The Fall of the Leaves, By Charles Hubert Millevoye
With what was taken from our woods
|From THE POEMS LOOKED AT: or, NOTES|
The Fall of the Leaves, By Charles Hubert Millevoye. 1967. There are many sad poems in the world, and only a few of these have affected people for a long time, and clearly, and deeply. When a poem is taken to themselves by many people, one can say that it is the obviousness and ordinariness of the emotion that have made for this effect. Immediately, the question is with us: if it is only obviousness and ordinariness of emotion that make a poem liked conspicuously and lengthily, why do not all the obvious and ordinary poems succeed with a superficial and undiscriminating public? There must then be something about an ordinary and obvious poem which achieves popularity with the populace that the obvious, ordinary poems not achieving this don't have. And we find that this differentiating thing in the popular field is form, structure, aesthetics, fashioning—the way these are essentially in more "distinguished" or "subtle" works. The mind of man, which means the mind of every man, is somewhat subject to aesthetic emotion.—And so, when La Chute des Feuilles of Charles Hubert Millevoye appeared in France in the early part of the nineteenth century, the public found something different and strong in this sad poem; and the public can find it again. The lines of Millevoye are dense with emotion, but dense with structure too. The slowness of the poem instigates tearfulness, but this slowness also is poetically accurate, powerful. A line like Tombe, tombe, feuille éphémère! is abrupt and lasting at once. This line has in it the possible likeness of a person to autumn going towards winter. This is ordinary, but is it true? Can the ordinary truth become aesthetically piercing? The Millevoye poem is an early instance of the general Romantic tendency to make nature and self one thing; to make the growing and fading external world like what we are. Millevoye here has a permanent music, though this music first was heard in Napoleonic days. The music is there, ready to reach selves and ears.
From Hail, American Development (Definition Press)
© 1968 by Eli Siegel