Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

instance of what is not seldom the case with men of the poetic temperament absolutely unbridled passions and complete disregard of the conventionalities. One brief glimpse he had of peaceful happiness: his marriage brought him for a time into a calmer atmosphere. In 1870 he published La Bonne Chanson, a volume containing some beautiful poems. Shortly afterwards he got in trouble with the Commune and fled to England, where he passed ten years of mingled drudgery and dissipation. He died at Paris in a poor lodging on a mean street in 1896. His scandalous career had utterly broken his health. “I once saw Verlaine,” says an English writer. "I shall not soon forget the bald prominent forehead (une tête galèbre), the cavernous eyes, the macabre expression of burnt-out lust smouldering upon his face.” But despite the wild and bad years of his life, Verlaine produced some lyric poetry of wonderful purity and beauty. His first book was Poèmes Saturniens (1866). He published many other volumes of verse, among them being: Wisdom (1881),—his best work; Romances without Words (1887); Love (1888). His aim was at the first to produce poetry of the most vivid type—to bring the picture visibly before the eye; afterwards, he achieved a music of verse which is nearly always charming in its appeal. He was a disciple of Baudelaire, and while not so great a poet, surpassed his leader along the lines of technique. In his life he was like a child but he was a true poet

in his work. His poetry is a cry of the soul .. the free poetry of a being who is happy or who weeps. By a kind of art, involuntary, spontaneous and yet refined and supremely delicate, he wrote exquisite little songs ”-of which the following is an example:

There are tears in my heart,
There is rain in the town;
What bodeth this smart
In my languorous heart?

O soft noise of the rain
Over earth, over roof!
For a heart sick with pain
O the song of the rain !

Tears without reason
In a heart out of heart,
And none has wrought treason ?
This grief has no reason,

'Tis indeed the worst woe
With no love and no hate
In one's heart, not to know
Why one's heart has such woe.

Of bis ultimate importance it is impossible to decide. He carries the romantic idea to the farthest point so far, and has been marked a Degenerate; there we must let the matter rest.

M. SULLY PRUDHOMME, who was born in 1839, is a living writer. He may be termed a philosophical poet and his literary work has been done under happier auspices than that of the majority of his confrères. His chief books-all poetical-are

Stances et Poèmes (1865), Vaines Tendresses (1875), Bonheur (1888).

M. François COPPÉE (b. 1842) is one of the most widely known of living French authors. He has written poetry (his chief work), some successful dramas, and numerous short stories. His poetry deals with lowly life in somewhat the same vein as Dickens has used in his novels; as instances may be cited The Blacksmith's Strike (1869), Les Humbles (1872). The writer who remains too long in this field is apt to become trivial; but this fault can hardly be found in M. Coppée's work. Of him it has been said his poems give pleasure to many who would otherwise remain untouched and that the range of his work shows nothing harmful in word or thought.

There have been various “schools ” which have risen during recent years—such as the “symbolists," for example. But they have not yet produced a great writer, and their value is in doubt.

Many good novels have been written during the present century in France. Hugo, Dumas, Balzac and George Sand we have noticed. Balzac covers many fields. Hugo and Dumas were exponents of the novel of incident, which depends for its power primarily upon the strength and vigor of its move ment. It was the lineal descendant of Scott's great books. George Sand inclined to the novel of character, which had existed in France since the seventeenth century. This relies upon analysis of character and motive. There were some minor novelists contemporary with the great novelists of 1830. EUGÈNE SUE (1804–1859) possessed a strong and fecund imagination, and wrote much. His two best novels were The Mysteries of Paris (1843) and The Wandering Jew (1849).

The name of JULES JANIN (1804-1874) should not be forgotten. His literary career began with The Year of Death and the Lady Guillotine, a somewhat gruesome story. His later years were chiefly concerned with journalism.

Passing over some writers whom lack of space excludes, we come to GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, who wrote during the second Empire (i.e. 1852 to 1870). Born in 1821, he began early and under the fortunate circumstances engendered by a comfortable income. He was thus enabled to follow his natural bent with unusual care. His first success was his novel, Madame Bovary (1859).

Bovary (1859). It deals with country life and it puts things quite as plainly as there is any necessity for. So plainly, in fact, that the author was prosecuted, but acquitted. Salammbố (1862) is a striking romance in which the scene is laid at Carthage during the “mercenary war.” His Temptation of St. Anthony is a fine piece of purely fantastic literature, Flaubert died in Paris in 1880. His characteristics are a somewhat unpleasing freedom in subject, and a love for the grim-grotesque; coupled with these a powerful imagination and a remarkably careful style. The

principle of the latter was laborious but effective. It lay in the theory that there was but one word or phrase which would express perfectly each thought, and that this word should be sought out at no matter what pains. This “ doctrine of the single word” gave him a style "as rhythmical as verse and precise as the language of the sciences.”

Of the Goncourt brothers-JULES DE GONCOURT (1830–70) and EDMOND DE GONCOURT (1822–96)--little more than the names can be mentioned. Notorious was Le Journal des Goncourt (1887–96), which unfolded the secret history of Parisian literary life for the last forty years. They wrote some novels which to-day hold a somewhat higher place than they did twenty years ago.

The group of novelists who called themselves the naturalists claimed to have done away with roman. ticism, and to have established a new school of fiction. This school carries the analysis of character to its farthest limits and adds thereto a certain morbid attention to detail. The work is not without power, but some of its tendencies violate the demands of good taste.

M. ÉMILE ZOLA is the most prominent member of the naturalists and is by some critics considered the greatest of recent French writers. Born in 1840, he was educated at the Lycée St. Louis. His first encounter with the actual work of life was in the great publishing house of Hachette & Co. At the age of twenty-five years he joined the Figaro

2 E

« PředchozíPokračovat »