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  1. #136
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quark View Post
    Phrase it how you will, I was just wondering about what's behind the "danger" or "untrustworthiness." Considering that the last two poems we've looked at showed various different problems with women and love (whether it's the illusory nature of it all in Fetes Gallantes or the infedelity of the lover in "Birds in the Night"), discovering the problems in this poem might be really illuminating as to it's meaning and effect. Is the woman here a particular woman like in "Birds in the Night"? Does her danger or untrustworthiness refer to an actual instance like in the previous poem we looked at? Or, does the woman just represent a class? Is she dangerous because she's going to run off with another man like in the previous poem? Or, is she dangerous because she toys with men's emotions--like so many of the lovers in a Balzac novel? These are some of the questions that I think the poem raises. I haven't had a chance to give the poems or their context much thought yet, so I thought I'd bring it up on the thread. I'd be willing to move on, too, though.
    I don't know - it seems like she is dangerous because the poem's speaker is visibly vulnerable, and she is apathetic. Ultimately its his own objectification of the woman - as the cat, the object of beauty and ornament, but also the object of striking pain that both empowers her to not toy with his emotions, but strike through her indifference. After all, why should she show affection? Why should she be the soft-mitten-wearing ornament to be stroked by his ego? She is sharp because she is independent, and he needs her, or seems to need her more than she needs him.

    The poem is beautiful in that it articulates the main concept of male obsession with the unattainable female, who, being independent of him, and not interested, creates an emotion disturbance and pain for the out-of-luck male. Probably something along the lines of the narrator from Araby, or Heathcliff, or any other number of characters, though the one that best comes to mind is Lensky from Onegin.

    The idealized male obsession with the woman is ultimately coupled by the emotional pain of rejection, knowing that she doesn't necessarily feel the same way. The poem feels quite Petrarchan to me, except the cat is a more interesting symbol than the conventional conceits of war and hunting we get in Renaissance writers.

    The distance the poet makes, in drawing a portrait rather than articulating an emotion shows a new twist to the world, where the hyper-sensualized landscape of 19th century France seems to carry a beyond-real elliptical reality with it, rather than a conceited convention of dialogue heavy poetry.
    Last edited by JBI; 08-07-2010 at 03:55 PM.

  2. #137
    Chess Neely's Avatar
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    Hi, I'm afraid I have lost my way on this thread as I have been away. What poem are we on now and are we likely to be moving to a new poem soon? Thanks.

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

    I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
    Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

  3. #138
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    The poem is beautiful in that it articulates the main concept of male obsession with the unattainable female, who, being independent of him, and not interested, creates an emotion disturbance and pain for the out-of-luck male.

    I agree that there is something to this. The entire notion of the femme fatale became a common image during this era in which women were asserting their rights... and independence from men. Of course while he proclaims that the danger lies in her beauty or her sexuality because these leave him vulnerable to desires contrary to his better logical thoughts, in reality the danger lies in himself... in his own passions. In the case of Verlaine... this was not something feigned. His sexual desires... for women or men... led him astray and down dark paths that he repeatedly regretted.

    Neely... we're discussing the Woman and Cat poem that I posted back on July 31st.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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  4. #139
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    The poem is beautiful in that it articulates the main concept of male obsession with the unattainable female, who, being independent of him, and not interested, creates an emotion disturbance and pain for the out-of-luck male.

    I agree that there is something to this. The entire notion of the femme fatale became a common image during this era in which women were asserting their rights... and independence from men. Of course while he proclaims that the danger lies in her beauty or her sexuality because these leave him vulnerable to desires contrary to his better logical thoughts, in reality the danger lies in himself... in his own passions. In the case of Verlaine... this was not something feigned. His sexual desires... for women or men... led him astray and down dark paths that he repeatedly regretted.

    Neely... we're discussing the Woman and Cat poem that I posted back on July 31st.
    Of course, though, to be honest, I don't think it has to do with women's rights - to me it smells of urban culture - Petrarch is saying the same thing, only he is making it a literary trope - here the urban culture sets a disturbance, coupled with a semi-understood commercialism - the female aesthetic has changed so significantly that the assertive heart-breaker of a woman has become the idolized female form, her wry laugh rather than taken as a "innocent" charm becomes a demonized taunt.

