“Parisian Nocturne” is a poem of 106 lines, divided into seven stanzas of unequal lengths. The title suggests a musical composition, perhaps a peaceful evocation of Paris by night. Instead, however, one finds a macabre reflection on the winding progress of the river Seine. This is the thirty-sixth and longest in a collection of forty poems ostensibly written under the influence of the planet Saturn. In keeping with the coldly pessimistic title of the collection, “Parisian Nocturne” describes only negative aspects of the river.
The poem addresses the Seine (a rhetorical device called apostrophe). The first stanza (of six lines) serves as a brief introduction, in which the author calls upon the cold, corpse-laden river to continue its flow through Paris while equally icy thoughts of the poet flow into the lines which follow.
In the second, twenty-eight-line stanza, Paul Verlaine describes a catalog of rivers, all of which possess graceful, musical, or majestic attributes. These rivers include the Guadalquivir, a chief river in Spain, the Pactolus in Asia Minor, the Bosporus strait, the Rhine, the French rivers Lignon and Adour, the Nile, the Mississippi, the Euphrates, and, finally, the mysterious, exotic Ganges. Several elements of the descriptions recall interests of the Romantic movement, which had preceded the era in which Verlaine lived.
The third stanza, of twenty lines, contrasts the squalor of the Seine and Paris to...
(The entire section is 516 words.)