Page:EB1911 - Volume 08.djvu/106

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91
DESCHANEL—DESCRIPTIVE POETRY


he says it is not an art that can be acquired but a gift. He lays immense stress on the harmony of verse, because, as was the fashion of his day, he practically took it for granted that all poetry was to be sung.

The work of Deschamps marks an important stage in the history of French poetry. With him and his contemporaries the long, formless narrations of the trouvères give place to complicated and exacting kinds of verse. He was perhaps by nature a moralist and satirist rather than a poet, and the force and truth of his historical pictures gives him a unique place in 14th-century poetry. M. Raynaud fixes the date of his death in 1406, or at latest, 1407. Two years earlier he had been relieved of his charge as bailli of Senlis, his plain-spoken satires having made him many enemies at court.

His Œuvres complètes were edited (10 vols., 1878-1901) for the Société des anciens textes français by Queux de Saint-Hilaire and Gaston Raynaud. A supplementary volume consists of an Introduction by G. Raynaud. See also Dr E. Hoeppner, Eustache Deschamps (Strassburg, 1904).


DESCHANEL, PAUL EUGÈNE LOUIS (1856-), French statesman, son of Émile Deschanel (1819-1904), professor at the Collège de France and senator, was born at Brussels, where his father was living in exile (1851-1859), owing to his opposition to Napoleon III. Paul Deschanel studied law, and began his career as secretary to Deshayes de Marcère (1876), and to Jules Simon (1876-1877). In October 1885 he was elected deputy for Eure and Loire. From the first he took an important place in the chamber, as one of the most notable orators of the Progressist Republican group. In January 1896 he was elected vice-president of the chamber, and henceforth devoted himself to the struggle against the Left, not only in parliament, but also in public meetings throughout France. His addresses at Marseilles on the 26th of October 1896, at Carmaux on the 27th of December 1896, and at Roubaix on the 10th of April 1897, were triumphs of clear and eloquent exposition of the political and social aims of the Progressist party. In June 1898 he was elected president of the chamber, and was re-elected in 1901, but rejected in 1902. Nevertheless he came forward brilliantly in 1904 and 1905 as a supporter of the law on the separation of church and state. He was elected a member of the French Academy in 1899, his most notable works being Orateurs et hommes d’état (1888), Figures de femmes (1889), La Décentralization (1895), La Question sociale (1898).


DES CLOIZEAUX, ALFRED LOUIS OLIVIER LEGRAND (1817-1897), French mineralogist, was born at Beauvais, in the department of Oise, on the 17th of October 1817. He became professor of mineralogy at the École Normale Supérieure and afterwards at the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. He studied the geysers of Iceland, and wrote also on the classification of some of the eruptive rocks; but his main work consisted in the systematic examination of the crystals of numerous minerals, in researches on their optical properties and on the subject of polarization. He wrote specially on the means of determining the different felspars. He was awarded the Wollaston medal by the Geological Society of London in 1886. He died in May 1897. His best-known books are Leçons de cristallographie (1861); Manuel de minéralogie (2 vols., Paris, 1862, 1874 and 1893).


DESCLOIZITE, a rare mineral species consisting of basic lead and zinc vanadate, (Pb, Zn)2(OH)V04, crystallizing in the orthorhombic system and isomorphous with olivenite. It was discovered by A. Damour in 1854, and named by him in honour of the French mineralogist Des Cloizeaux. It occurs as small prismatic or pyramidal crystals, usually forming drusy crusts and stalactitic aggregates; also as fibrous encrusting masses with a mammillary surface. The colour is deep cherry-red to brown or black, and the crystals are transparent or translucent with a greasy lustre; the streak is orange-yellow to brown; specific gravity 5.9 to 6.2; hardness 3½. A variety known as cuprodescloizite is dull green in colour; it contains a considerable amount of copper replacing zinc and some arsenic replacing vanadium. Descloizite occurs in veins of lead ores in association with pyromorphite, vanadinite, wulfenite, &c. Localities are the Sierra de Cordoba in Argentina, Lake Valley in Sierra county, New Mexico, Arizona, Phoenixville in Pennsylvania, and Kappel (Eisen-Kappel) near Klagenfurt in Carinthia.

Other names which have been applied to this species are vanadite, tritochorite and ramirite; the uncertain vanadates eusynchite, araeoxene and dechenite are possibly identical with it.


DESCRIPTIVE POETRY, the name given to a class of literature, which may be defined as belonging mainly to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. From the earliest times, all poetry which was not subjectively lyrical was apt to indulge in ornament which might be named descriptive. But the critics of the 17th century formed a distinction between the representations of the ancients and those of the moderns. We find Boileau emphasizing the statement that, while Virgil paints, Tasso describes. This may be a useful indication for us in defining not what should, but what in practice has been called “descriptive poetry.” It is poetry in which it is not imaginative passion which prevails, but a didactic purpose, or even something of the instinct of a sublimated auctioneer. In other words, the landscape, or architecture, or still life, or whatever may be the object of the poet’s attention, is not used as an accessory, but is itself the centre of interest. It is, in this sense, not correct to call poetry in which description is only the occasional ornament of a poem, and not its central subject, descriptive poetry. The landscape or still life must fill the canvas, or, if human interest is introduced, that must be treated as an accessory. Thus, in the Hero and Leander of Marlowe and in the Alastor of Shelley, description of a very brilliant kind is largely introduced, yet these are not examples of what is technically called “descriptive poetry,” because it is not the strait between Sestos and Abydos, and it is not the flora of a tropical glen, which concentrates the attention of the one poet or of the other, but it is an example of physical passion in the one case and of intellectual passion in the other, which is diagnosed and dilated on. On the other hand Thomson’s Seasons, in which landscape takes the central place, and Drayton’s Polyolbion, where everything is sacrificed to a topographical progress through Britain, are strictly descriptive.

It will be obvious from this definition that the danger ahead of all purely descriptive poetry is that it will lack intensity, that it will be frigid, if not dead. Description for description’s sake, especially in studied verse, is rarely a vitalized form of literature. It is threatened, from its very conception, with languor and coldness; it must exercise an extreme art or be condemned to immediate sterility. Boileau, with his customary intelligence, was the first to see this, and he thought that the danger might be avoided by care in technical execution. His advice to the poets of his time was:—

“Soyez riches et pompeux dans vos descriptions;
C’est-là qu’il faut des vers étaler l’élégance,”

and:—

“De figure sans nombre égayez votre ouvrage;
Que toute y fasse aux yeux une riante image,”

and in verses of brilliant humour he mocked the writer who, too full of his subject, and describing for description’s sake, will never quit his theme until he has exhausted it:—

“Fuyez de ces auteurs l’abondance stérile
Et ne vous chargez point d’un détail inutile.”

This is excellent advice, but Boileau’s humorous sallies do not quite meet the question whether such purely descriptive poetry as he criticizes is legitimate at all.

In England had appeared the famous translation (1592-1611), by Josuah Sylvester, of the Divine Weeks and Works of Du Bartas, containing such lines as those which the juvenile Dryden admired so much:—

“But when winter’s keener breath began
To crystallize the Baltic ocëan,

To glaze the lakes, and bridle up the floods,
And perriwig with wool the bald-pate woods.”

There was also the curious physiological epic of Phineas Fletcher, The Purple Island (1633). But on the whole it was not until French influences had made themselves felt on English poetry,