    To me it just shows the shift of landscape toward a highly urbanized industrialized form - to me the woman as cat seems emblematic of a society where money, class, and prestige, coupled by a subclass of struggling artists and scholars echo in the background. Paris is the world turned upside down, and the cat is just the urbanized female. Though ultimately, I guess woman's suffrage does play a minor role, I would argue it comes from the destruction of the good Shepherdess that dominates the shattered pastoral ideal. The solitary reaper, or angelic devout Laura don't seem to hold as models in a world that has become totally sexualized and commercial.

  5. #140
    Chess Neely's Avatar
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    I read the "Woman and Cat" and then looked back over the thread and pretty much came to the same conclusions as the majority, so I've not got much to add apart from a half-forgotten minor points that are not really worth mentioning. So shall we go on with a new poem to freshen things up a bit?

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

    I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
    Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

  6. #141
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Post away, Neely!
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
    My Blog: Of Delicious Recoil
    http://stlukesguild.tumblr.com/

  7. #142
    Original Poster Buh4Bee's Avatar
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    Would someone like to pick a poem from Sagesse (1880)? This is the next collection.

  8. #143
    Chess Neely's Avatar
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    Go on then you choose one from Sagesse.

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

    I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
    Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

  9. #144
    Chess Neely's Avatar
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    Mr Jersey, if you have not logged-on to pick one before I get up early tomorrow, at around 10am ish, and given me enough time to make a coffee, say 10.45am then I'll pick one. As we can't keep everyone waiting can we? If you log on before this time, choose a poem and I'll gladly then read it with my coffee and custard danish, yum, yum!

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

    I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
    Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

  10. #145
    Original Poster Buh4Bee's Avatar
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    Mr. jersey will still be in bed, so I'll leave it up to you, my dear.

  11. #146
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Sagesse has never been one of my favorite books of Verlaine's poetry... and it seems I am not alone in this. Norman R. Shapiro in his introduction to the book notes that the question is not or should not be the sincerity of Verlaine's (temporary) longings toward "wisdom" and spirituality. As Oscar Wilde notes, "All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling" (Something our lovers of Bukowski have yet to have learned... but that's neither here nor there). Regardless of the Verlaine's sincerity, if Sagesse had been symptomatic of Verlaine's output, he would most likely have been considered little more than a very competent, second-rate poet.

    Instead of drawing something from Sagesse, I thought I'd throw out two different poems from two other books... either/both of which we might discuss... as no one else seems up to the task. The first poem comes from the volume Romances sans Paroles (1874):

    Bright in the evening's gray and pinkish blur...


    Bright in the evening's gray and pinkish blur,
    A piano stands, kissed by a sleight, frail hand,
    While, like the whisper of a wing astir,
    An air from long ago- faint, obscure, and
    Yet fair- haunts the boudoir as if it were
    Fearful to tread midst the perfume of Her.

    What is this cradle that, now, suddenly,
    Rocks my poor body, lulls my being? Why?
    What do you want, mischievous Melody?
    Sweet muted strain? What would you do with me,
    You who will soon be dying, over by
    The window open on the greenery.

    tr. Norman R. Shapiro from Romances sans Paroles


    The piano kissed by slender hand
    Has vague sheens in the gray-pink light
    Of evening, while on almost silent wings,
    A slight and very old and charming air
    Roams discreetly, as if scared
    Of that inner sanctum full of Her...

    tr. Martin Sorrell excerpeted


    Le piano que baise une main frêle
    Luit dans le soir rose et gris vaguement,
    Tandis qu'un très léger bruit d'aile
    Un air bien vieux, bien faible et bien charmant
    Rôde discret, épeuré quasiment,
    Par le boudoir longtemps parfumé d'Elle.

    Qu'est-ce que c'est que ce berceau soudain
    Qui lentement dorlote mon pauvre être ?
    Que voudrais-tu de moi, doux Chant badin ?
    Qu'as-tu voulu, fin refrain incertain
    Qui vas tantôt mourir vers la fenêtre
    Ouverte un peu sur le petit jardin ?



    This poem dates from a period in which Verlaine and Mathilde (his wife) have been separated, and he has been denied all permission of visiting her (rightly so) at her apartment.

    I quite prefer Shapiro's translation of this poem for the strength of certain images... and looking at a literal translation it seems closer to the original.

