Poems Without Frontiers

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Charles-Marie René Leconte de Lisle 1818- 1894

Leconte de Lisle was born in Réunion, son of a former army surgeon, but was educated in Rennes. He returned to Réunion in 1832 but moved once more to mainland France in 1837 in order to study law in Paris. After completion of his studies, he returned briefly to Réunion but left the island for the last time in 1845.

He became an advocate against slavery and adopted republican politics with which he soon became disenchanted. He sank into poverty and scraped a living as a tutor but, encouraged by Baudelaire, he published Poèmes Antiques in 1852, which confirmed his place in literary circles. He also became assistant librarian at the Palais de Luxembourg in that year. The publication was followed by Poèmes et poésies in 1854, Le Chemin de la croix in 1859 and Poèmes barbares in 1862 amongst other works.

He was awarded a prize by l'Académie Francaise in 1856 followed by another in 1857 shortly after his marriage to Anne Adélaide Perray.

He became a highly regarded literary figure numbering Hérédia, Villiers de l'Ile-Adam, Léon Dierx, Sully Prudhomme et Mallarmé amongst his admirers and formed a close association with Victor Hugo in 1874 after having translated the Illiad and the Odyssey in the 1860s as well as many other Greek classics. He became Officer of the Légion d'Honneur in 1883 and was awarded a further prize from l'Académie Française in 1884 for his Poèmes Tragiques. He was elected to the chair of the Academie vacated upon the death of Hugo in 1886.

He died suddenly in Voisins, near Louveciennes, departement Yvelines.

His poetry was in a clear, rhythmic style of classical proportions, observational of, rather than participatory in, the affairs of mankind. He is considered to be a leading representative of Parnassianism which was influenced by the emotional detachment of the Greek myths. Parnassianism sought more strictly to contain the extravagances of the romantic era and formed a bridge to the later symbolist poets. Some of his poems have been set to music by the great composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.