble and perfectly just ; but the outbreak venerate, love him, as he has loved us, will read better in French than in a transwith a deep and devoted affection." lation : "Et aura-t-on bientôt fini avec

Tous fumistes, ces jeunes gens !-such cette baliverne ! Poète impassible ! Alors in brief is the judgment of Leconte de quand on ne raconte pas de quelle façon Lisle on the motley band who follow the on boutonne son pantalon, et les péripaties banner of symbolism. Several of these de ses amourettes, on est un poète impasyoung men are personally known to him ; sible ? C'est stupide." And stupid, inhe has told them his opinion. When deed, it is. Mr. Oscar Wilde has put


« VorigeDoorgaan »