    Where the poems from Fête galante made much reference to music as the accompaniment of loveplay... here the music is an "ancient" air... something long past... like his and Mathilde's love... and something still mischievous... seductive... but also muted... and soon dying.


    The other poem I thought I'd throw out is from Verlaine's last major collection, Parallèlement (1889). Parallèlement rejects the contrite, apologetic air of Sagesse (and the title was intended as a pun on Sagesse: "Parallèlement' à Sagesse, Amour, et aussi à Bonheur qui va suivre et conclure.") and returns to the subject in which Verlaine is at his best: love and eroticism.

    Parallèlement is a collection of lusty, earthy, erotic inspiration. There are six Lesbian sonnets which were no longer seen as too scandalous for publication, a grouping entitled Filles, in which the poet sings the physical praises of the female, and several more groupings. One particularly lust poem that stands out to me is entitled Loins:

    Last night, in my dreams, two fabulous women
    Came to me during a ball (I ask you, a Ball!)
    One was rather thin and blonde, with one blue eye,
    The other black, She had a haunting pagan look.

    The second was dark and sly and promised harm.
    Breasts thrilled to be seen, Breasts for a god!
    Curving backs- described by hot hands
    Under their dresses swish and sweep

    Plunged with such beauty and such wild joy,
    Song without words, so to speak,
    Royal rearguard on the battle field of love.

    Ah! These Belles Dames! Study France's coat of arms-
    Did what they did to prick me into life,
    Astonished that I didn't give a damn.

    tr. Martin Sorell, excerpted from Parallèlement

    Last night two women came to me, a pair
    Fairer than fair. (Imagine! In my dream
    My thought was of the ball, strange though it seem!)
    One with darkness fraught- menacing glare-

    One eye black, one of blue, thin, blonde of hair.
    The other with a look that seemed to scheme
    And flatter: Hair brown, breasts, divine, supreme!
    Both lovelies, rich of loin, with that proud air,

    Joyous, that makes the hand hot, tingle at
    Those rustling underskirt delights; loins that
    (Lustful rear guard!) lacked only speech for battle...

    excerpted from Norman R. Shapiro's translation


    Lombes

    Deux femmes des mieux m’ont apparu cette nuit.
    Mon rêve était au bal, je vous demande un peu !
    L’une d’entre elles maigre assez, blonde, un œil bleu,
    Un noir et ce regard mécréant qui poursuit.

    L’autre, brune au regard sournois qui flatte et nuit,
    Seins joyeux d’être vus, dignes d’un demi-dieu !
    Et toutes deux avaient, pour rappeler le jeu
    De la main chaude, sous la traîne qui bruit,

    Des bas de dos très beaux et d’une gaîté folle
    Auxquels il ne manquait vraiment que la parole,
    Royale arrière-garde aux combats du plaisir.

    Et ces Dames — scrutez l’armorial de France —
    S’efforçaient d’entamer l’orgueil de mon désir,
    Et n’en revenaient pas de mon indifférence.


    Vouziers (Ardennes), 13 avril — 23 mai 1885.


    beyond the humorous... self deprecating eroticism that echoes some of the poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, among others, Verlaine makes continued allusion to Rimbaud through the continued allusion to "beautiful loins" ("reins beaux"/Rimbaud) which he employs elsewhere in the collection. I also found that I was immediately reminded of one of Heinrich Heine's poems:

    Yolante and Marie

    3.

    The bottles are empty, the breakfast was fine,
    The ladies are flushed- on the brink,
    They pull off their corsets with wanton design-
    They're pretty well laced, I think.

    Their shoulders, how white! their breast, how pert!
    My heart skips a half-dozen beats.
    They pull off the slip along with the skirt
    And, laughing, jump under the sheets.

    They draw down the curtains, without further talk,
    And finally sleep like the dead.
    And all of the while I stand and I gawk
    And stare like an oaf at the bed.

    tr. Hal Draper, excerpted from Yolante and Marie

    Of course there are great differences in the two poems. Heine's poem is something of a confession of an erotic experience of a comic nature... the naive or inexperienced... or simply shocked poet stands by like a bumpkin not knowing what to do with these two lovelies. Verlaine's narrative, on the other hand, is that of a dream... and one that is surely far more knowing... yet jaded. This is a poet that seems far removed from the man who wrote the playful and flirtatious fantasies of the [I]Fêtes galantes[/I. Where the youthful poet sang of the splendours of young love... the glimpse of an ankle... or the nape of the neck... a secret rendezvous... the shimmer of satin and lace (even though he knew that all this was an illusion)... the poet of this poem is wordly, profane... and disenchanted with love and sex. He can sing the praises of a fine pair of breasts or a plump a**... but his experiences have left him indifferent... if not somewhat callous.

