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French Symbolist Poetry

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Any attempt to define the Symbolist movement and its influence inevitably loses itself in a welter of detail. One can say that these late nineteenth-century French poets were revolting against fixed forms and inert molds; that they were attempting to express an inner ideal reality rather than the objective world; that they deliberately blurred sense impressions and sought Any attempt to define the Symbolist movement and its influence inevitably loses itself in a welter of detail. One can say that these late nineteenth-century French poets were revolting against fixed forms and inert molds; that they were attempting to express an inner ideal reality rather than the objective world; that they deliberately blurred sense impressions and sought correspondences where none had been observed before; that they have had a profound influence on contemporary avant-garde writing, noticeably in Hart Crane, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot. But in the end one has not said a great deal. Whether viewed as influence or in and for themselves, the Symbolist are a tantalizing group. Paralleling similar movements in art and music, their intensely personal poetry leans more heavily on oblique suggestions and evocation than on overt statement. It sets its perceptions, intuitive and nonrational, squarely against intellectual and scientific thinking—and this with a music that is flexible, intrepid, and subtle, sometimes even dissonant and jazzy. But the poetry itself is the movements best definition. Here in bilingual form, together with an introduction and illuminating notes, are some forty carefully selected poems of that movement. They range from the remote beginnings in Nerval and Bauldelaire, through the humor and irony of Corbière and Laforgue, to the technical brilliance of Valéry, who died as recently as 1945. For those who wish an over-all view of the movement, this is a generous sampling. For those who wish to delve more deeply, there are available excellent and more extensive translations by C.F. MacIntyre of Bauldelaire, Verlaine, Corbière, Mallarmé, and Rilke and by Patricia Terry of Laforgue.


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Any attempt to define the Symbolist movement and its influence inevitably loses itself in a welter of detail. One can say that these late nineteenth-century French poets were revolting against fixed forms and inert molds; that they were attempting to express an inner ideal reality rather than the objective world; that they deliberately blurred sense impressions and sought Any attempt to define the Symbolist movement and its influence inevitably loses itself in a welter of detail. One can say that these late nineteenth-century French poets were revolting against fixed forms and inert molds; that they were attempting to express an inner ideal reality rather than the objective world; that they deliberately blurred sense impressions and sought correspondences where none had been observed before; that they have had a profound influence on contemporary avant-garde writing, noticeably in Hart Crane, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot. But in the end one has not said a great deal. Whether viewed as influence or in and for themselves, the Symbolist are a tantalizing group. Paralleling similar movements in art and music, their intensely personal poetry leans more heavily on oblique suggestions and evocation than on overt statement. It sets its perceptions, intuitive and nonrational, squarely against intellectual and scientific thinking—and this with a music that is flexible, intrepid, and subtle, sometimes even dissonant and jazzy. But the poetry itself is the movements best definition. Here in bilingual form, together with an introduction and illuminating notes, are some forty carefully selected poems of that movement. They range from the remote beginnings in Nerval and Bauldelaire, through the humor and irony of Corbière and Laforgue, to the technical brilliance of Valéry, who died as recently as 1945. For those who wish an over-all view of the movement, this is a generous sampling. For those who wish to delve more deeply, there are available excellent and more extensive translations by C.F. MacIntyre of Bauldelaire, Verlaine, Corbière, Mallarmé, and Rilke and by Patricia Terry of Laforgue.

30 review for French Symbolist Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    210419: poetry is untranslatable. yes so my french is slowly coming back, so i miss who knows how much language-specific aspects, so i am far from fluent reading though of course terribly impressive to anglophones that i speak any french, try to read any french, and then just terrible to francophones as i massacre spoken language... but every language believes it is able to say something or someway that no other language can, so poetry is that saying. everything sounds better in french, or 210419: poetry is untranslatable. yes so my french is slowly coming back, so i miss who knows how much language-specific aspects, so i am far from fluent reading though of course terribly impressive to anglophones that i speak any french, try to read any french, and then just terrible to francophones as i massacre spoken language... but every language believes it is able to say something or someway that no other language can, so poetry is that saying. everything sounds better in french, or german, or hindi, or mandarin, or cantonese, or... poetry is language. on gr i have little on my poetry bookshelf partly because i do not presently read much, because i do not have fond memories of poetry read at u many years (decades...) ago, or more particularly litcrit which seemed particularly annoying, dated years if not centuries past, was only in english, meant much to someone but not me... and then again, maybe my memory is as ‘selective’ as my mom asserts... then as now. and i am soon more interested in philosophy ‘of’ rather than actual poetry. in any language. so i read translated french poetry/philosophy, i read translated japanese poetry/philosophy, i read translated chinese poetry/philosophy... none of which i can possibly read in original. aside from script, i cannot even guess at what this or that means... french on the other, is close enough to english and maybe i remember enough to try... poetry is fun. well it should be. music is probably fun, too: did not listen to much young, hs, u, since... just had guitarist friend explain how for example strings work etc... but i understand poetry is music, so maybe this helps. and as you learn what you practice in physical activities eg. sport, you probably learn what you read in language activities eg. writing. i write this review in english because well this is for anglos interested and my written french is terrible. i hope reading french esp. poetry will help. i am reading some but mostly books from the u library... so far, this is work read previously in english and then nonfiction or robbe-grillet is easier because it is all present-tense and metaphor, poetry, dialog, slang, is not very important... as french prof once known says just read and you will learn as you learned english as child... 150515: now this is the kind of poetry i like, it is only a four because my french is not so good. but now I have a selection of poets to read... great to have the original untranslated on the previous page...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Suraj Alva

    I engendered a hate for poetry after reading contemporary American poets. This totally changed when I discovered Mallarme. And it was through this book that I had my first glimpse into the wonders of Mallarme and his fellow symbolists.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Lail

    I didn’t love the poetry in the collection. I perhaps am not suited for symbolism. I did particularly enjoy LaForgue’s work! And the French language lined up with the English translation is nice; unfortunately, without the capacity to read French, a lot of the real life of these poems seems to be lost. I’m not a fan of translated novels, but translated poetry makes so much less sense.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jherane Patmore

    I can still read French! (ish) Lol. The translations were helpful but I was delighted at the times I found I didn't need them. Technicalities aside, I did enjoy this collection of (politically and religiously offensive) poetry. A great piece of historical art, I'm glad I stumbled across.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Symbolists, Decadents, Satanists? hey, I'm all for it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Genevieve

    Would have chosen some different poems but a decent anthology + translation of important texts

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris Lockhart

  8. 4 out of 5

    Donovan

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carl Johnson

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline Caruso

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    841.8082 M1527 1958

  13. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Pfaff

  14. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Dyhr

  15. 4 out of 5

    Perrypiroutz

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alex Kartelias

  17. 5 out of 5

    Earnest

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rhea

  19. 4 out of 5

    Roisin

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bevin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Klara

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  23. 5 out of 5

    Angela

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  25. 4 out of 5

    Evelyn Anne Clausen

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Avila

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lee

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sean

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gail

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gina

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