He shows a marked preference for the new and the modern, but as he gained experience, there are startling flashes of perception.
Above all, he is the master of the revealing anecdote. Curiously enough, his aesthetic meditations are hinged more to the body of his art criticism than to the literary chroniques.
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The lecture on 'L'Esprit nouveau et les Io Introduction poetes' is the most sustained of his pieces of pure literary criticism. It is clear that Apollinaire's verse is above all lyrical in that it is based on his own emotional experiences, that it is a confession however veiled and that it is poles apart from, for example, the cooler intellectualised verse of Paul Valery, his near contemporary.
His statement already quoted that 'chacun de mes poemes est la commemoration d'un evenement de ma vie' admits the personal element which lies behind his work, but is, in some respects, misleading. Apollinaire's reticence guards his ultimate privacy and, at a moment when the poem seems to be on the edge of the last confession, the emotional temperature is abruptly lowered. He denies the traditional closed circle of lyrical obsession —man, emotion, nature—by the violent, unexpected intrusions of the external world at the critical moment.
In 'Les Colchiques', a Baudelairian correspondance is established in the first stanza ending: Le colchique coulcur dc cerne ct de lilas Y fleurit tes yeux sont comme cette fleur-la Violatres comme leur cerne et comme cet automne Et ma vie pour tes yeux lentement s'empoisonne but the next line denies the claustrophobic atmosphere by introducing a foreign element which has nothing at all to do with the theme of the poem: Les enfants de 1'ecole viennent avec fracas Vetus de hoquetons et jouant de Pharmonica. There are many examples of such deflations of what is traditionally a private introspection: in 'Marie', soldiers pass through a grey and white landscape of grief; in 'Mai', a whole gallery of strangers crosses the scene, leading their own mysterious lives, present and yet apart: Sur le chemin du bord du fleuve lentement Un ours un singe un chien menes par des tziganes Suivaient une roulotte trainee par un ane Tandis que s'eloignait dans les vignes rhenanes Sur un fifre lointain un air de regiment.
The procedure is too common for it to be explained by the chance of composition of one or two poems. The same effect in defusing Introduction 11 emotion is sometimes obtained by stylistic means. In 'La Chanson du mal-aime' a harrowing passage of regret on the theme: O mon ombre en dcuil de moi-meme 1.
It is one of the many paradoxes of Apollinaire that he should welcome the sufferings imposed on him by life and, in particular, by love. He wrote rather naively to Lou on 11 April 'Je ne deteste pas que 1'Amour me fasse parfois souffrir. C'est la une source intarissable de poesie. II est vrai qu'il faut que la souffrance ne dure pas trop long temps' Lettres a Lou, p.
It is not of course only the emotion of love which lies at the heart of Apollinaire's lyricism. In he wrote to Toussaint Luca, an old school-friend: 'Je ne cherche qu'un lyrisme neuf et humaniste en meme temps' O. A man of his age, he discovered around him ample material for reflection and yet he never ignored the sweep of history, legend and myth. The curiously disparate allusions which decorate his poems are drawn from a vast range and yet he was not an erudite man in any disciplined sense.
His knowledge has been gathered from his omnivorous but undirected reading and a truly remarkable memory permitted him to exhume rare facts which he used to illuminate his ideas. The paradox of the 'modern' poet who calls upon the past is another of the bewildering sides of his work. His devise d'editeur invented for the first edition of Le Bestiaire was 'J'emerveille'; Apollinaire's great gift was to be able to stand in wonder before the past as well as the present. His erudition allowed him another mode of disguise and also conferred a certain universality on the experiences of one man.
It was for Apollinaire a manifestation of 12 Introduction the poetic imagination. Writing on anecdotes featuring Gerard de Nerval reprinted in Les Marges in , Apollinaire repeated a conversation in which Nerval had referred to a number of obscure thinkers and commented: Esprit charmant!
Je 1'eusse aime comme un frere. Et qu'on ne s'y trompe point, une telle conversation n'indique pas ce qu'il est convenu aujourd'hui d'appeler de Perudition et qui n'en est point; c'etait tout simplement 1'indice d'une imagination ardente qu'il essayait de mettre a la portee de son interlocuteur en choisissant parmi les notions que tout le monde peut avoir acquises, les plus rares. It is in this sense that he sought for a 'lyrisme humaniste'.
