Full text: Secession (Number one) (1)

15 
A BOW TO THE ADVENTUROUS 
What is the attitude of the critic toward the range 
of subject matter suitable for literature? What is the 
attitude of other literary artists toward the same? 
Isidore Ducasse does not directly raise these ques 
tions in the curious preface to his lost Poésies, but 
they constitute the chief protuberances in my reflec 
tions upon his emphatic assertions. Here was a youth, 
born in 1850 and dead in 1870, author of the Chants 
de Maldoror, a legend about himself, and Poésies, who 
based his violent reaction, against the poetry of his 
century purely upon its subject matter. „Je remplace 
la mélancolie par le courage, le doute par la certitude, 
le désespoir par l’espoir, la méchaneté par le bien, les 
plaintes par le devoir, le scepticisme par la foi, les 
sophismes par la froideur du calme et l’orgueil par la 
modestie." With a dauntless courage, he denounces 
Chateaubriand, Sénancourt, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Anne 
Radcliffe, Edgar Allan Poe, Mathurin, Gautier, Leconte, 
Goethe. Sainte-Beuve, Lamartine, Lermontoff, Victor 
Hugo, Mickiewicz, de Musset, Byron, Baudelaire and 
Flaubert. „Grands-Têtes-Molles,“ he dubs them, „Si 
vous êtes malheureux, il ne faut pas le dire au lecteur. 
Gardez cela pour vous." There is no discussion of the 
manner in which these writers employed their subject 
matter nor of the esthetic states they may produce. 
They chose subject matter the temperament of Ducasse 
detested. He erected his prejudices into general dog 
matisms and declared that, therefore, their poetry 
would not endure. Lately, the Dadaists, partly through 
some affinity with his views on subject matter, have 
hoisted Ducasse from his obscurity. 
The case of Ducasse gives, I think, a frequent 
answer to our second question. A poet or a novelist 
of specialized gifts seeks for subject matter which will 
work like an explosive in him. Much leaves him cold, 
but here and there he finds materials which heat him 
into expression. Sorrow forces one poet to tearful 
expression, praise of a beneficent god another to 
joyful affirmatives; that which a naturalistic novelist 
leaves out fires an idealistic narrator. Each, if he
	        

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