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Encore, — si ce n'était à minuit, — l'heure blasonnée de dragons et de diables! — que le gnome qui se soûle de l'huile de ma lampe!

Aloysius Bertrand, enemy of Earth, was born Louis-Jacques Bertrand in the Piedmont region, in 1807, to his own shame and the woe of France. (Piedmont being at that time French.) In his defense it should be said that although he incubated his ill deeds while alive, he mostly pottered about in this life, doing no real damage. Even the pseudonym he chose for himself is facile in its teenagey, awkward pomposity.

No, the most remarkable feature of the man himself is that he contrived to do his great harm after death.

Specifically, here's what happened: he left a manuscript among his effects; it was, some time after his death, found and published. Gaspard de la Nuit became a minor phenomenon, and a model for Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé. It was, for its time, wholly novel. It is also, I should point out, an incredibly awful volume. I have read it, in two languages; certainly the Swedish translation did it no favors, but I can say with authority that the French original is such that no clumsy translator's gaffe could do it any harm. Yet that, of course, is neither criminal nor rare.

So what was the great unique feature of this volume? It is almost too horrible to tell.

Aloysius Bertrand — I spit forth his name, my fingers shrink from typing the hated thing — invented and posthumously popularized free verse.
 
 
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