Tristan Corbière

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Tristan Corbière
Photographie du poete Tristan Corbiere.jpg
Born(1845-07-18)18 July 1845
Morlaix, Brittany, France
Died1 March 1875(1875-03-01) (aged 29)
Literary movementSymbolism

Tristan Corbière (18 July 1845 – 1 March 1875), born Édouard-Joachim Corbière, was a French poet born in Coat-Congar, Ploujean (now part of Morlaix) in Brittany, where he lived most of his life before dying of tuberculosis at the age of 29.


Family and schooling

His mother Marie-Angélique-Aspasie Puyo, 19 years old at the time of his birth, belonged to one of the most prominent families of the local bourgeoisie. His father was Antoine-Édouard Corbière, known for his best-selling novel Le Négrier. A cousin, Constant Puyo, was a well-known Pictorialist photographer.

During his schooling at the Imperial Lycée of Saint-Brieuc where he studied from 1858 until 1860, he fell prey to a deep depression, and, over several freezing winters, contracted the severe rheumatism which was to disfigure him severely. He blamed his parents for having placed him there, far from his family's care and affection. Difficulties in adapting to the harsh discipline of the college's noble débris [1] (distinguished relics, i.e., teachers) gradually developed those characteristics of anarchic disdain and sarcasm which were to give much of his verse its distinctive voice.


Corbière's only published verse in his lifetime appeared in Les amours jaunes, 1873, a volume that went almost unnoticed until Paul Verlaine included him in his gallery of poètes maudits (accursed poets). Thereafter Verlaine's recommendation was enough to establish him as one of the masters acknowledged by the Symbolists, and he was subsequently rediscovered and treated as a predecessor by the surrealists. [2]

Close-packed, linked to the ocean and his Breton roots, and tinged with disdain for Romantic sentimentalism, [3] his work is also characterised by its idiomatic play and exceptional modernity. He was praised by both Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot (whose work he had a great influence on). [4]

Eliot used his self-description as "Mélange adultère de tout" as the title for one of his own (French) poems. [5] Many subsequent modernist poets have also studied him, [6] and he has often been translated into English. [7]

His complete poems appear in two volumes with translations by the English poet Christopher Pilling. [8] [9]

See also

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  1. Renzo Paris (ed) Corbière:Gli Amori gialli, Milan 2004 p.vii
  2. Wallace Fowlie, Poem and Symbol (2010) p. 94
  3. Geoffrey Brereton, A Short History of French Literature (1954) p. 299
  4. Warner, Val (2003). Centenary Corbière. New York: Routledge. ISBN   0-415-96939-5.
  5. Wallace Fowlie, Poem and Symbol (2010) p. 96
  6. S. Cushman et al eds., The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (2012) p. 891
  7. Val Warner intro, Centenary Corbière (2003)
  8. These jaundiced loves A translation of Tristan Corbière's Les Amours Jaunes by Christopher Pilling. (Calstock Cornwall: Peterloo Poets, 1995)
  9. Oysters, Nightingales and Cooking-Pots: Selected Poetry and Prose of Tristan Corbière, trans. by Christopher Pilling, ed. by Richard Hibbitt and Katherine Lunn-Rockliffe (York: White Rose University Press, 2018). Open access publication; free on