    Interestingly enough, the great French art dealer, Pierre Vollard, chose of all people, Pierre Bonnard, to produce the illustrations for Parallèlement. Bonnard, follows in the tradition of Renoir as a painter of the intimate private life with the most delicate touch... the Rococo... Watteau... filtered through Impressionism. There could have been no better choice to of an artist to illustrate Verlaine... although Bonnard's work is far more suggestive of the poet of [I]Fêtes galantes[/I. Bonnard's work on Parallèlement greatly helped to establish his reputation as an artist... and the great edition... published in 1900... some 4 years following Verlaine's death... surely helped to secure his position as well:







    Last edited by stlukesguild; 08-12-2010 at 01:48 AM.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
    My Blog: Of Delicious Recoil
    http://stlukesguild.tumblr.com/

  12. #147
    Bright in the evening's gray and pinkish blur...


    Bright in the evening's gray and pinkish blur,
    A piano stands, kissed by a sleight, frail hand,
    While, like the whisper of a wing astir,
    An air from long ago- faint, obscure, and
    Yet fair- haunts the boudoir as if it were
    Fearful to tread midst the perfume of Her.

    What is this cradle that, now, suddenly,
    Rocks my poor body, lulls my being? Why?
    What do you want, mischievous Melody?
    Sweet muted strain? What would you do with me,
    You who will soon be dying, over by
    The window open on the greenery.

    Wow. This one is really beautiful and I would love to discuss it. The first thing that catches my eye, besides the outstanding imagery and use of verbs like "stands" and "kissed", was the "air from long ago." It seems as if the narrator is revisiting feeling he had for the woman at the piano, but is cautious to realize them. That caution is skillfully personified, and this poem is so subtly executed; I digress, I know.

    In the second stanza, the sickness of love is really apparent, and captured so well by the cradle, rocking his poor body. He is confused by the trance she places upon him, and reassures himself that this feeling will pass. These are aspects of love (or simple infatuation, perhaps) that are rarely so well realized. They are those simplicities in human nature that come through in poetry so very well, especially in the case of such a subtle poet as Verlaine.

  13. #148
    Original Poster Buh4Bee's Avatar
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    I was struck by the lamenting quality of this poem. Verlaine is lamenting about the end of the relationship with his wife, as has been mentioned. He is still quite wounded over this finality. It seems as if the poem was written in the presence of a solitary piano located by a large garden window with the setting light reflecting off of it. The piano is being played and the window is open, as if these two features were juxtaposed. Perhaps the only "melody" that will float out into the garden is the sound of possible tears of heart ache. The melody is muted "sweet muted strain" but yet the piano is being played in the light of dusk. The pain is hopefully evaporating with the midst of her perfume. It makes one feel the deep pain in a comfortable, almost serene setting.
    Last edited by Buh4Bee; 08-15-2010 at 10:31 PM.

  14. #149
    Chess Neely's Avatar
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    Yes I like this one. It’s very delicate and sensual and I like the narrative quality, the way we get a mini-story of human interest which was similar to the other poems we looked at. Here the narrator figure is clearly in pain by the memories associated with the music and with her, significantly perhaps “dying” at the window as is their love. This “dying” also gives an impression of the movement of the music, adding to the atmosphere of the piece which is really crammed with sensuality and light – especially in the first stanza (in either translation).

    The window, for me, also creates or represents a sort of barrier between them – shutting out her as something now unattainable. She is hardly described - all we get is a slender hand, but even so the use of sensual imagery surrounding her gives a wonderful impression of appearance and character - like an impressionist painting perhaps? The power for me here lies in what is not said, as well as what is. This is of course a skill for most writing in general, though more prominent in poetry perhaps, either way it is employed to good effective in this piece and in the poems we previously looked at, adding to it an air of intrigue and mystery which stays with the reader long after the poem has ended.

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

    I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
    Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

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