One of the constants in Apollinaire's poetry is the creative tension described in the well-known lines of 'La Jolie Rousse' Calligrammes]: Je juge cette longue querelle de la tradition et de 1'invention De 1'Ordre et de 1'Aventure. Tradition and ordre represent for Apollinaire the heritage of a long poetic tradition whilst invention and aventure are the aesthetic response to the challenge of contemporary life, both in ideas and in technique. It is a measure of the strength of his belief in the relevance of the past that he, acknowledged leader of the young generation of avant-garde writers, should, in , begin his lecture on L'Esprit nouveau et les poetes in this way: L'esprit nouveau qui s'annonce pretend avant tout heriter des classiques un solide bon sens, un esprit critique assure, des vues d'ensemble sur 1'univers et dans 1'ame humaine, et le sens du devoir qui depouille les sentiments et en limite ou plutot en contient les manifestations.
II pretend encore heriter des romantiques une curiosite qui le pousse a explorer tous les domaines propres a fournir une matiere litteraire qui permette d'exalter la vie sous quelque forme qu'elle se presente.
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The lyrical mode encourages a certain backward look and he wrote wryly: 'Les poetes personnels rappellent parfois d'autres poetes'. This admiration for the past is in no way a sterile imitation; it holds in a creative equilibrium his urge to experiment and so, by checks and balances, shapes that part of his poetry which seeks new forms of expressions.
Eliot in his sharply perceptive essay 'Tradition and the Individual Talent' first published in , 'his significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists'. The whole essay is an admirable commentary on the Apollinaire situation. He belongs to the endless tradition of writers who, having suffered the same anguish, triumphantly translated suffering into art. It is in this sense that he could write: II ne faut point voir de tristesse dans mon ceuvre, mais la vie m6me, avec une constante et consciente volupte" de vivre, de connaitre, de voir, de savoir et d'exprimer.
Both urges coexisted in him for, as he stated firmly in Les Peintres cubistes: 'Je deteste les artistes qui ne sont pas de leur epoque'. The nature of contemporaneity contains many different things for him: science, the idea of progress, experiments in the arts and, above all, their uses in the exploration of the nature of man. He felt this deeply and at times even uncritically; he was afraid that he might not rise to the challenge of his times, as is apparent in a letter to Andre Gide dated June Je n'ai faim ni de gloire ni d'argent mais seulement de mon temps.
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Adema, Apollinaire, , p. Le 14 Introduction danger du nouveau est qu'il cesse automatiquement de 1'etre et qu'il le cesse en pure perte. Comme la jeunesse et la vie. Essayer de s'opposer a cette perte c'est done agir contre le nouveau. Le nouveau n'a d'attraits irresistibles que pour les esprits qui demandent au simple changement leur excitation maxima.
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Ce qui est le meilleur dans le nouveau est ce qui repond a un desir ancien. CEuvres, Pleiade, ii, pp. La modernite, c'est le transitoire, le fugitif, le contingent, la moitie de 1'art, dont 1'autre moitid est Peternel et 1'immuable.
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II y a eu une modernite pour chaque peintre ancien. The decor of the age appears often in Alcools, from the 'grace de cette rue industrielle' of 'Zone5 to the lurid noise of the city at night in 'La Chanson du mal-aime': Soirs de Paris ivres du gin Flambant de 1'electricite Les tramways feux verts sur 1'echine Musiquent au long des portees De rails leur folie de machines The challenge of the century expressed itself in the shock and surprise of a new vision, the need of the writer to find an idiom suitable for the expression of new ideas, the changed identity of man, speed and discontinuity.
Apollinaire's poetic temperament reacted to these problems in a number of ways. High upon the list of attitudes required by Introduction 15 the writer in his struggle with the contemporary came surprise, 'le plus grand ressort nouveau'.
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The technique of surprise for Apollinaire extended to vocabulary, images, versification and registers of style, all of which we shall examine later. It included a sharp sense of incongruity 'La Maison des morts' , of situation the flight of Christ in 'Zone' , of character 'Merlin et la vieille femme'.
Surprise often deepens into shock and the danger here is that surprise may become an end in itself, that the search for the unexpected begins to dominate at the expense of the unity of the poem. The success of Apollinaire within this field must be judged against these words of Valery: La surprise, objet de 1'art?
Mais on se trompe souvent sur le genre de surprise qui est digne de 1'art. II n'y faut pas de surprises finies qui consistent dans le seul inattendu; mais des surprises infinies, qui soient obtenues par une disposition toujours renaissante, et contre laquelle toute 1'attente du monde ne peut preValoir.
CEuvres, Pleiade, ii, p.
