Music before everything, declared Paul Verlaine. Being a poet, he meant the music of words and one sometimes feels that if a poetry could be written which was not complete nonsense but retained only sufficient meaning to justify the intense, emotive musicality of the words, he would have written it. The facts of Verlaine's life have entered into legend - the desertion of wife, family and civil service position in favour of association with the nineteen year old Arthur Rimbaud who had just arrived from the provinces to trouble literary Paris; the shooting of Rimbaud , followed by imprisonment in Belgium; the later years of beggary and fame when he was one of the sights of the Paris cafes and coined the phrase poetes maudits - accursed poets - as the title of a book of biographies. This would scarcely apply to those who have enjoyed some fame in more recent decades. But there have been times since the 1890's, such as the Lowell era in America, when it has come back with renewed force as a characterisation of even the most eminent. It might well have been applied with some truth to the translator here, Ernest Dowson, and to almost all his contemporaries - except Yeats who was the great survivor - in the English 1890's.
Around were all the roses red,
The ivy all around was black.
Dear, so thou only move thine head,
Shall all mine old despairs awake.
Too blue, too tender was the sky,
The air too soft, too green the sea.
Always I fear, I know not why,
Some lamentable flight from thee.
I am so tired of holly-sprays
And weary of the bright box-tree,
Of all the endless country ways;
Of everything, alas, save thee.