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Paul Verlaine: themes and aesthetics

The “Bonne Chanson” and “Romances sans paroles” represent the most important moment in Verlaine’s poetic experience.
La Bonne chanson, a collection of poems published in 1870, has a very personal character. The poet tells in a very sincere and sometimes touching way his love for Mathilde Mauté
The collection Romances sans paroles is the most significant in Verlaine’s literary production.

These are 28 poems dedicated to Arthur Rimbaud. His connection with this poet constitutes a predominant autobiographical element. The poet exploits the musical resources of words and sentences (cf. the poem “He cries in my heart”). The very title “without words” underlines the primacy of the sound of words over their meaning. The dominant themes are the women who can be real or immaterial, the landscape, always suggested, but never described, of which we think of impressionist painting, sadness, kind of languor without any apparent justification.
In his poems, Verlaine abandons the Parnassian aesthetic (= art for the sake of art) to take an interest in Impressionist painting which he translates into poetry, thus creating a new aesthetic that will lead to Symbolism
Verlaine’s originality appears in the musical research which begins in his first collection “Poème saturniens” and which he will develop further in successive collections., Especially in “Fêtes galantes” where musicality is added a kind of vague melancholy indefinite.
Verlaine relates to romantic sensibility, but the expression of her feelings is always nuanced. It gives the themes of traditional lyricism a new tone which serves to bring out the mysterious meaning of reality and to make one feel the inexpressible. He uses the musical resources of words and the rhythm of versification to add new meanings and enrich the ideas expressed. In the poem “Poetic Art”, Verlaine defines his conception of poetry: “Of music, above all / and for that prefers the odd” He renews the poetic tradition, by developing a personal versification: very often odd lines , various stanzas, a preference given to the feminine rhyme, the repetition of the same sounds, a sometimes repetitive use of certain evocative words. By his sensitivity and by the delicate musicality of his verses, Verlaine is close to the impressionist painters and to Debussy who, among other things, friends in music several of his poems.


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