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The Symbolist Movement in Literature he gives little credit to Symons for shaping his understanding of Laforgue’s distinctive poetic vocabulary, which Symons described as a kind of travesty, making subtle use of colloquialism, slang, neologism, technical terms for their allusive, their factitious, their refl ected meanings, with which one can play, very seriously. The verse is alert, troubled, swaying, deliberately uncertain, hating rhetoric so piously that it prefers, and fi nds its piquancy in, the ridiculously obvious. It is really vers libre, but at the same time correct verse, before vers libre had been invented. (p. 54) This might also be a description of ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, with its shifting registers and vocabulary and the varying rhythms and line-lengths that embody the tortured self-consciousness of the speaker. Even the terms of Eliot’s sense of ‘revelation’ at his fi rst encounter with Laforgue through The Symbolist Movement may owe something to Symons, who describes Laforgue’s prose as a ‘discovery’ (p. 56). The infl uence runs deep: Symons’ description of ‘this art of Laforgue’ as ‘an art of the nerves […] it is what all art would tend towards if we followed our nerves on all their journeys’ (p. 57) helps provide Prufrock with a memorable image (‘as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen’), but also suggests a fragile sensibility that would echo in Eliot’s other mature verse (‘my nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad’) and sketches a restless urban impulse that informs the opening to ‘Prufrock’ (‘Let us go then, you and I’) and beyond. As Barry Faulk has argued, in teaching Eliot to read Laforgue, Symons may also have taught him how to read life in the modern metropolis.13

Eliot is undoubtedly right that Symons’ book has its weaknesses: even Frank Kermode describes it as ‘scrappy’ and ‘often disagreeably imprecise’, while crediting Symons with a key role in the development of the Symbolist ‘Image’ in modern poetry.14 The Symbolist Movement has a resonance within the twentieth century that includes Symons’ role in prompting major fi gures such as

13 Barry Faulk, ‘T.S. Eliot and the Symbolist City’, in A Companion to T.S. Eliot,

ed. David E. Chinitz (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009), pp. 31–32. 14 Frank Kermode, Romantic Image (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957;

repr. 2002), pp. 127; 128–29.

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