French Symbolist Poet and Critic
Stephane Mallarme, born Étienne Mallarmé
French Symbolist Poet and Critic
When the sad sun sinks, it shall pierce through the body of wax till it shrinks! No sunset, but the red awakening of the last day concluding everything struggles so sadly that time disappears, the redness of apocalypse, whose tears fall on the child, exiled to her own proud heart, as the swan makes its plumage a shroud for its eyes, the old swan, and is carried away from the plumage of grief to the eternal highway of its hopes, where it looks on the diamonds divine of a moribund star, which never more shall shine!
Who, in the blissful dreams of my happy childhood used to hover above me sprinkling from her gentle hands snow-white clusters of perfumed stars.
Yes, I know, we are merely empty forms of matter, but we are indeed sublime in having invented God and our soul. So sublime, my friend, that I want to gaze upon matter, fully conscious that it exists, and yet launching itself madly into Dream, despite its knowledge that Dream has no existence, extolling the Soul and all the divine impressions of that kind which have collected within us from the beginning of time and proclaiming, in the face of the Void which is truth, these glorious lies!
Yes, I now know that far into the night the Earth is flinging a strange and mysterious shaft of light whose brilliance will only be increased as the grim centuries pass by.
These nymphs I would perpetuate. So clear their light carnation, that it floats in the air heavy with tufted slumbers. Was it a dream I loved?
This was the glorious culmination of what I had longed for, those ideal flowers that I had sought, and my heart leaped within me to see the whole family of the flowers of the goddess Iris rise up in their turn at the prospect of my accepting the task of revealing their existence.
We do not write poems with ideas, but with words.
When slowly we breathe it out
Degas was discussing poetry with Mallarm‚; "It isn't ideas I'm short of... I've got too many" [Ce ne sont pas les id‚es qui me manquent... J'en ai trop], said Degas. "But Degas," replied Mallarm‚, "you can't make a poem with ideas. ? You make it with words."
In the labor of my patience, atlas, herbal, ritual.
Etna! 'tis amid you, visited by Venus on your lava fields placing her candid feet, when a sad stillness thunders wherein the flame dies. I hold the queen!
Inert, all burns in the fierce hour.
From their shades unloose yet more of their girdles: so when of grapes the clearness I've sucked, to banish regret by my ruse disavowed, laughing, I lift the empty bunch to the sky, blowing into its luminous skins and athirst to be drunk, till the evening I keep looking through. oh nymphs, we diverse memories refill.
It isn't ideas I'm short of... I've got too many (Degas on discussing poetry with Mallarme, who replied)'Degas, you can't make a poem with ideas-you make it with words.
He sees, on the horizon filled with light, golden galleons as lovely as swans, moored on a broad river of scented purple.
Magical shadow with symbolic powers! A voice from the distant past, an evocation, is it not mine prepared for incantation?
How, save through obscure terrors, imagine more implacable still and as a suppliant the god who someday will receive the gift of your grace! and for whom, devoured by anguish, do you keep the unknown splendor and mystery of your being?
My breast, though proof-less, still attests a bite mysterious, due to some august tooth; but enough! for confidant such mystery chose the great double reed which one plays 'neath the blue.
Hyperbole! Can you not rise in triumph from my memory, a modern magic spell devise as from an ironbound grammary: for I inaugurate through science the hymn of all hearts spiritual in the labor of my patience, Atlas, herbal, ritual.
No more, I must sleep, forgetting the outrage, on the thirsty sand lying, and as I delight open my mouth to wine's potent star! Adieu, both! I shall see the shade you became.
I am a soul longing to sit beside the bright hearth, and to be brought back to life; all I need is to hear from your lips the murmur of my name repeated throughout the night.
No water murmurs but what my flute pours on the chord sprinkled thicket; and the sole wind prompt to exhale from my two pipes, before it scatters the sound in a waterless shower, is, on the horizon's unwrinkled space, the visible serene artificial breath of inspiration, which regains the sky.
I am alone in my monotonous country, while all those around me live in the idolatry of a mirror reflecting in its depths serene Herodiade, whose gaze is diamond keen... O final enchantment! yes, I sense it, I am alone.
No! My mouth cannot be sure of fully savoring its kisses unless your princely lover finally stifles his dreams of glory burying them like a diamond in the great mass of your hair.
I can see my reflection like that of an angel! And I feel that I am dying, and, through the medium of art or of mystical experience, I want to be reborn, wearing my dream like a diadem, in some better land where beauty flourishes.