À des heures et sans que tel souffle l’émeuve 

Here is a poem in which Mallarme makes some new Belgian friends in the beautiful old city of Bruges. I had to read it three times before I figured it out, but it is worth the effort, as it does evoke a certain captivating and mysterious beauty of the city while anchoring the poets’s memory of the people he meets. It is a sonnet.

Remémoration d’amis belges

À des heures et sans que tel souffle l’émeuve

Toute la vétusté presque couleur encens

Comme furtive d’elle et visible je sens

Que se dévêt pli selon pli la pierre veuve

Flotte ou semble par soi n’apporter une preuve

Sinon d’épandre pour baume antique le temps

Nous immémoriaux quelques-uns si contents

Sur la soudaineté de notre amitié neuve

O très chers rencontrés en le jamais banal

Bruges multipliant l’aube au défunt canal

Avec la promenade éparse de maint cygne

Quand solennellement cette cité m’apprit

Lesquels entre ses fils un autre vol désigne

À prompte irradier ainsi qu’aile l’esprit.

 Stéphane Mallarmé

From <http://www.toutelapoesie.com/poemes/mallarme/rememoration_d.htm>

There is a contrast between the old stones of the city and the new encounters with the Belgians the poet meets in the street. The swan on the canal taking flight at dawn shows the poet that he also can take flight and elevate his spirit, as can the inhabitants of this inspiring place.

If you can figure out the syntax and the vocabulary of this poem, it is quite moving.

The Poetry Dude

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Le temple enseveli divulgue par la bouche

Here we have a poem from Mallarme, which, from the title, could be expected to be a retrospective tribute to the poetic genius of Baudelaire, and I guess it is in a way. But it is a tribute which, through the metaphor of Baudelaire’s tomb, emphasises the grotesque, disturbing aspects of Baudelaire’s poetry. It reminds me of a gothic horror movie, or perhaps a poem or story by Edgar Allan Poe.

The images are of decrepitude and decay, of ugliness and distortion. If you ever go and visit Baudelaire’s real tomb in the Montparnasse cemetery, it isn’t like that at all, of course.

 
Stéphane MALLARME   (1842-1898)

 
Le tombeau de Charles Baudelaire

 
Le temple enseveli divulgue par la bouche
Sépulcrale d’égout bavant boue et rubis
Abominablement quelque idole Anubis
Tout le museau flambé comme un aboi farouche

Ou que le gaz récent torde la mèche louche
Essuyeuse on le sait des opprobres subis
Il allume hagard un immortel pubis
Dont le vol selon le réverbère découche

Quel feuillage séché dans les cités sans soir
Votif pourra bénir comme elle se rasseoir
Contre le marbre vainement de Baudelaire

Au voile qui la ceint absente avec frissons
Celle son Ombre même un poison tutélaire
Toujours à respirer si nous en périssons.

 

From <http://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/stephane_mallarme/le_tombeau_de_charles_baudelaire.html&gt;

 

I am wondering if this sonnet was inspired as much by Baudelaire’s reputation as his actual poetry, given that “Les Fleurs du Mal” was banned for several years on the grounds of obscenity and several of its poems are indeed somewhat grotesque. When the collection was eventually published, several poems were even then left out in order for publication to be allowed.

So, in that spirit, this poem portrays Baudelaire’s tomb as a sewer-like place where shadows and malevolent spirits roam by the shaky light of a gas lamp, and where the shadow of Baudelaire lies in wait to poison passers-by and onlookers. Creepy stuff…

I found a translation of this poem into English, see below. Its actually quite good…

 
The Tomb of Charles Baudelaire

BY STÉPHANE MALLARMÉ
TRANSLATED BY HENRY WEINFIELD

The buried temple empties through its bowels,
Sepulchral sewer spewing mud and rubies,
Abominably some idol of Anubis,
Its muzzle all aflame with savage howls.

Or if the recent gas the wick befouls
That bears so many insults, it illumines
In haggard outline an immortal pubis
Flying along the streetlights on its prowls.

What wreaths dried out in cities without prayer
Of night could bless like that which settles down
Vainly against the marble of Baudelaire

In the fluttering veil that girds her absence round,
A tutelary poison, his own Wraith,
We breathe in always though it bring us death.

From <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/241188&gt;
The Poetry Dude

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Le soleil, sur le sable, ô lutteuse endormie,

In this poem by Mallarme, he captures a moment under the summer sun, where two lovers connect physically and sensually, but cannot translate that into a deeper and more enduring love. Hence the sadness of summer…

Stéphane MALLARME   (1842-1898)

Tristesse d’été
Le soleil, sur le sable, ô lutteuse endormie,
En l’or de tes cheveux chauffe un bain langoureux
Et, consumant l’encens sur ta joue ennemie,
Il mêle avec les pleurs un breuvage amoureux.

