While reading about fin de siècle decadence today, I came across a suggestion that decadent writers presented “religion as spilt art,” an inversion of T. E. Hulme’s characterization of Romanticism:
You don’t believe in a God, so you begin to believe that man is a god. You don’t believe in Heaven, so you begin to believe in a heaven on earth. In other words, you get romanticism. The concepts that are right and proper in their own sphere are spread over, and so mess up, falsify and blur the clear outlines of human experience. It is like pouring a pot of treacle over the dinner table. Romanticism, then, and this is the best definition I can give of it, is spilt religion. (from “Romanticism and Classicism”)
I found the “spilt art”/“spilt religion” comparison intriguing–the Decadents did, after all, take Romanticism to an extreme. It seems a fair enough comparison, at least it does in Hulm-ian terms.
Anyway, the article on decadence reminded me that I haven’t looked at Hulme’s poetry in a while. I am fond of his (few) pieces, and so, dear readers, I’m sharing a bit of T. E. Hulme:
A touch of cold in the Autumn night —
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.
Once, in finesse of fiddles found I ecstasy,
In the flash of gold heels on the hard pavement.
Now see I
That warmth’s the very stuff of poesy.
Oh, God, make small
The old star-eaten blanket of the sky,
That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.
(both poems published in 1909)