by Paul Verlaine
for Charles Morice
Music first and foremost! In your verse,
Choose those meters odd of syllable,
Supple in the air, vague, flexible,
Free of pounding beat, heavy or terse.
Choose the words you use—now right, now wrong—
With abandon: when the poet’s vision
Couples the Precise with Imprecision,
Best the giddy shadows of his song:
Eyes veiled, hidden, dark with mystery,
Sunshine trembling in the noonday glare,
Starlight, in the tepid autumn air,
Shimmering in night-blue filigree!
For Nuance, not Color absolute,
Is your goal; subtle and shaded hue!
Nuance! It alone is what lets you
Marry dream to dream, and horn to flute!
Shun all cruel and ruthless Railleries;
Hurtful Quip, lewd Laughter, that appall
Heaven, Azure-eyed, to tears; and all
Garlic-stench scullery recipes!
Take vain Eloquence and wring its neck!
Best you keep your Rhyme sober and sound,
Lest it wander, reinless and unbound—
How far? Who can say?—if not in check!
Rhyme! Who will its infamies revile?
What deaf child, what Black of little wit
Forged with worthless bauble, fashioned it
False and hollow-sounding to the file?
Music first and foremost, and forever!
Let your verse be what goes soaring, sighing,
Set free, fleeing from the soul gone flying
Off to other skies and loves, wherever.
Let your verse be aimless chance, delighting
In good-omened fortune, sprinkled over
Dawn’s wind, bristling scents of mint, thyme, clover . . .
All the rest is nothing more than writing.
Last updated March 05, 2023