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Collected Poems

Collected Poems: A Bilingual Edition

translated and with a commentary by Henry Weinfield
Copyright Date: 1994
Edition: 2
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Collected Poems
    Book Description:

    Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) is one of the giants of nineteenth-century French poetry. Leader of the Symbolist movement, he exerted a powerful influence on modern literature and thought, which can be traced in the works of Paul Valéry, W.B. Yeats, and Jacques Derrida. From his early twenties until the time of his death, Mallarmé produced poems of astonishing originality and beauty, many of which have become classics. In theCollected Poems,Henry Weinfield brings the oeuvre of this European master to life for an English-speaking audience, essentially for the first time. All the poems that the author chose to retain are here, superbly rendered by Weinfield in a translation that comes remarkably close to Mallarmé's own voice. Weinfield conveys not simply the meaning but the spirit and music of the French originals, which appearen face. Whether writing in verse or prose, or inventing an altogether new genre-as he did in the amazing "Coup de Dés"-Mallarmé was a poet of both supreme artistry and great difficulty. To illuminate Mallarmé's poetry for twentieth-century readers, Weinfield provides an extensive commentary that is itself an important work of criticism. He sets each poem in the context of the work as a whole and defines the poems' major symbols. Also included are an introduction and a bibliography. Publication of this collection is a major literary event in the English-speaking world: here at last is the work of a major figure, masterfully translated.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94811-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-x)
  3. INTRODUCTION (pp. xi-xx)
    Henry Weinfield

    One does not introduce, much less sum up, the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé. Though the quantity of the work is small, it contains a world and it is a world. My only way of encompassing that work and that world has been to translate it, poem by poem, and to interpret it, poem by poem, in the hope that the accumulation would add up to something. The translation contained in these pages includes, with the French texten face, all of the poems that Mallarmé wished to preserve and a few additional poems that have come to be regarded as...


      A pale sky, hovering over a world that is dying of its own decrepitude, is perhaps going to depart with the clouds: the shreds of worn-out purple sunsets fade in a river lying dormant on an horizon submerged in sunbeams and water. The trees are wearied and, beneath their whitened foliage (from the dust of time rather than from that of the roads), rises the tent of the Showman of things Past: many a streetlamp awaits the twilight and reanimates the faces of an unhappy crowd, vanquished by the immortal malady and the sin of the centuries, men accompanied by...


      Since Maria left me to go to another star—which was it: Orion, Altair, or you, green Venus?—I have always cherished solitude. What long days I have passed alone with my cat. ByaloneI mean without a material being and my cat is a mystic companion, a spirit. I can therefore say that I have passed long days alone with my cat, and alone also with one of the last authors of the Latin decadence; for since that white creature has been no more, I have loved, strangely and especially, all that can be summed up in the...


      That Dresden dock, which runs slow and strikes thirteen hours amid its flowers and its gods: to whom did it belong? To think that it came from Saxony by the slow stagecoaches of former years.

      (Curious shadows hang from the worn-out panes.)

      And your Venetian mirror, deep as a cold fountain, framed by a strand of wyverns that have lost their gilding: who has been reflected in it? Ah! I am sure that more than one woman has bathed the sin of her beauty in that water; and perhaps I could see a nude phantom if I gazed for a...


      Have unknown words ever sung on your lips, the damned fragments of a meaningless phrase?

      I left my room with the precise sensation of a wing gliding over the strings of an instrument, languid and light, which was replaced by a voice pronouncing these words in a falling tone: “La Pénultième est morte”—such that

      La Pénultième

      ended the verse and

      Est morte

      detached itself from the fateful suspension, trailing uselessly off into the void of signification. I stepped into the street and recognized in the soundnulthe taut string of the musical instrument which had been forgotten and...


      Poor pale child, why do you bawl out your sharp, cheeky songs, in the street at the top of your lungs, since they fade among the cats, those lords of the rooftops? They will not reach beyond the first-floor shutters, and behind hang the heavy curtains of rose-tinted silk of which you have no knowledge.

      Yet inevitably you sing, fatally, with the tenacious assurance of a little man who makes his way through life alone and, counting on no one, works for himself. Have you ever had a father? You don’t even have an old woman to make you forget...

