These forgotten poets: Évariste de Parny
CHRONICLE – Adored during his lifetime, celebrated for the modernity of his poetry, the man now rests in deepest oblivion.
A forgotten artist is an artist whose name has no street. As far as we can tell I live at 7 rue Blaise Desgoffe “, there will be a curious person who will ask himself: who is Blaise Desgoffe? (a painter) and remember him.
According to this criterion, we still have Évariste de Parny. Two streets, one avenue, his name. But Évariste Parny, who is not casual, is hardly anyone. He whom Voltaire called “Tibulla», Pushkin and Sainte-Beuve «my teacher“, he known to François René de Chateaubriand”through the heart the elegies»… Even his first name never became one.
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On February 6, 1753, Évariste began life on Bourbon Island – renamed Réunion during the Revolution. At 9, he left for the continent, going to study in Rennes. The following years were joyful, hardworking, brilliant. He became a soldier, captain of a company of the King’s gendarmes. When he returned to the colony, he was 20 years old, the age of love. The chosen one is called Esther. He is her music student, she becomes his lover, he will not be her husband: Évariste’s father forbids it. “O you, who have been my pupil / In music, and even in love”. Hurt, angry at the slavery he hated (” Every day a man is exchanged for a horse: it is impossible for me to get used to such a rebellious strangeness. », he wrote to his friend Antoine Bertin in January 1775), the young man returned to France. There, he learns of Esther’s marriage. In her poem, she becomes Éléonore. He blames his inconstancy, regrets their happiness.
“Ah! if we had loved on earth,
If a mortal sees jealous gods,
It is at a time when, believing and sincere,
I was happy, and I was with you.»
Romantic themes, introducing the figure of ” Negro », use of prose, sensual details, Parny’s poetry was declared modern from his first collection The erotic poems (1778) where he reformed the elegiac art. To our post-modern ears, it is soft on the ears, touching, alluring. Before the Romantics, Parny established the relationship between pleasure and pain. You need to read this on a lonely summer night when you feel alone, and you don’t want to be perfect.
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If most individuals were revolutionaries at 20, conservatives at 30, Chevalier Parny took the reverse route. “Perfect little courtierof power, in his youth, then he ridiculed the priests, denounced the wars of conquest; his epic The War of the Ancient and Modern Gods (1799) scandalized the elite. In 1814, the Restoration government revoked the pension granted to him by Napoleon.
Having become marginal, our Évariste died resentfully, in hiding in 1814. He was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery. And we gradually forget. What can’t help but satisfy him Chateaubriand assures him Memories from beyond the grave (1848).
When Chateaubriand met Parny in 1788, the latter was “then from the old party“. Still a monarchist. “He dreaded the noise, sought to pass through life unnoticed, sacrificed everything to his idleness, and betrayed only to his obscurity his pleasures that touched his lyre as he passed.In retrospect, the author of genius of christianity reread Parny’s revolt in light of this attitude. He thinks he understands: if Parny is lost, it is because his time asks him to act, to be disturbed. To the point that he disappeared.
“It is the impossibility of escaping his laziness that, from a furious aristocrat, made the Chevalier de Parny a wretched revolutionary, insulting the persecuted religion and the priests on the scaffold, buying his rest at any price.»
“VSreole, wrote Chateaubriandhe just needs the sky of India, a fountain, a palm tree and a woman.For Parny, the glory of his life was too much. So posthumous glory …
Two passages from Évariste de Parny: “My death”
What does the rest of the earth matter to me?
Good thoughts even gossip,
And from the public the severe sentence?
I am a lover, and not an author.
I don’t want painful glory;
Too much clarity scares sweet pleasure.
I am nothing, and my peaceful muse
Brave while laughing at his century and the future.
I will not sacrifice my life
In the mad hope of living after my death.
“So it’s over”
Eleanor! oh gods! can you!
So it is done and you speak
The terrible oath to never be mine?
Éléonore was sometimes shy,
Éléonore is now very treacherous,
So much care here is the return!
This is the value of an eternal love!
Because don’t think I’ll forget you:
It is not time, I want it in vain;
And in spite of yourself you will make my fate;
I owe you the misfortune of my life.