Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 513

An aria is an elaborate melody for a single voice with accompaniment. Verlaine placed this poem in a group of poems called “little arias” that lie within the framework of the larger group called “ballads.” The importance of music in “It weeps in my heart” is unquestionable. The solo is sung by the narrator whose melody—one of sadness—is in disharmony with the sweet sounds of life around him. The epigraph attributed to Rimbaud that appears as the introduction to the poem, “It rains gently on the town,” portrays a simple and almost peacefully somnambulant scene that, the reader discovers, is a counterpoint or descant to the woeful tune that measures discord within the man. As there is no satisfactory resolution for the narrator because the heart will not betray the cause of its melancholy, so, too, the two melodies never assonate. Although the ballad and the aria are both traditional vehicles to express unrequited love, the homophonic structure of the ballad and the labeling of the poem a “little aria” are ironic, as the poet seeks to empty generic norms with this theme of pervasive depression attributable to unknown causes: There is no grand passion d’amour here, simply a lack of comprehension. This particular “arietta” is a psychological portrait and not at all a sentimental one, despite the fact that structurally the poem is composed like a ballad.

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One reason that Verlaine’s poetry does not translate well is his emphasis on musicality. It is possible to translate the metaphors, the imagery, and themes, but his technical ability to create music of the French language is out of reach to English-language readers. The French language has masculine and feminine rhymes and other sounds that cannot be duplicated. To read Verlaine in French is to understand what made him not only a writer but a symphonic composer as well. Generations of readers can recite “Il pleure dans mon coeur/ Comme il pleut sur la ville” almost as if it were a song and not a poem.

“It weeps in my heart” reveals a state of ennui that Verlaine chose to treat in many of his poems. This portrayal of the passive intellectual is a unifying thread among the French Symbolist poets of his day. Here, Verlaine does not attempt to confuse the senses as was typical of the Symbolist craft, but rather he presents a perplexed human being who aches for clarity. It is the spirit of the narrator more than anything else that allows this poem to be characterized as Symbolist. Verlaine, here, is certainly a less radical alchemist than his friend Rimbaud, whose uncharacteristically simple and charming quote serves as the inspiration for the poem.

The explosive relationship between Verlaine and Rimbaud (at one point, Verlaine shot Rimbaud and was imprisoned in Belgium) and its effect on Verlaine’s sanity is not, despite some critics’ claims, depicted in content or form in this poem, regardless of the selected epigraph. “It weeps in my heart” reveals impeccable and methodical craftsmanship by a writer who is in command and in control.

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