Monday, May 11, 2015

Paul Verlaine

Paul Verlaine (1844—1896) is a French poet — famous for his verse, and notorious for his drinking and debauchery. In 1870 he married 16-year-old Mathilde Mauté, who he believed would save him from his erring ways. Instead Verlaine became obsessed with poet Arthur Rimbald and travelled across France, Belgium and England with him. In 1874, he was imprisoned for having wounded Rimbald with a revolver in Brussels.

During this time he made a sincere return to Christianity, and upon release from prison he participated in a Trappist retreat. During this time (1873—1878) he wrote his book Sagesse (Wisdom), which expressed well his Catholic faith. In January of 1886, however — after the death of a pupil and an unsuccessful attempt to become reconciled to his wife — Verlaine descended into alcoholism and drug addiction, having abandoned hope of leading a respectable life.

Richard Wilbur has included a translation of a previously unpublished Paul Verlaine poem in his most-recent collection, Anterooms.

The Sky’s Above The Roof….

(Sagesse: Bk III, VI)

The sky’s above the roof

--------So blue, so calm!
A tree above the roof
--------Waves its palm.

The bell in the sky you see
--------Gently rings.
A bird on the tree you see
--------Sadly sings.

My God, my God, life’s there,
--------Simple and sweet.
A peaceful rumbling there,
--------The town’s at our feet.

— What have you done, O you there
--------Who endlessly cry,
Say: what have you done there
--------With Youth gone by?

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.