Verlaine

I’m reading Arthur Symons’ book on the symbolist movement in French literature, which is supposed to be the seminal work of criticism on that genre. It’s an area of literature in which I’m sorely ignorant, and the book illuminates the definitive elements of poems by Rimbaud, Verlaine, Baudelaire and others of whom the importance has always been a distant mystery.

The chapter on Verlaine, which I’m reading now, zeroes in on the antisocial persona taken on by the artist and puts me in mind of antisocial artists I’ve known over the years. At one time, I would have identified with it myself, but I became rather pragmatic at some point in my life, perhaps after my divorce. Beginning to make a solidly middle-class wage can do that to you I suppose.

Artists like that are hated by almost everybody during their lifetime. People, like my acquaintance CXB, who are the embodiment of that spirit in the circle of artists I know, don’t seem to be doing anything more important or interesting than the work I’m producing. And it’s hard to imagine that there will be much to show for all CXB’s misanthropy when all is said and done.

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