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Rhythm, Illusion and the Poetic Idea explores the concept of rhythm and its central yet problematic role in defining modern French poetry. Forging innovative lines of inquiry linking the detailed analysis of poetic form to the evolution of fundamental aesthetic principles, David Evans offers extensive new readings of the literary and critical writings of the three major poets at the centre of France's most important poetic revolution. The volume is of interest to all students and readers of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Mallarme, since here is presented for the first time a thorough comparative study of developments in each writer's poetic form and theory, focusing on the themes of illusion, deception and the musical metaphor. The book is also intended to stimulate wider critical debate on the interpretation of metrical verse, prose poetry and vers libre, and offers original analytical methods which facilitate the study of poetic form. The author proposes a radical shift in our understanding of the role and mechanisms of poetic rhythm, suggesting that its very resistance to definition and fixity provides a conveniently opaque veil over the difficulties of defining poetry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.