Problems concerning the inter-relationship of the arts present enormous difficulties. It is very doubtful whether the description 'poesie cubiste' applied to Apollinaire's work by certain critics has any real significance. It makes little sense to talk about Cubist poetry: however close may be the friendship between poets and painters, however similar their drive to experiment, the fact obstinately remains that the painter must work in two dimensions, with paint and canvas, whilst the poet uses words disposed in a syntactical order.
The painter creates a picture which can be embraced in a single glance, simultaneously, but poetry requires that we read word by word, line by line, successively, in a series of impressions which cannot achieve the immediacy of impact of painting. Both poets and painters may be impelled by similar reactions, by current ideas, by new aesthetic experiences like the revelations of primitive art in 16 Introduction exhibitions held in Paris galleries early in the century; certainly, the very fact of friendship presupposes a similarity of temperament and a community of interest.
If there is a confusion of terms between Cubist painting and 'poesie cubiste' it is none of Apollinaire's making. C'est que chez Matisse 1'expression plastique est un but, de me'me que pour le poete 1'expression lyrique. Les peintres cubistes se servent d'e"lements accessoires, d'e'le'ments exterieurs pour construire leurs oeuvres. Leurs oeuvres sont essentiellement destinies aux regards des spectateurs devant lesquels elles exhibent, pour ainsi dire, les secrets de leurs volumes et le jeu de leurs dimensions. Ce sont bien plutot des ceuvres d'analyse, analyse simple chez les uns, complexe chez les autres.
Les notres, au contraire, s'acheminent directement vers 1'esprit, aupres duquel elles remplissent plutot une fonction de synthese; ce n'est pas pour rien qu'elles sont lyriques. These discriminations do not mean that Apollinaire was unaffected by the Cubist experiment: indeed, the example of Picasso, Braque and other painters of similar taste provided him with a mental stimulus which drove him further along the path of le nouveau. There are three ways in which his poetic views gained from his frequentation of Cubism.
Firstly, there is the audacity of the work which he described in as 'la manifestation artistique la plus elevee de notre epoque' O. Over the years it stimulated him to reflect on the problems it raised. His collected articles published in the Introduction 17 Meditations esthetiques—Les Peintres cubistes were not, he insisted, an 'ouvrage de vulgarisation de cubisme'. They were, he argued, 'meditations esthetiques et rien d'autre'. Yet, in some ways, this is the attraction of opposites, as LeRoy C. Les elements de la realitd: qui se trouvent pour ainsi dire Iib6res sur la toile doivent a leur tour concourir a former un ensemble coh6rent et parfaitement e"quilibre".
Plus on connait le temperament violent de Picasso et plus on admire le sacrifice surhumain qu'il s'est impose" entre et pour formuler un style si sobre, si asce"tique.
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G'etait cet effort he"roiique qu'admirait Apollinaire. This end to vraisemblance, to mimetic art, conferred on all artists a new freedom in which the work of art gained an autonomous existence, became an object in itself creating its own reality and justification. In poetic terms, this encouraged Apollinaire to depart from narration, description and the drive towards the pure evocation of emotion.
The act of analysis resulting eventually in the synthesis of a recreated object conferred on the artist the powers of a creator, the ability to 'ordonner un chaos'. Images taken from the Book of Genesis are never very far from Apollinaire's mind in this context. A third and deeply personal gain from Cubism is to be seen in his treatment of time. In his analysis and subsequent recreation of the object, the Cubist painter abolishes successive moments of time in favour of a simultaneous view. We can only perceive the human face in all its shapes from profile to full face in succession.
These different aspects imply the existence of time as a linear, irreversible flow which is traditionally rendered by the use of perspective. Picasso, Braque and the Cubists present simultaneously aspects of objects which we have been educated to perceive only as successive: they frequently depict the human face in several aspects at once this was the revelation of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon of Picasso. From this Apollinaire discovered the virtues of discontinuity, of the denial of time compartmentalised and separated into past, present and future, concepts which confer on his poetry much of its impact.
Tristan Tzara has described in this way the impact of Cubism on Apollinaire's style: Pour Apollinaire, la solution du re"alisme adoptee par les peintres cubistes faisait deja partie de sa conception poetique. La decomposition par eux preconisee des elements objectifs etait destinee a une reconstitution ulterieure selon un ordre plus proche de la nature intime des choses et de leur situation dans I'espace que la vision apparente reproduite sur la toile plane au milieu des tricheries de la perspective et des illusions figuratives.
Alcools, Club du meilleur livre, p.