De ce blanc flamboiement l’immuable accalmie
T’a fait dire, attristée, ô mes baisers peureux
” Nous ne serons jamais une seule momie
Sous l’antique désert et les palmiers heureux ! ”

Mais la chevelure est une rivière tiède,
Où noyer sans frissons l’âme qui nous obsède
Et trouver ce Néant que tu ne connais pas.

Je goûterai le fard pleuré par tes paupières,
Pour voir s’il sait donner au coeur que tu frappas
L’insensibilité de l’azur et des pierres.

From <http://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/stephane_mallarme/tristesse_d_ete.html&gt;

The scene seems to be on a beach on a summer’s day with the sun beating down. The girl has long blonde hair which the poet is idly playing with, while she sadly sheds some tears. He is happy enough with that but she wants a deeper connection.

It’s a sonnet of course.

I think I’ll go to the beach.

The Poetry Dude

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Je t’apporte l’enfant d’une nuit d’Idumée !

Mallarme has given us hear a poem full of atmospherics and light on meaning, a little bit like some of the poems of Nerval. The references are obscure, there is little obvious connection with everyday experience and so I guess it should be read as an exercise in style rather than a poem which informs us about life, love, death, nature or any of the more common poetic themes.

It is indeed the gift of a poem….

 
Stéphane MALLARME   (1842-1898)

Don du poème

 
Je t’apporte l’enfant d’une nuit d’Idumée !
Noire, à l’aile saignante et pâle, déplumée,
Par le verre brûlé d’aromates et d’or,
Par les carreaux glacés, hélas ! mornes encor
L’aurore se jeta sur la lampe angélique,
Palmes ! et quand elle a montré cette relique
A ce père essayant un sourire ennemi,
La solitude bleue et stérile a frémi.

Ô la berceuse, avec ta fille et l’innocence
De vos pieds froids, accueille une horrible naissance
Et ta voix rappelant viole et clavecin,
Avec le doigt fané presseras-tu le sein
Par qui coule en blancheur sibylline la femme
Pour des lèvres que l’air du vierge azur affame ?

From <http://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/stephane_mallarme/don_du_poeme.html&gt;

Right off the bat, in the first line, there is a challenge reference to Idumea – I had to look it up and apparently it is a mountainous region next to the Dead Sea, where Esau the brother of Jacob settled in Biblical times. So we are immediately sent back into a distant period of myth and legend, of mystery and imagination and this is the tone of the whole of the rest of the poem.

There is a child born, surrounded by ominous signs and mysterious auguries. I am particularly struck by the notion of the father “essayant un sourire ennemi”, an unsettling juxtaposition of conflicting ideas which adds to the atmosphere of unease and menace.

The second stanza continues this tone with “une horrible naissance”, and goes on to describe the newborn child, its feet cold, pressing into its mother’s breast to get milk, but what will be the outcome?

Poetry is always a partnership between the writer and the reader, but this one certainly gives the reader a lot to do if he wants to assign meaning. Better perhaps to enjoy the words, appreciate the imagery and admire the craftsmanship, rather like the uncomfortable-looking seventeenth and eighteenth century furniture you see when visiting stately homes.

The Poetry Dude

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Si tu veux nous nous aimerons

I recently came across this poem from Mallarme, with whose poetry I am not very familiar, and was struck by its delicate charm; its focus on a brief moment and its evocation of the magic of a silent kiss.

 
Stéphane MALLARME   (1842-1898)

Si tu veux nous nous aimerons
Si tu veux nous nous aimerons
Avec tes lèvres sans le dire
Cette rose ne l’interromps
Qu’à verser un silence pire

Jamais de chants ne lancent prompts
Le scintillement du sourire
Si tu veux nous nous aimerons
Avec tes lèvres sans le dire

Muet muet entre les ronds
Sylphe dans la pourpre d’empire
Un baiser flambant se déchire
Jusqu’aux pointes des ailerons
Si tu veux nous nous aimerons.

From <http://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/stephane_mallarme/si_tu_veux_nous_nous_aimerons.html&gt;

Three short stanzas, with repetition in each stanza of the central implication of the kiss – it is an invitation to love. The first two times this is stated, at the beginning of the first stanza and at the end of the second stanza, this is followed by the qualification, that the silent kiss will achieve this. By the end of the poem, in the last line, this does not need to be repeated.

Mallarme also insists in various ways on the silence of the moment – “un silence pire”, “avec tes levres sans le dire”, “muet, muet”. But the silence does not prevent expression of the magic of the moment, you can tell by the dazzling smile which bursts forth, “le scintillement du sourire”.

The Poetry Dude

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