The Symbolist Movement in Literature

The Symbolist Movement in Literature

Arthur Symons


An excerpt from the INTRODUCTION:

with out symbolism there could be no literature; certainly, now not even language. What are phrases themselves yet symbols, nearly as arbitrary because the letters which compose them, mere sounds of the voice to which we've got agreed to offer definite significations, as we now have agreed to translate those sounds by way of these mixtures of letters? Symbolism begun with the 1st phrases uttered via the 1st guy, as he named each dwelling factor; or prior to them, in heaven, while God named the area into being. And we see, in those beginnings, accurately what Symbolism in literature quite is: a sort of expression, on the most sensible yet approximate, primarily yet arbitrary, until eventually it has bought the strength of a practice, for an unseen truth apprehended through the cognizance. it really is occasionally approved to us to pray that our conference is certainly the mirrored image instead of in basic terms the signal of that unseen fact. we've got performed a lot if we now have chanced on a recognisable signal.

"A symbol," says Comte Goblet d'Alviella, in his e-book on The Migration of Symbols, "might be outlined as a illustration which doesn't target at being a reproduction." initially, as he issues out, utilized by the Greeks to indicate "the halves of the pill they divided among themselves as a pledge of hospitality," it got here for use of each signal, formulation, or ceremony during which these initiated in any secret made themselves secretly recognized to each other. progressively the notice prolonged its that means, till it got here to indicate each traditional illustration of concept via shape, of the unseen through the obvious. "In a Symbol," says Carlyle, "there is concealment and but revelation: consequently for that reason, by way of Silence and by means of Speech performing jointly, comes a double significance." And, in that tremendous bankruptcy of Sartor Resartus, he is going additional, vindicating for the observe its complete price: "In the emblem right, what we will be able to name a logo, there's ever, roughly exceptionally and at once, a few embodiment and revelation of the limitless; the endless is made to combination itself with the Finite, to face noticeable, and because it have been, possible there."

it truly is in this kind of feel as this that the notice Symbolism has been used to explain a stream which, over the last new release, has profoundly prompted the process French literature. All such phrases, used of something so dwelling, variable, and irresponsible as literature, are, as symbols themselves needs to so frequently be, mere compromises, mere symptoms. Symbolism, as obvious within the writers of our day, might haven't any price if it weren't visible additionally, less than one cover or one other, in each nice imaginitive author. What distinguishes the Symbolism of our day from the Symbolism of the earlier is that it has now turn into aware of itself, in a feeling during which it used to be subconscious even in Gérard de Nerval, to whom I hint the actual beginning of the literature which I name Symbolist, The forces which mold the concept of guys swap, or men's resistance to them slackens; with the switch of men's proposal comes a metamorphosis of literature, alike in its inmost essence and in its outward shape: after the realm has starved its soul lengthy sufficient within the contemplation and the re-arrangement of fabric issues, comes the flip of the soul; and with it comes the literature of which I write during this quantity, a literature within which the seen global is not any longer a fact, and the unseen international now not a dream.

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