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In Muted Tone

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Gently, let us steep our love
In the silence deep, as thus,
Branches arching high above
Twine their shadows over us.
Let us blend our souls as one,
Hearts’ and senses’ ecstasies,
Evergreen, in unison
With the pines’ vague lethargies.
Dim your eyes and, heart at rest,
Freed from all futile endeavor,
Arms crossed on your slumbering breast,
Banish vain desire forever.
Let us yield then, you and I,
To the waftings, calm and sweet,
As their breeze-blown lullaby
Sways the gold grass at your feet.
And, when night begins to fall
From the black oaks, darkening,
In the nightingale’s soft call
Our despair will, solemn, sing.

Paul Verlaine, "In Muted Tone" from One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine: A Bilingual Edition, translated by Norman R. Shapiro. Copyright © 1999 by Norman R. Shapiro.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
Source: One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine: A Bilingual Edition (The University of Chicago Press, 1999)
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In Muted Tone

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  • Although he was known as “the Master” to his friends and admirers by the time of his death in 1896, French poet Paul Verlaine endured a rocky relationship with the public during his life. Verlaine's literary reputation declined in his final years—in part because of his scandalous behavior—even as he was identified as a major influence on the burgeoning symbolist movement. Verlaine was also one of the models for the Decadent movement that began in the 1870s. As much as for his literary reputation, however, Paul Verlaine’s fame rests on his stormy personal relationship with the poet Arthur Rimbaud.

    Born in northern France on 30 March 1844, Verlaine was the son of Nicolas Verlaine, a captain in the army, and Stéphanie Dehée, the daughter of a farmer from Arras. Nicolas Verlaine was cold and authoritarian by nature, but Stéphanie Dehée was devoted to her son, who was born...

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