Art Poétique, By Paul Verlaine
|Of music before everything—
And for this like the Odd more—
Vaguer and more melting in air,
Without anything in it which weighs or arrests.
It must also be that you do not go about
Something like beautiful eyes behind veils,
For we desire Nuance yet more—
Keep away from the murderous Sharp Saying,
Take eloquence and wring its neck!
Oh, who can tell the wrong-doings of Rhyme?
Let music be, more of it and always!
Let your verse be the happy occurrence,
|From THE POEMS LOOKED AT: or, NOTES|
|Art Poétique, By Paul Verlaine. 1950. That music and sculpture are both arts and have both pleased the mind of man is sign sufficient that the indefinite and definite—which music and sculpture are—can both please. At various times or places in the world, the definite beckons more; and then the indefinite may. The definite and indefinite may appear variously or be accompanied diversely or use material that changes. In France, after Romanticism as then understood and after definite, classical, meticulous, imposingly charming Parnassianism, the Indefinite once more seemed the very thing mind wanted, or at least some minds. Paul Verlaine's Art Poétique is one of the great honorings of the Indefinite as large in reality, central in art. We either, in mind, want to touch a wall or get away from a wall touching us. The need to be in the unboundaried and intangible is just ours. This need for the wavering and not glaringly tidy is in the first line of Verlaine's call for the airy as real. When Verlaine in 1874 wrote De la musique avant tout chose, he was saying something different for French poetry. French poetry, while, when it was poetry, was always musical, had not said music was the principal thing. Justness and depth of perception, visual grasp, verbal flexibility and exactitude, largeness of sentiment—things such as these had been first. When Verlaine said music was before everything, he was correct, correct even for the past; but French poetry after this poem of Verlaine, knew it was going for something else, was on a path designated Music rather than Verbal Propriety or Proportionate Judgment. It was not that music did not care for these. What is being implied is that if Music is honored, verbal correctness and valid perception will be taken care of likewise. And poetry has been much about this last statement. Music in poetry is a way of being just to reality as unseen and reality as having clear impact. Within Verlaine's poem—I'm not forgetting demurs at some phrases—is one of the great presentations of poetic purpose. Reality, made something else than that finally seized by a self or clenched by it, is reality more usefully apprehended, more healthfully respected.|