Paul Verlaine

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Born in 1844, Paul Verlaine was a highly distinguished literary poet, associated with the Symbolist movement, renowned for the structure and the restrained classicism of his work. After early literary success, Verlaine’s career was blown off course by his affair with the 17 year old Rimbaud. Leaving his wife and baby to embark on the affair in Brussels and then in London, and as a result spending 2 years in a Belgian prison, Verlaine was for some time persona non grata in French literary circles, re-emerging only in the 1890s as a leading figure in the so-called Decadent Movement, at which time he was often to be seen drinking absinthe in the cafes of the Left Bank in Paris.

Now recognised as one of the leading French poets of the 19th century, his poems have been set to music by most of celebrated French composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Thanks to Verlaine the poems of his friend Rimbaud were published after the latter’s death, and went on to revolutionise French poetry. More accessible and less iconoclastic than that of Rimbaud, Verlaine’s poetry is some of the best literary work of his era.

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