Verlaine, Paul (-Marie)

Verlaine, Paul (-Marie)

biographical name

(born March 30, 1844, Metz, France—died Jan. 8, 1896, Paris) French lyric poet. After entering the civil service, he was first associated with the Parnassian poets, contributing to the first volume of the anthology Le Parnasse contemporain (1866). His early collections, Poèmes saturniens (1866), Fêtes galantes (1869), La Bonne chanson (1870), and Romances sans paroles (1874), show the intense lyricism and musicality that would mark all his verse. His marriage was shattered by his infatuation with Arthur Rimbaud, and the two scandalized Paris with their behaviour in 1872–73. While in prison in Belgium (1873–75) for shooting Rimbaud when the latter threatened to leave him, he converted to Catholicism and probably composed the famous “Art poétique,” adopted in 1882 by the poets of the Symbolist movement. Sagesse (1880) expresses his religious faith and his emotional odyssey. He later taught French and English; he spent his late years in poverty, but just before his death he was sponsored for a major international lecture tour. His Les Poètes maudits (1884; “The Accursed Poets”) consists of short biographical studies of six poets, including Stéphane Mallarmé and Rimbaud. He is regarded as the third great member (with Charles Baudelaire and Mallarmé) of the so-called Decadents.

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