Scholarly article on topic 'Statistics Regarding the Occurrence of the Epithet in Romanian Symbolist Poetry'

Statistics Regarding the Occurrence of the Epithet in Romanian Symbolist Poetry Academic research paper on "Art (arts, history of arts, performing arts, music)"

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statistics / symbolism / epithet / literature

Abstract of research paper on Art (arts, history of arts, performing arts, music), author of scientific article — Carmen Nicolescu

Abstract Searching the frequency of the epithet, one realizes the fact that the Romanian symbolist poets were enough mature in writing and had a balanced literary vision, shaping consciously an individual stylistic universe, avoiding exaggerations. The Romanian Symbolism is seen by most literary critics as a literary attitude which expresses special sensations, even weird, full of a morbid atmosphere and a melancholic-depressing musicality, obsessive tonality, allusive representations, unclear images, all these being rendered mostly by means of the epithet. The symbolist writings of the Romanian poets try, by their diversity, to rearrange the means of expression and to overcome the eminescian/late romanticism complex, which generated a phase of imitation hardly known before and contributed to the growth and the encouragement of the traditionalist movements.

Academic research paper on topic "Statistics Regarding the Occurrence of the Epithet in Romanian Symbolist Poetry"

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Procedía

Social and Behavioral Sciences

ELSEVIER Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 (2012) 4524 - 4528

WCES 2012

Statistics regarding the occurrence of the epithet in Romanian

symbolist poetry

Carmen Nicolescu a *

aPitesti University, 01 Targu din vale, Pitesti 110040 , Romania

Abstract

Searching the frequency of the epithet, one realizes the fact that the Romanian symbolist poets were enough mature in writing and had a balanced literary vision, shaping consciously an individual stylistic universe, avoiding exaggerations. The Romanian Symbolism is seen by most literary critics as a literary attitude which expresses special sensations, even weird, Hill of a morbid atmosphere and a melancholic-depressing musicality, obsessive tonality, allusive representations, unclear images, all these being rendered mostly by means of the epithet. The symbolist writings of the Romanian poets try, by their diversity, to rearrange the means of expression and to overcome the eminescian/late romanticism complex, which generated a phase of imitation hardly known before and contributed to the growth and the encouragement of the traditionalist movements. © 2012 Published b y Elsevier Ltd. Se lection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu

Keywords: statistics, symbolism, epithet, literature;

1. Introduction

The modern aspect of the Romanian symbolism will open the way for the great writings of high artistic expression of some poets who have already become standpoints of permanent values in the Romanian literature: T. Arghezi, L. Blaga, I. Barbu. Next to them, the literary critics and historians put G. Bacovia and I. Minulescu, writers who begin with the Symbolism, but go beyond it through the original approach of its aesthetics. The present research focuses on the epithet, the revelatory stylistic figure for its general conception of the particularizing images. In Vianu's opinion the writer obtains the shape of the objects he wants to evoke in the reader's mind by means of the epithet and his general views on this stylistic mean led us to build our theory. The repetition of some epithets such as "sweet", "sad", "white", "black", "mild", "pale" gives one the feeling of monotony.

2. A particular research of the epithet occurrence in the Romanian symbolist lyric.

Symbolist themes and motifs (spleen, neurosis, deception, loneliness) are also reflected at the level of the epithet. Many times the epithet is being given a metaphorical, allegorical, hyperbolical, individualizing value. The epithet is expressed by means of adjectives, nouns with prepositions, verb determiners (adverbs or adjectives), relative clauses introduced by what or which This is a proof of the symbolists' mature aesthetics and skillful preoccupation for the form. The symbolist poetry brings up a new type of epithet - the „sinestezic" epithet which associates the four senses (touching, tasting, smelling and seeing) in extraordinary constructions. The chromatic epithet is part of this

