“My God Said to Me” (also translated as “’Son, Thou Must Love Me See’—My Saviour Said”) shows interesting variations on earlier Verlaine themes. Many poems in Romances Without Words are in the form of a plea, the speaker begging an imagined listener for some favor, some tenderness. In Verlaine’s sequence of ten religious sonnets, of which “My God Said to Me” is the first, appearing in Sagesse (1881; the volume following Romances Without Words), it is God who is doing the praying. Jesus Christ is begging the listener, who is presumably Verlaine, since he claimed that these poems marked his religious conversion, to love Him.
Another daring departure from Verlaine’s customary style found in this poem is that the emotion felt is presented in a blunt, raw way, which contrasts markedly with the ineffability of emotion that reigns in most of his pieces. It is as if, where Verlaine finds humans to be inexhaustibly vague in their moods, he is compelled to portray God as knowing His own mind. Thus, in the first line, Jesus states forthrightly, “Il faut m’aimer” (“It is necessary to love Me”—addressing the listener).
In keeping with Verlaine’s emphasis on sensation over thought, what God brings forth to motivate the listener to become a Christian are not reasons but wounds. Jesus stands, as it were, in front of the poet as He did before Doubting Thomas and has him examine His pierced side and...
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