'Emotion and Reason in the Poetry of Paul Verlaine'

Gerald Macklin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The article examines the key duality of emotion and reason in Verlaine's poetry. Verlaine often adopts a passive and melancholy attitude in the face of reality in his poems but his is a writing of changing moods and states. By looking at texts from the Poèmes saturniens, the Fêtes galantes, La Bonne Chanson and Sagesse, the paper endeavours to establish how reason tempers these emotional states. The adjective "saturnien" suggests a writer doomed to sorrow and sadness as a result of failed love affairsand so the "paysages tristes" and a poem such as 'Chanson d'automne' reflects anguish, nostalgia and a weak and fragile poetic personality. Verlaine presents himself as a suffering figure against a range of natural settings and the technique of repetition suggests entrapment in a vicious circle of melancholia. The Fêtes galantes confirm this pattern and the poem 'Colloque sentimental' is a statement about the inevitable loss olf romantic love and the break-up of any affair. When we come to the 'Ariettes oubliées' in Romances sans paroles the famed Verlainean musicality is at its most pronounced and is linked in the very famous 'Il pleure dans mon coeur' to an experience of sadness that the poet is powerless to explain or rationalize. The poetry is full of unanswered questions but Sagesse, where Verlaine's conversion to Christianity is celebrated, we find a very pronounced switch towards a clear and certain understanding of the human condition. Now we find an analytical faculty applied to a tangled web of emotions but even in Sagesse the Verlainean existential angst is never fully dispelled. Ironically, Verlaine's technical mastery over his poetry is never matched by total control of his feelings or absolute certainty about life and love.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)20-34
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1984

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: Verlaine Oeuvres poétiques, édition de Jacques Robichez, Garnier, Paris, 1969

    J.-P. Richard Poésie et profondeur, Seuil, Paris, 1955

    A.K.Diederichs Le Thème de l'angoisse chez Verlaine, Eugen Diederichs, Verlag, 1971

    The Appreciation of Modern French Poetry, 1850-1950, by Peter Broome and Graham Chesters, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1976

    An Anthology of Modern French Poetry, 1850-1950, y Peter Broome and Graham Chesters, 1850-1950, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1976


    • emotion
    • reason
    • music
    • landscape


    Dive into the research topics of ''Emotion and Reason in the Poetry of Paul Verlaine''. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this