UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The personality of Apollinaire as revealed in his poetry 1896-1912 Brown, Alexander William


This thesis provides an overview of Apollinaire's personality by reference to his poetry only. The time span is restricted to the productive years 1896 to 1912. Apollinaire's poetic output after 1912 was quite extensive, its inclusion in the analysis would have resulted in an over-long thesis. Recent research as well as standard material which was found in scattered information has been combined in this analysis. The thesis is made up of an Introduction which sets forth the methodology of the analysis and discusses the content. The first chapter is a biography covering the entire life of the poet. It provides background information which cannot be obtained by merely reading the poetry. This chapter has been divided into sections corresponding to major changes in his life which had a special effect on the poetry Apollinaire wrote. The bulk of the thesis (Chapters 2 to 9) is an analysis of the poems which the poet was inspired to write during the selected period. The date or at least the year that Apollinaire was first inspired to write a given poem was an important factor when the aspects of personality were being sought in the process of analysis, consequently the poems have been arranged in date order as an aid to determination of any changes that would affect his personality and relationships. Many facets of the poet's personality were uncovered. These have been summarised, in the final chapter entitled "Conclusion", into four main divisions: 1. Philosophical attitudes 2. Personality as such 3. Outward way of life 4. Literary and artistic characteristics. The process of summarization includes references back to the poems which generated the listed observations. The thesis has ranked the following as major personality factors. Self-centredness; the bipolar psychosis formerly known as the manic-depressive state; the fact that his inspiration worked best when he attempted to exorcise his misery by writing poetry; the dependence on ancient myth and the past as sources of inspiration; the personification of abstract concepts and use of historical figures as actors in his poetry. Subordinate facets include: willingness to experiment with new forms of poetry; the dabbling in the Occult; the preoccupation with death; the extraordinary eye for detail; the fascination with the inventions of the modern world; the attraction of the elements and the universe as sources of imagery; the infinite capacity for mystification; the use of earlier works to flesh out current production; and the ability to produce a humorous line even when in the depths of despair. Inter-personal relationships were identified: Steadfast friendships; a strong sexuality that was often repressed; a latent cruelty often controlled. Several items not connected directly to personality were a bye-product of the research: for example a 1902 edition of Baedeker's guide provided information on rail travel in Germany. A number of paintings were researched: the early paintings in Cologne museums, the Black Virgin of Czestochowa icon, Repin's painting of the Zaporozhne Cossacks replying tothe Sultan of Turkey's overtures, Ford Madox Brown's famous painting, "The last of England", Picasso's blue and pink period works. An engraving of Woodstock Palace helped in the analysis of the poem "Palais". The sport of Ballooning which uses the windrose, provided an explanation for the phrase "Rose des vents". A botanical investigation of the Autumn Crocus threw additional light on the "filles de leurs filles" mystery. The "Rose sans epines" proved to be the hellebore or Christmas rose. The examination of individual poems has provided information about Apollinaire's character and a small contribution to the exegesis of the poems has resulted also.

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