Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) began to publish poems and to make a name for himself in Paris in his early twenties. Throughout a tumultuous life, he continued to write and to publish poetry, often to great acclaim. In 1893, he was invited to Oxford to lecture on Modern French Poetry. In 1894, the writers of Paris elected him Prince of Poets.
Songs without Words (Romances sans paroles) is the book in which, unabashedly, Paul Verlaine becomes himself and, in so doing, becomes the iconic poet of the French nineteenth century. A book of musical sequences, it seeks and finds exquisite purity of expression, best exemplified by "Il pleure dans mon coeur," the most famous and most inimitable of all French lyric poems. And it is a book of intertwining narratives also, each of which entertains abasements and ecstasies, crises, crimes and expiations. These, in their separate ways, detail the shadowlands of artistic purity. Verlaine adores and defiles his child-bride, Mathilde. He takes to the road with Arthur Rimbaud, the love of his life, his muse, his captive and captor. Exhaustion is everywhere counterpoised with exaltation, squalor with splendor. And yet, in nearly every syllable, the dignity of Poetry and of human affections, proves inviolable.Songs without Words