Such Rare Citings: The Prose Poem in English Literature

By N. Santilli | Go to book overview

7
The Prose Poem and the City

Now and then I would go to the window, part the curtains and
look out. But then I hastened back to the depths of the room,
where the bed was. I felt ill at ease with all this air about me, lost
before the confusion of innumerable prospects.

—Samuel Beckett, The Expelled

It is a critical commonplace that the prose poem was historically more likely to emerge in France than in England. English writing permitted a free style that blended the "poetic" with prose without scandal (as evidenced in Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici and Thomas Traherne's Centuries of Meditation). On the other hand, French literature up to the eighteenth century comprised, as Molière's Monsieur Jourdain discovered, prose and verse only and the verse carried strict rules and regular meters.1

If the prose poem in England is the product of a displaced Romanticism, then the emergence of the genre in mid-nineteenthcentury France can be ascribed to the peculiar development of Romanticism in that country also. The enormous impact made on Europe by the German Romantic movement had had surprisingly little effect at the time in France. As Sabin puts it, "by English standards, romantic sublimity arrived in French poetry late and left early."2 However, it was not purely the rebellion of poetry against verse in France that allowed for the new genre but the actual need for a new vocabulary to deal with changing cosmography that was emerging with the industrial age: the growth of the city.


I

Paris and London

The composition of Baudelaire's prose poems was contemporaneous with the systematic demolition and reconstruction of Paris by

-181-

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Such Rare Citings: The Prose Poem in English Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Acknowledgments 11
  • Introduction 13
  • Abbreviations 27
  • 1: The Prose Poem and the Romantic Fragment 31
  • 2: De Quincey and Baudelaire 71
  • 3: Contexts I 98
  • 4: Contexts II: Mercian Hymns 118
  • 5: Parallelism 137
  • 6: Beckett's Late Prose 161
  • 7: The Prose Poem and the City 181
  • Notes 207
  • Works Cited 259
  • Index 277
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