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Professor of the Romance Languages and Literatures in the University of Michigan.


This book is intended as an introduction to the reading and study of French lyric poetry. If it contributes toward making that poetry more widely known and more justly appreciated its purpose will have been fulfilled.

It is rather usual among English speaking people to think slightingly of the poetry of France, especially of her lyrics. This is not unnatural. The qualities that give French verse its distinction are very different from those that make the strength and the charm of our English lyrics. But we must guard ourselves against the conclusion that because a work is unlike those that we are accustomed to admire it is necessarily bad. There are many kinds of excellence. And this little book must have been poorly put together indeed if it fail to suggest to the reader that France possesses a wealth of lyric verse which, whatever be its shortcomings in those qualities that characterize our English lyrics, has others quite its own, both of form and of spirit, that give it a high and serious interest and no small measure of beauty and charm.

The editor has sought to keep the purpose of the volume constantly in view in preparing the introduction and notes. He has hoped to supply such information as would be most helpful, if not indispensable, to the reader. And as he has thought that the best service the book could render would be to stimulate interest in French poetry and to persuade to a wider reading of it, he has wished in the bibliography to meet especially the wants of those who may be inclined to pursue further one or another of the acquaintances here begun. It is of course not intended to be in any wise exhaustive, but only to present the sum of an author's lyrical work, to indicate current and available editions, and to point out sources of further information; among these last it has sometimes been accessibility to the American reader rather than relative importance that has dictated the insertion of a title.

The editor acknowledges here his wholesale indebtedness for his materials to the various sources that he has recommended to the reader. But he wishes to confess the special debt that he owes to Miss Eugénie Galloo, Assistant Professor of French in the University of Kansas, for many suggestions and valuable help with the proofs. Her assistance has reduced considerably the number of the volume's imperfections. For those that remain he can hold no one responsible but himself.

A. G. C.


Dec. 7, 1898.


As literature is not a bundle of separate threads, but one fabric, it is manifestly impossible to give an adequate account of any one of its forms, as the lyric poem, by itself and aside from the larger web of which it is a part. The following pages will attempt only to sketch the main phases which the history of the lyric in France exhibits and so to furnish a rough outline that may help the reader of these poems to place them in the right historical relations. He should fill it out at all points by study of some history of French literature.[1] No account will be taken here of those kinds of verse that have only a slight contact with serious poetry. Such are, for instance, the songs of the chansonniers , mainly of vinous inspiration, which followed a tradition of their own apart from that of the more sober lyric, though some of the later writers, especially BÉRANGER and DUPONT, raised them to a higher dignity. Such also are the songs so abundant in the modern vaudevilles and light operas, many of which have enjoyed a very wide circulation and great favor and have left couplets fixed in the memory of the great public.

Neither will account be taken of the poems of oral tradition, the chansons populaires , of which France possesses a rich treasure, but which have never there, as so conspicuously in Germany, been brought into fructifying contact with the literary lyric... Continue reading book >>

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