'VERLAINE. by Lawrence and Elizabeth Hanson (Chatto, Ms.).
AS elusive as mist and as persistent as dew-that is one way of saying something about
Verlaine's poetry. Nor. on his visits to London, did he experience fog for nothing.
Always, his landscapes are of retreating figures. Perhaps at the best these are guesses about his Muse, guesses that may be followed like those retreating figures until suddenly they too are lost in a swirl of mist or enveloping fog.
In this new biography, there is no such guessing. For the first time, the authors have had the advantage of reading all the unpublished as well as published letters of the poet; the book that has therefore resulted is carefully annotated, if a little unadventurous.
'I am feminine'
IN the last chapter Mr. and Mrs. Hanson claim that more than most men Verlaine resists summing up in a phrase or two." Yet the poet himself once confessed: " I am feminine-and this explains lots of things."
For he saw his Muse as a woman who was both his temptress and his salvation; she was Eve who had brought man out of paradise and
she was Mary who would lead man back.
And to bring a reconciliation between these two was the unheard melody that lay behind all his song; it was what gave it that haunting duality that belies the human condition.