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Biography & Autobiography Literary


A Study in Parallels

by (author) A.E. Carter

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 2018
Literary, Poetry, France, French, Historical, Books & Reading
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    Publish Date
    Dec 2018
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The contradictions of Verlaine's nature are mirrored in his verse, which is alternately mystic, sensuous, exquisite and prosaic. He had extraordinary lyric powers; he was a master of eerie harmonies such as few other poets have achieved, and, in Sagesse, he produced religious verse which challenges comparison with the very best of its kind. Yet here and there can be found a curious weakening in the texture of thought and inspiration: he turns and twists, takes flight, seeks reassurance in platitude and convention – marriage, dogmatic theology, reactionary political creeds. He is even capable of lamenting (as Rimbaud shows him in Une Saison en Enfer) the emotional and poetic experiments which give his work its supreme value. It is almost as though he were afraid of his own talent.

The explanation, as far as there is one, lies in a combination of personality and circumstance. This biography attempts to explore the "parallels" (Verlaine's own term) between his life and his poetry. Nearly everything he produced, whether good or bad, was a reflection of some crisis of thought or feeling. No one demonstrates better than Verlaine the antinomies between the artist and his work, between the man and the genius; and in every case we are obliged to admit that the one explains the other. Without the weakness and the squalor we might indeed have had a rational human being and a good husband for Mathilde Mauté, but we should have had no poet, or no poet like Paul Verlaine. Professor Carter concentrates on the combination of Verlaine's personality and experiences that produced some of the most brilliant poetry in the French language. The result is one of the best critical biographies of Verlaine published to date.

About the author

A.E. Carter taught in various Canadian universities and from 1964 till his retirement he was a professor of French Literature at the University of Georgia.

A.E. Carter's profile page

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