* Corresponding Carmen Nicolescu. Tel.: +4-0740-091-802 E-mail address: ncarmenro@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.06.289

special form of the epithet and occupies a very important place in the symbolist poetry. The adorning epithet is generally to be found in the Romantic poetry (sweet, sad) but also in the symbolist one (harddeserted). While following the frequency of the epithets, their different meanings and significations, sometimes with similar features one can enter the sphere, the world of the richness of the soul and of the imagination of every writer, which, in the symbolist poetry, is mainly negative, obsessively depressing, revoltes against a hostile society, with accents of helpless anger most of times, which changes into a morbid and hallucinatory vision of an obsolete world. Thus, one discovers his talent and creative capacity, a fundamental aspect of his art of a language innovator and, especially, the essential traits of his aesthetic type. From here, via the comparative study with other fellow writers, one can understand the directions which shape the specific traits of symbolism in literature, by stressing the stylistic devices and procedures found in the works of its representatives. Apart from the most recent approaches of this figure of speech (only adjective and adverb), the noun phrases with prepositions have also been considered epithets. It is relevant that the explicit metaphor or the implicit comparison (see Paula Diaconescu), represented by the determinations built up with "noun with preposition in Accusative", are quality definitions, the constructions "of blood", "of opal", "of emerald", "of gold", "of silver" showing a quality of the noun first of all, and only then do they form a unitary meaning which helps them substitute to a comparison or to a metaphor. Thus, these constructions enter the category of the metaphoric epithet (according to Tudor Vianu) as, besides the fact that they show a quality of the determined element, with which they identify themselves partially, they get synesthesic associations (visual + tactile, tactile + sound etc.) characteristic to the style of the symbolist poetic universe. The following examples will illustrate this approach: Macedonski: "powder of gold" (Excelsior), "ponds of silver", "horses of gold" (May), "rays of silver and gold" (May night), "heat of gold" (Muzmei's poem), which may be "bright heat" as well etc. We notice the fact that, both Macedonski, which poetry still belongs to romanticism which the poet, theoretically at least, rejects, and most of his followers, use mainly the phrases "of silver", with the adjective version "silvery", "of gold'V'golden". Another epithet, used almost as a theme by the majority of the representatives of the trend is "of blood", with its lexical derivatives, which has a certain power of suggestion, with visual, tactile and olfactory effect, leading imagination to morbid, moral and social decay. Even when it refers to color, "ocean of blood, gold and whire" (M. Demetriade - Spleen), the epithet "of blood" has an impressive power of suggestion, in terms of "tactile", referring to disgust, horror, fright and, visually, to red, a strong color. Beside the cromatic effect, the determinant construction "of blood" gets the macabre, morbid connotation of murder.

2.1. Description of research sample.

The epithet, with its role of expressive determinant accompanying a noun or a verb to emphasise more finely a certain trait of the object or of the action and to confer artistic expressivity to the respective creation, shows a power of expression which becomes the writer's style mark, thus joining the wider line of a literary trend or movement, through these means of expression. In the texts thoroughly analyzed, one notices that, to a large extent in their work, the poets use a certain type of symbolist stereotype epithets, as they appear repeatedly in the text. Thus, one cannot but find epithets such as: "sad", "fatal", "white", "black", "blond", sometimes "lead", "of silver/silvery", "of gold/golden", "red/of blood", some other times "alone/lonely", "empty", "old", "large", "big/huge/enormous", "saint", "dry", "deep", "slow", "heavy", "endless/eternal" which build up a whole universe. The symbolist poet has a rebellions attitude against the social and cultural environment, and finds shelter in a profoundly solitary mood, feeling damned to live in a hostile society that appreciates only the materialistic values as being authentic. We could name a few themes belonging to this poetry, with which certain epithets can be matched, themes that define the universe: cultivation of discreet solitude, silently inoculated, assumed and accepted, with the hope that posterity will be able to discern and will understand it ("lonely", "solitary", "deserted", "heavy", "ultimate/last"); dreaming or imaginary wondering, those imaginary journeys to hardly explored, remote and unknown territories (the "far East", the "sunny South", the "exotic Levant", the "far North": "big", "enormous", "endless", "immense", "large", "far", "remote", "long", "tall", "mystic", "fantastic", "magical", "fine"); cultivation of the enigmatic and of what can be called intimacy, that is the inner world which is a completely different reality, of mystery, by looking into the subconscious in a mood of hallucination and dream ("ideal", "pure", "saint", "deep"); neurosis, morbid, lugubrious are themes that put pressure on the symbolists; they need to see, to deeply feel the imperfections of the reality which

