Expansive Poetics – (Jules Laforgue)

Jules Laforgue (1860-1887) – (Photo – Portrait -aged 25)

AG: So enough of this bullshit, now to “Zone”, and it’s his (Apollinaire’s) greatest poem, and it’s spoken of as the first modern poem of the (twentieth) century. But, before we get to “Zone”, we’ll go back a little bit to another poet who turned the Modernists on, Jules Laforgue (also an enormous influence on T.S.Eliot  – (as well as on) Apollinaire).  I’ll read a brief poem (well, not so brief) called “Sentimental Blockade” (“Blocus sentimental!..) [actually, it’s entitled “The Coming Winter” (“Winter Coming On”)  (L’hiver qui vient)  by Laforgue, because he’s very little known, but he’s the first modern poet, according to (Ezra) Pound, and according to Eliot, and according to other critics – the one that leads from the nineteenth-century into Apollinaire’s modern spirit

Student: What are his dates?

AG: Um, let’s see, I believe, 1880, 1890 when this was written, I guess. Probably 1860. Let me see.. Well, I don’t know, I just grabbed this before I left the house, because I thought, well, might as well bring this up, but I didn’t do the proper study..

[Allen begins] – “The Coming Winter” –  Sentimental Blockade/Express from the rising Sun,/Oh , falling rain, oh, night fall,/ Oh, the wind…/All Saints Day, Christmas, the New Year,/ Oh, in the drizzle, all my fine chimneys!…/ Of factories…/  There’s nowhere to sit down, all the benches are wet. /Believe me, it’s all over once again./ All the benches are wet, the woods are so rusty/ And so many horns have sounded – ton-ton – have sounded – ton-taine!…/ Ah! storm clouds rush from the channel coasts./ You can boast of spoiling the last of our Sundays./ Drizzle,/ in the wet fields the spiderwebs/ Give way to the waterdrops, and fizzle,/ Plenipotentiary sons of blonde river gold mines,/ Of agricultural pantomimes,/ Where is your tomb?/ The evening a worn-out sun lies dead on the top of the hill,/ Lies on its side, in the broom, on his coat./ A sun, white as tavern spit,/ On a litter of golden broom.” – (the plant- What is he broom plant? It’s a yellow plant?.. What we’re talking about when he’s talking about broom, it’s the plant)- [Allen continues] – “..Lies on its side in the broom, on his coat./ A sun, white as tavern spit/  On a little of golden broom./ And the horns resound!,/ Calling him…/ Calling him back to himself!/ Tiaaut!, Tiaaut!, Hallali! /, O doleful anthem, when will you die!…/, And madly they have fun…/ And he lies there like a gland torn from a neck,/ Shivering, without anyone!…” – (“When the evening sun is spread out against the sky/Like a patient etherised upon a table.” – that’s (T.S.) Eliot in…)

Student: Prufrock

AG:  “The Love Song of J.Alfred) Prufrock – “Let us go then, you and I/When the sun is spread out…”

Student: The evening sky…

AG: “When the evening sky is spread/Like a  patient etherised upon a table” – “And he lies there like a gland torn from a neck,/ Shivering, without anyone” – So the Eliot turn came from a Laforgue turn. [Allen continues] – “On, on, and Hallali! ,/ In the lead is Winter, that’s understood./ Oh!, the turns in the highways,/ And without the wandering Little Red Riding Hood…./ Oh, their ruts from last month’s cars./ Trails in a Don Quixote climb/ Toward the routed cloud patrols,/That the wind mauls toward Transatlantic folds…/ Accelerate, accelerate, it’s the well-known season, this time.” (Well, you get the modernity in his language, and the modernity and raciness and nervousness of his speech) – “….It’s the season, the season, rust invades the masses/, Rust gnaws the kilometric spleens/ Of telegraphic wires on highways no one passes” – (So, it already begins to sound like Eliot. And also begins to sound twentieth-century with telegraph wires and trains and horns and melancholy)  – “I can’t get out of this echoing tone…/ It’s the season, the season, farewell grape harvests!…/ Now with the patience of angels come the rains./ Farewell harvests, baskets, nothing remains./ Those Watteau twig-baskets under the chestnut trees./ It’s the cough in dormitories coming bad,/ Nursed by only a stranger’s herbal tea./ The neighborhood sadness of pulmonary phthisis”.. what’s “p-h-t-h-i-s-i-s?

Student: That’s TB

AG: How do you pronounce it?

Student: Tis is

AG: This is?

Student: I’m not sure

AG: Does anybody know how that’s pronounced. It’s a famous word in…

Student: Spelling bees

AG: Spelling bees, yeah – Plee-sis?  – “The neighborhood sadness of pulmonary tuberculosis/And all the metropolitan wretchedness./ But wool clothes, rubbers, pharmacies, dreams..” – (“wool clothes, rubbers, pharmacies, dreams”) –  “Curtains drawn back from balconies of shores,/ Facing the sea of suburban roofs,/ Prints, lamps, cakes and tea,/Won’t I have only you to love!…/ (Oh!, and then do you know, apart from the pianos,/ Each week, austere twilit mystery,/ The journalistic/ Vital statistics?…)”

So this is completely up in time, like up into twentieth-century.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately twenty-eight minutes in, and continuing to approximately thirty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in]  

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