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Paul-Marie Verlaine (French IPA: [vɛʀˈlɛn]) (March 30, 1844 – January 8, 1896) is considered one of the greatest French poets of the "fin de siècle".
Born in Metz, he was educated at a lycée in Paris and then took up a post in the civil service. He began writing poetry at an early age, and was initially influenced by the Parnassien movement and its leader, Charles Leconte de Lisle. Verlaine's first published collection, Poèmes saturniens (1867), though adversely commented upon by Sainte-Beuve, established him as a poet of promise and originality.
Verlaine's private life spills over into his work, beginning with his love for Mathilde Mauté, a disciple of Louise Michel. Mauté became Verlaine's wife. At the proclamation of the Third Republic in 1870, Verlaine joined the 160th battalion of the Garde nationale, turning Communard on March 18, 1871. He became head of the press bureau of the Central Committee of the Paris Commune. He escaped the deadly street fighting known as the Bloody Week, or Semaine Sanglante, and went into hiding at Pas-de-Calais.
Verlaine returned to Paris in August 1871. In September he received the first letter from the poet Arthur Rimbaud. By 1872 he had lost interest in Mathilde and effectively abandoned her and their son, preferring the company of his new lover. Rimbaud's and Verlaine's stormy love affair took them to London in 1872, and in July 1873 he shot Rimbaud in a drunken, jealous rage, wounding him, but not mortally. As an indirect result of this incident, he was arrested and imprisoned at Mons, where he underwent a conversion to Catholicism, which again influenced his work (and earned him the vicious mockery of the inconstant Rimbaud.)
Romances sans paroles was the poetic outcome of this period.
Following his release from prison, Verlaine travelled to England, where he worked for some years as a teacher and produced another successful collection, Sagesse. He returned to France in 1877 and, while teaching English at a school in Rethel, became infatuated with one of his pupils, Lucien Létinois, who inspired Verlaine to write further poems. Verlaine was devastated when the boy died of typhus.
Verlaine's last years witnessed a descent into drug-addiction, alcoholism, and poverty. Yet his poetry was admired and recognized as ground-breaking, and served as a source of inspiration to famous composers, such as Gabriel Fauré, who set many of his poems to music, including La bonne chanson, and Claude Debussy, who turned the entire Fêtes galantes into a classic mélodie album.