Nineteenth Century French Studies 32.3 & 4 (2004) 397-399
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This concluding volume of Théodore de Banville, Œuvres poétiques complètes is comprised of two unequal halves: "Dans la Fournaise. Dernières poésies" (1-224) and "Poèmes non recueillis et inédits" (225-499). Since this review will be devoted almost exclusively to the posthumously published Dans la Fournaise, the contents of the heteroclite "Poèmes non recueillis..." will simply be noted briefly: "Poésies d'enfance et de jeunesse," "Poèmes," "Prologues et Textes Théâtraux," the text of various "Chansons," "Vers de circonstance," "Préfaces et Épilogues," and finally a number of "Dédicaces." A number of poems are worthy of consideration: for example, the tombeau that Banville wrote (1846) in memory of the mime, Jean-Gaspard Deburau, "À Deburau": the "amants orgueilleux de la Muse divine" will gather to speak of Deburau and to drink in his honor.
Pleins d'une horreur pieuse, ils demandent un verre
Profond comme une coupe et couronné de fleurs,
Et pour toi, sous leurs mains, dans le cristal sévère
La Vendange amoureuse y fait tomber ses pleurs!
Because there is no question of esthetic organization in this section of uncollected verse, I leave it to the reader to sample at leisure.
Dans la Fournaise was first published posthumously in May or June 1892 (reviews published from June to November 1892 are excerpted in the "Notice"). The editors note (504) that Dans la fournaise is comprised primarily of a series of poems published in L'Écho de Paris between 31 March and 22 December 1891. These poems are followed by a group of 27 poems ("Divers") published between 1876 and 1892, and a series of 21 "Petites Odes" also published in L'Écho de Paris, beginning in June 1890 and ending just after Banville's death, on 13 March 1891.
The 77 poems of Dans la Fournaise would appear to be at once a respectful tribute to a number of Banville's illustrious peers and predecessors and a rapid recapitulation of the formal diversity of his own pœtry. Banville's title is inspired by Hugo's "À l'Arc de Triomphe" (Voix intérieures): "Dans sa fournaise, pêle-mêle, / Il [Paris] fond, transforme et renouvelle / Cette science universelle / Qu'il emprunte à tous les humains..." (Hugo, Œuvres poétiques [Pléiade], I, 938 ; voir 506). The editors note pœm titles reminiscent of Hugo's Orientales and Les feuilles d'automne (503) and there are numerous titles echoing Baudelaire - "La Musique," "Les Petites Vieilles," "Un Voyage à Cythère," and "Ciel brouillé." There are also ballades in the style of Villon: [End Page 397]
Prince fier comme un Encelade,
Nous marchons sous ton pavillon.
Reviens nous donner l'accolade,
Ressuscite, François Villon!
According to the list (505), there are 29 poems in Dans la Fournaise, properly speaking (Section A). To this are added 28 poems (Section B, "Divers") and a groupe of 21 "Petites Odes" (Section C), making a total of 77 poems.
The editors find that "le plus souvent, Banville se contente de l'alexandrin ou de quatrains d'octosyllabes," although they qualify this by mentioning that there are sonnets, ballads, and some poems with "rythme impair" (503). In fact, all but four of the 29 poems in Section A are written in alexandrines with flat rhyme (AABB...): "Le Guitariste," heptasyllabic lines in quatrains; "Au Laurier," three decasyllabic and one pentasyllabic line in each quatrain; "Consommation," alternate alexandrines and octosyllabic lines in...