they want more acutely to escape ("tired", "sad", "miserable", "bitter", "lugubrious", "mad", "awful", "horrible", "evil", "fatal", "funeral", "mourning"); nature. For the real world to be even more hostile, the landscapes are autumnal ("rainy", "foggy", with birds that announce "bad luck", that is the raven, the emblematic bird of the symbolist poetry, and "black", the specific colour) or "icy", "cold", with "dirty snow" and "dead nature", without the chance to come to life again, without any hope. While the seasons should be beautiful (see spring with George Bacovia), they actually get on one's nerves, they exasperate, the colours are too strong, too bright and too lively for the sick and overwhelmingly bored poet who cannot understand a hostile social and natural environment ("rotten", "dry", "grey", "black", "of lead", "dead", "wet", "soft", "purple", "mauve", "blue", "warm", "cold"); the town, the symbolists' favourite theme, is either big, with unbearable jams/crowds, with mud and much grey, moral decay and promiscuity, or a small province town, "sad", "melancholic", with no perspective, overwhelmingly dull where the poet feels sized by that indefinite anxiety, by the spleen that tortures him without destroying him, as it is a process which kills slowly, especially mentally ("strange", "bizarre", "queer", "pale/cadaverous", "big", "small", "forgotten", "grey"); the social themes are present in the symbolist poetry to stress the lack of adaptation, the antisocial revolt, the refuse to accept principles of a society whose values are not only falling into decadence, but are also not accepted by the poet who does not find his place at all. This also causes a silent revolt against the inexpressive existence, against the surrounding reality with no hope or future for the one who aspires to know what the Absolute is. Now, one can see the birth of the consciousness of the nothingness and of the inner confusion, for the poet cannot find himself within himself and he is "damned", "cursed", even "isolated/alone/solitary/not understood/bizarre" in society and his own intimacy, because he cannot find the strength to put himself together and to fight. The ambiguity of the language is another aspect of the fundamental characteristics of this type of poetry, and the stylistic devices which make them up are, mostly, the following:

a. the non-determination, that is the use of some indefinite pronouns and articles, of nouns without article or with indefinite articles: B. Fundoianu: "a white hen" (A Goods Train); G. Bacovia: "a heavy, wet night" (Sonnet); I. C. Savescu: "stars forever asleep" (To the North Pole); St. Petica: "eternally mourning women", "eternal forgiveness" (The Maid in white);

b. the uncertainty openly expressed (the adverbs: as if, maybe; the rhetorical exclamations with no answer);

c. the suspension (the suspending of explicit connections between images, episodes, statements);

d. the use of abstract words whose epithetic determinations are often contrary to their meaning (words expressing mental or spiritual states: sadness, doubt, confusion, fear, oblivion, cry, soul, heart, dream, ideal, vision etc.) and of phrases or periphrases (denomination of people or objects by means of phrases which suggest certain traits: with Baudelaire, for instance, in Invitation au voyage, the sweetheart is called "mon enfant", "ma soeur" -apelatives that suggest purity, but D. Anghel, in Fantasy, is calling his Ophelia "blonde mistress" etc.);

e. the ellipsis (the suspending on purpose of certain features or details so as not to rebuild the whole explicity and to increase in this way the power of suggestion and the feeling of vague, uncertain, undefinite);

f. the metaphor (the metaphoric epithet: "of blood", "of gold", "of lead" etc.);

g. the symbol (which writers have always used, explicitly or implicitly);

h. the sound, musical effects (the phonetic symbolism, alliterations, musicality of rhythm, measure and type of rhyme);

i. the time ephemeral. Symbolism catches/frames the growth, the fluidity of time, continuity, the unbreakable connections past-present-future, characteristics that turn in time into the main material of lyrical poetry and not just a simple theme.

