LECONTE DE LISLE, CHARLES MARIE RENE (1818-1894), French poet, was born in the island of Reunion on Oct. 22,1818. His father, an army surgeon, who brought him up with great severity, sent him to travel in the East Indies with a view to preparing him for a commercial life. After this voyage he went to Rennes to complete his education, studying especially Greek, Italian and history. He returned once or twice to Reunion, but in 1846 settled definitely in Paris. His first volume, La Venus de Milo, attracted to him a number of friends many of whom were passionately devoted to classical literature. In 1873 he was made assistant librarian at the Luxembourg; in 1886 he was elected to the Academy in succession to Victor Hugo. His Poemes antiques appeared in 1852; Poemes et poesies in 1854; Le Chemin de la croix in 1859; the Poemes barbares, in their first form, in 1862; Les Erinnyes, a tragedy after the Greek model, in 1872; for which occasional music was provided by Jules Massenet ; the Poemes tragiques in 1884; L'Apollonide, another classical tragedy, in 1888; and two posthumous volumes, Derniers poemes in 1899, and Premieres poisies et lettres intimes in 1902. In addition to his original work in verse, he published a series of admirable prose translations of Theocritus, Homer, Hesiod, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Horace. He died at Voisins, near Louveciennes (Seine et-Oise) on July 18, In Leconte de Lisle the Parnassian movement seems to crystal lize. His verse is clear, sonorous, dignified, deliberate in move ment, classically correct in rhythm, full of exotic local colour, of savage names, of realistic rhetoric. It has its own kind of ro
mance, in its "legend of the ages," so different from Hugo's, so much fuller of scholarship and the historic sense, yet with far less of human pity. Coldness cultivated as a kind of artistic distinction seems to turn all his poetry to marble, in spite of the fire at its heart. Most of Leconte de Lisle's poems are little chill epics, in which legend is fossilized. They have the lofty monotony of a single conception of life and of the universe. He sees the world as what Byron called it, "a glorious blunder," and desires only to stand a little apart from the throng, meditating scorn fully. Hope, with him, becomes no more than this desperate certainty :— "Tu te tairas, o voix sinistre des vivants!" His only prayer is to Death, "divine Death," that it may gather its children to its breast :— "Affranchis-nous du temps, du nombre et de l'espace, Et rends-nous le repos que la vie a trouble !" (A. Sy.) See Paul Bourget, Nouveaux esseis de psychologie contemporaine (1885) ; J. Lemaitre, Les Contemporains (2nd series, 1886) ; M. Spronck, Les Artistes litteraires (1889) ; F. Brunetiere, L'Evolution de la poisie lyrique en France au XIXe siecle (1894), and Nouveaux essais sur la Litt. contemp. (1895) ; J. Dornis, Leconte de Lisle intime (1895) ; F. Calmette, Un Demi-siecle litteraire, Leconte de Lisle et ses antis (1902) ; M. A. Leblond, Leconte de Lisle d'apres des docu ments nouveaux (1906) ; E. Esteve, Leconte de Lisle (1922).