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Paul Verlaine

Verlaine, Paul (pōl vĕrlĕnˈ) [key], 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.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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