The sources of this figure of speech are many and subjective, and the author can choose from a wide range, like the one of the symbolist poetry, those epithets which match his artistic intentions best. That is why some symbolists, such as I. M. Rosu, N. Davidescu, D. Iacobescu, Al. Obedenaru, M. Demetriade are seen as poets with a clear tendency towards gruesome and morbid as the epithet they use in their poems shape such an image. With other poets, such as Macedonski (in Poems) or Ion Minulescu, E. Farago, E. Stefanescu-Est, this figure builds an intimate, soft universe, with a vague feeling of sadness, without being, however, profound, neurotic, but rather an external, melancholic experience. The accepted analysis of the epithet shows the fact the symbolist poetry starts with the more or less thematic examples given by Macedonski, the poet whose romantic tendency remains, continues with all the members of the Literatorui literary circle, where there is more gruesome and morbid, and the images are cultivated with the same consistency: M. Demetriade, Al. Obedenaru, Tr. Demetrescu, Al. T. Stamatiade etc. Other Romanian

poets remain only admirers of the author of "Sacred Flowers" and publish symbolist poetry: Horia Furtuna, Ion Pillat, Ion Minulescu and E. Stefanescu-Est: the sadness, sometimes artificial, mainly outspoken, is transmitted to the reader in an unleashed chromatic harmony, completed by its own rhytmic musicality. The source of the epithet for the symbolists is, most often, the lexical element belonging to the category of the adjectives with negative meaning, suggesting sadness, despair, neurosis, morbid obsession. Sensitivity which is essentially important for shaping the originality and unity of conceiving of the lyrical universe, starts within the symbolist aesthetics of the profound knowledge of the self, by exploring the domain of the subconscious and the passing to a world of pure ideas which lead to a new kind of emotion, characterized by anxiety, decadent spirit, a taste for morbid, bizarre and melancholy. Trying to redefine the universe of the Romanian symbolist lyric poetry as a whole, from the perspective of this figure of speech, we resorted to statistic study of the types of epithets characteristic to the work of every and each symbolist poet, to see how often these figures, considered defining and relevant for the aesthetics of symbolism, appear. Consequently, we have counted the epithets in the works we have examined and we have made a table with the frequency of the type of the epithet, selected from the total found, with each writer in turn. Some poets came to be praised by the literary history and critical, others did not catch the attention and failed to be published further. On the other hand, we must point out that many of them wrote quite few poems, sporadically inconsistently, moving from symbolism and folklore influences (E. Farago), romanticism (Al. Macedonski, D.Anghel, A. Calugaru), the cold and distant elegance of parnasianism (I. C. Savescu, N. Davidescu), a certain tendency towards a modern classicism (I. Pillat), or morbid vision pushed to extreme (D. Iacobescu, D. Karnabatt, Al. Obedenaru). We could say without any doubts that Symbolism was the most homogenous literary movement, most disciplined and most unitary. At least, the Romanian poets were very faithful to their beliefs because they felt the need of innovation, after a long later romanticism period, adjusted to the great personality of Eminescu, Romanian national poet. But there is also a negative part of this unity we mentioned - maybe, that is why they could not become very original and their work, although getting their fellows appreciation could not resist the time value judgement, being considered artificial and, maybe, too programmatic and without substance. Poets like George Bacovia and Ion Minulescu do not appear in these classifications very often, according to the use of the epithet specific to symbolism, are valuable because, while joining the aesthetics of the literary movement which they were interested in, they are not blinded by principles, restrictions, or motives, but set their imagination free, and out of this rejection originality comes. Without following restrictively the rules and taking it as a starting point in their work, they manage to go beyond the barriers and limits of the literary trend and get to modernity and, later, reach the hierarchy of the everlasting values of the Romanian literature. To conclude and to offer a more concrete image of what the occurrence of the epithet represents, we have selected a few statistic data regarding the frequency and the specific of this figure of speech in the poetry of the Romanian symbolists. We must mention that this is the result of our own particular research which will be the subject of an extended book very soon. In 2574 of poems which were examined from the works of the 42 writers (the exact data are put in tables), 10966 epithets have been selected. 4426 epithets (40,36%) represent the chromatic epithet, 3170 (28,90%) are synesthesic epithets, 3371 (30,74%) are adorning epithets. The synesthesia/synesthesic epithet, in all its forms, the one that includes the chromatic epithet category too, comes the first in terms of frequency. In the analysis we have done, we have chosen to place chromatic epithet in a special category, because, apart from other types of synesthesia, chromatic is more obvious. On the other hand, we have to mention that certain chromatic epithets occur much more often in the writers' works and it is worth noticing the type of chromatic used to shape an aesthetic image which individualises the authors. "White" is the epithet which occurs the most often with: D. Anghel (31,91%), §t. Petica (25,89%), C. Pavelescu (17,93%), G. Bacovia (16,67%), M. Romanescu (19,81%), B. Fundoianu (25,76%), Claudia Millian-Minulescu (18,06%), Al. Colorian (20,94%), I. Pillat (29,37%), I. Minulescu (19,28%), C.T. Stoika (32,20%), E. Sperantia (18,18%), D. Botez (39,02%), I.M. Ra§cu (23,83%), B. Solacolu (26,60%), E. §tefanescu-Est (10,98%), Al. T. Stamatiad (14,29%), Ov. Densusianu (30%), A. Mo§oiu (36,36%), H. Furtuna (42,20%), V. Paraschivescu (17,65%). „Black" is very frequent with Tr. Demetrescu (15,38%), M. Cruceanu (16,88%), B. Nem^eanu (11,63%), D. Iacobescu (23,08%). „Blue" appears mainly with A. Calugaru (26,42%), M. Demetriade (16,68%), M. Saulescu (27,63%), Al. Petroff (25%) and „white" and „black" do not occur at all with the last poet mentioned. „Green" is to be found mainly in Elena Farago's poems (29,63%) and we explain this by the open affinity of the poetess for folklore. „Red/of blood" is used by G. Donna (25%), D. Karnabatt (20%), Al. Obedenaru (13,64%), N. Davidescu (11,85%),

