As in a Dream

Tel qu'en songe by Henri de Régnier.

   Magistrates, doctors, company directors, men of the world are not the only ones who have no understanding of poetry. One could also be a great orator, a great historian, a great dramatic author, one could be a great "man of letters" and still have no love of poetry. So could one not accuse our pretension to publicize a wonderful new volume of verse as fatuous, since it requires neither erudition nor even intelligence. Tel qu'en songe presents to the above-named persons, who have no love of poetry, a still more cruel deception than the inevitable, inescapable deception, for the greater worth of reading poetry. Because generally speaking poetry contains more or less a dissolution of unfamiliar elements to serve its purpose: M. Harancourt, a proportion of eloquence, and M. Richepin an amount of rhetoric simultaneously refulgent and brutal, with seductive audacity, ready to set forth in the Argo in pursuit of the golden fleece.
   But this time there is nothing in the material to cling onto, nothing but a clamouring blue infinity, reflecting the eternity of the sky, virginal as the sea, with no human trace, with no earthly debris. But also, those who love poetry may dream here endlessly as if they were rowing over the sea or over verses from Baudelaire, Lamartine or Vigny. Because Henri de Régnier is the equal of those great poets and will reside in our admiration far above the seemingly inaccessible Parnassians. But our praises - however brief they may be - must be clearly heard. If such poetry is not a work of intelligence, how are we to dare judge it divine, and how can we collectively dull our minds to it and then blame ourselves for our own dullness?
   Above what we generally call intelligence, philosophers seek to seize upon a superior reasoning as singular and infinite as the feelings, at one and the same time the object and the instrument of their meditations. It is a little of this reason, of these mysterious feelings and this profundity that Tel qu'en songe realizes or presents.

Article appeared in Le Banquet, November 1892 and reprinted in Chroniques (Libraire Gallimard, 1927).

Return to Front Page