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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Child’s Play

By Paul Verlaine
I was walking thoughtful through the naked fields of an extreme Parisian district, when my attention was attracted by kids’ voices chanting an air that seemed to me heard in other times. And which abruptly filled me with sadness, with unrest and almost with angst. I went in the direction of the voices and what I saw I do not want to tell before warning the reader that I do not obey truth, for not noticing the fatigue of altering and inventing it. My friends and my acquaintances can, if needed be, render testimony.

So, they were kids of five to ten years of age, playing to “the burial”, a game like any other, after all. One of them, representing the dead, down by the ground, with the head covered by a handkerchief, the arms crossed over his chest, the legs stretched, wiggling the less possible, did not parodied too bad a corpse. Around, boys and girls, eating an endless slice of bread, scratching their heads, reinforcing their shirttails in the place over which it is a costume to sit, sang in a monotone, with their fresh timbre, a puerile De Profundis, while another kid, assisted by another two, caparisoned the three of them with old shawls, given by their moms officiated over a kilometric pole .

This spectacle produced a grimace in my lips to which my thoughts are not very much accustomed; and you will know of which nature my smile was when you would know that my feeling, respecting “this age”, is exactly the one professed by the fabulist John of Lafontaine.


Why the poet, which is not more, after all, than a kid, a little more consciously perverse than the others perhaps, why would not the poet play to “the burial?” Or, if you will, why wouldn’t he distract himself managing funerary things with his innocent, sacrilegious hands? Why, in a word, he did not more than satisfy himself with the spirit of a century which seems to have repudiated melancholy for ever, and which does not think anything beyond having fun (to get a loan from the abundant vocabulary of Rebelais and Gravoche)? Why he will not allow himself certain familiarities with this great hypocrite named the Horror, at risk of evoking, behind him, the contingence towards the unknown, some despicable rite?
Translated by Lex Taylor.

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