Decadents and Symbolists.
The fifth lecture given by M. de Regnier, Saturday afternoon, was on "A New School of Poetry, the Decadents and the Symbolists." Poetry in France had been in great peril from the ever rising wave of naturalism and realism, to which all the poets were making concessions. But when the needed reaction came, poetry was thrust aside, and the poets, accepting their solitude, broke apart into groups. This was the situation in 1880 and it was a serious one as it tended to the establishment of a perilous byzantinism. The young poets of 1885 had a peculiar and a strange language. Even after they had corrected their first errors, they were considered eccentric, for they were beginning a serious and important literary movement. They did not merit the name of decadents, for their dream was to raise poetry to its more noble duties. The constant use of symbols has led to their being called symbolists. The celebrated critic Brunetiere was among the first to defend them and to explain their theories. The young writers had also a number of small reviews in which they defended their ideas. Among those that are still published are La Mercure de France and La Revue Blanche.
The symbolists admire the myth and the legend, finding in them the ideal signification of life, while the romanists see nothing in them but fables. "Les Propos de Literature," by Mockel, and "Livre de Masques," by de Gourmont, give an excellent idea of their work.
The verse of these poets is free and their prosodic liberties are extensive. As they have fought for beauty and the liberty of poetry, they deserve a prominent place in the history of literature.