although Al. Obedenaru uses only the form „of blood". The syntagm „of gold" appears mainly in Al. Macedonsky's poems (13,95%) and in the poems of his friend and disciple, C. Cantilli (18,18%).

With some writers, the epithets occur in equal percentage, and this thing could not have been pointed out without a statistic analysis: I. C. Savescu uses „white", „black" and „blue" (13,74% each), E. Isac uses „white" and „red" (28,48% each), or Gh. Orleanu uses „of lead", „blue" and „blonde" (14,29% each) with no „black"; Al. Gherghel uses „white" and „copper" (20% each); Al. Vitianu uses „white", „black", „blue", „grey" and „of lead" (12,50% each) and N. Budurescu uses „white", „violet" and „pink" (12,50% each). The aspects mentioned here are relevant to the constant care and attention the above poets paid to the type of the epithets they used, the level of occurrence and their aesthetic value relevant to the specific expressivity. From the adorning epithet we have selected the two notions that define the essential characteristics of the universe specifically symbolist: „sad" counts 586 appearances (i.e. 6,26% out of the 10966 epithets), „empty", 239 appearances (2,18%) so, as many as needed just to be suggestive, without exaggerating. These represent stylistic marks which characterise the aesthetic type of the symbolist lyric poetry. From the type of synesthesic epithets we have selected: „heavy" with 576 appearances (5,25%) and „sweet" with 334 appearances (3,05%) as they are significant. Out of 4426 chromatic epithets, „white" represents 21,04% and „black", 10,37%. The other colors have been presented separately, for it is important to have them observed comparatively, what colors and in what order of frequency they are used by each of the symbolist poets. The direct consequence of this statistic approach, different from the previous ones, is that the symbolist lyric poetry is not as dark as it seems. We have to take into account the other epithets that fall in the category of balck and gruesome which suggest a sad, gloomy, mourning atmosphere („dark", „mourning", „grey", „funeral", „mortuary") and thus we establish fairly equal proportions, this being a new explanation of the frequency degree which is so high for the epithet „white" compared with the epithet „black".

Acknowledgements

Thus, we may say that, although the symbolist lyric poetry is, as a whole, the expression of a gloomy universe, characterised by an emphasised negative lyrism, there is a well-calculated balance of the use of the epithets. The symbolist poets were always aware of the reflection their work created in the imagination of the consumer of literature and tried to express their feelings, the negative ones included in the spirit of the symbolist lyrism and themes, without exaggerating.

The high level of the frequency of the synesthesic epithet, which by stressing the chromatic aspect, contribute to reconsidering the aesthetic and expressive values of the poetic image, offering new openings and new opportunities to the future lyric poetry. All these lead to the justified conclusion that the epithet in the symbolist lyric poetry possesses the expressive value the most pertinent for the shaping of the specific universe and represent a stylistic mark which cannot be denied.

These conclusions are come out after six long years of text research, concretised in author's these of doctorate - The Epithet in Romanian symbolist poetry and it will be published in extenso, in three volumes, very soon.

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