chapter  3
7 Pages

Verlaine’s melodies

WithCharles Chadwick

Paul Verlaine, born in 1842, a generation after Charles Baudelaire, and just beginning his career as a poet when the latter was at the height of his fame, could not help but be influenced by Les Fleurs du Mal to some extent. All the more so because his temperament and psychological make-up were not unlike Baudelaire’s in that both had enjoyed a sheltered and even over-sheltered, childhood and that both found the harsh reality of the adult world increasingly hard to bear. Baudelaire’s shift from optimism to pessimism is, however, a fairly steady one – at least as it is presented in Les Fleurs du Mal, although in real life the transition was no doubt much more irregular. The slow, metronomic beat of the alexandrines in Baudelaire’s poem is replaced by a quicker, irregular rhythm, due to the short, five-syllable lines and the way in which many of them are so closely linked grammatically that they cannot be separated rhythmically.