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Clair de Lune

Au Clair de la Lune as a cultural trope means 'by the light of the moon.'

Wikipedia. One can find many links online about poet Paul Verlaine.

JTC at San Diego Harbor on a summer eveningFamous 1869 Poem.

This classic 1869 poem by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) was, and remains, a monument to his times, to the Decadent and Symbolist and fin de siècle movements, and many others who would lay claim to its quietly melancholy magic and power.

What's the Connection? Human fascination with our moon has endured since the first hunting bands roamed Stone Age hills and valleys. This story (Mona Lisa Novel dramatizes a very serious theory about Leonardo da Vinci's secret spirituality, and his evident rediscovery (which could have gotten him burned alive for heresy) of ancient feminine lunar deities. In a few culture (Germanic, Japanese) the moon is male and the sun is female (der Mond, die Sonne), but in much of human mythological history the moon has been a female deity of great beauty and power. These themes bubble up time and again across history, as with Paul Verlaine's poetic reverie of 1869, which captured the world's imagination and inspired musicians and other artists.

Verlaine’s contemporaries—composers like Claude Debussy and Gabriel Fauré—put the poem to immortal music. A great deal of creative activity centered around Paris at the turn of the century, even while many great artists flourishing in Paris came from around France (e.g., Arthur Rimbaud, Maurice Ravel) and greater Europe (Alphonse Mucha, Rainer Maria Rilke), not to mention U.S. personalities like Henry James and T.S. Eliot. Later, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and other U.S. figures joined the magic at such Parisian locales as Shakespeare & Company. Much of this is relevant to the expression and mood of this story by John Argo.

Verlaine’s title seems to point toward an old French folk song (Au Clair de Lune) but, as this novel suggests, our fascination with moonlight is primordial and in our DNA. This is evident as well in the notebooks and works of Leonardo da Vinci, whose immortal painting Mona Lisa or La Gioconda has a place of honor in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Paul Verlaine was not the only great artist of the late 19th Century to write, paint, or compose on the theme of moonlight.

A well-known example is Claude Debussy’s 1890ish Suite Bergamasque, whose third of four movements is titled Clair de Lune. That quietly haunting music is particularly suited to the mood of this novel as the story ascends from darkness into light.

Other classic works of similar theme abound.

As early as 1802, Ludwig van Beethoven completed his Piano Sonata No. 14 (Moonlight Sonata, styled a Fantasia) in a similarly pensive, quietly whimsical mode.

Other famous composers of delicate nocturnes of similar title included Gabriel Fauré in 1887 (Opus 46, Two Songs) which appears as Movement Six in his 1919 (Opus 112: Masques et Bergamasques).

JTC at San Diego Harbor on a summer eveningVictor Hugo wrote a poem by that title, Guy de Maupassant published a short story anthology by that title in 1884, and a long list of other artists and composers approached the same theme from their various directions.

The terms masque and bergamasque refer to traditional styles of harlequin or busker costumes and dances, especially in French and Italian (Bergamo) cultures.


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