    • THE PIPE / LA PIPE (pp. 97-98)

      Yesterday I found my pipe while pondering a long evening of work, of fine winter work. Thrown aside were my cigarettes, with all the childish joys of summer, into the past which the leaves shining blue in the sun, the muslins, illuminate, and taken up once again was the grave pipe of a serious man who wants to smoke for a long while without being disturbed, so as better to work: but I was not prepared for the surprise that this abandoned object had in store for me; for hardly had I drawn the first puff when I forgot the...


      How far civilization is from procuring the enjoyments attributable to that state! For example, it is astonishing that there exists no association of dreamers in every large town to support a journal that takes notice of events in the light peculiar to dreams.Realityis but an artifice, good only for stabilizing the average intellect amid the mirages of a fact; but, through this in itself, it rests on some universal understanding: let us see, then, if there is not, ideally, some quality—necessary, evident, simple—that can serve as a type. I want, for my own satisfaction, to write...


      Orphan, I was wandering in black and with an eye vacant of family: at the quincunx, the tents of a fair were unfolded; did I experience the future and that I would take this form? I loved the odor of the vagabonds, and was drawn toward them, forgetting my comrades. No cry of a chorus clamoring through the canvas rift, nor distant tirade, the drama requiring the holy hour of the footlights, I wanted to speak with an urchin too unsteady in his wavering to figure forth among his people, in a nightcap cut like Dante’s hood—who was already...


      Ah, Silence! It is certain that stretched out beside me, as in a dream, the rocking of the journey from beneath the wheels lulling the flowers that have interjected themselves, every woman, and I know of one who sees clearly in this respect, would excuse me from the effort of uttering a single syllable: to compliment her aloud on some interrogatory costume, almost offering itself to the man in whose favor the afternoon draws to a close, being unable, contrary to all this fortuitous conjunction of circumstances, to suggest more than the distance which on her features ends in the...


      I had rowed for a long time, with a clean, sweeping, drowsy motion, my eyes turned inward in utter forgetfulness of the passage, as the laughter of the hour flowed round about. So much motionlessness idled away the time that, brushed by a dull sound into which my boat half slid, I was only able to determine that it had come to a halt by the steady glittering of initials on the bared oars, which recalled me to my worldly identity.

      What was happening? where was I?

      To see clearly into my adventure, I had to call to mind my...


      Spring impels the organism to acts which, in another season, are unknown to it, and many a treatise in natural history abounds in descriptions of this phenomenon among animals. Of how much more plausible interest it would be to record certain of the changes that the climacteric moment brings about in the behavior of individuals fashioned for a spiritual destiny! As for myself, the irony of winter barely having left me, I hold on to something of its state of ambivalence, lest it be replaced by a naive or absolute naturalism capable of pursuing enjoyment in the differentiation of various...

    • GLORY / LA GLOIRE (pp. 117-118)

      Glory! Until yesterday I didn’t know it in its indisputable essence, and from now on nothing else so-called will ever be of interest to me.

      A hundred posters absorbing the uncomprehended gold of the days (treason of letters) flew by, as if to all the outposts of the city, my eyes being drawn to the horizon’s edge by a departure on the rails before being gathered into the abstruse loftiness that an approach to a forest in the time of its apotheosis bestows.

      But such discord amid the exaltation of that hour: the name of Fontainebleau—this name known for...

    • PREFACE / PRÉFACE (pp. 121-123)
    • A THROW OF THE DICE / UN COUP DE DÉS (pp. 124-146)




      beneath an incline

      desperately plane

      on a wing

      its own


      back in advance from being unable to dress its flight

      and covering the spurtings

      cutting off the surges

      most inwardly sums up

      the shadow buried in the deeps by this alternate sail

      to the point of adapting

      to the wingspan

      its gaping maw like the shell

      of a ship

      listing to starboard or larboard




      sous une inclinaison

      plane desesperement


      la sienne


      avance retombee d'un mal a dresser Ie vol

      et couvrant les jaillissements

      coup ant au ras les bonds

      tres a...

    • POÉSIES (pp. 149-240)

      The first publication of thePoésiesin book form was issued in Belgium by the firm of Edmond Deman in 1899, the year after Mallarmé’s death. Prior to the Deman edition, the poems had been published in reviews and, in 1887, many of them had appeared in successive issues ofLa Revue Indépendante. In 1913 Mallarmé’s son-in-law, Dr. Edmond Bonniot, and his daughter, Geneviève, published a new edition of thePoésiesthrough theNouvelle Revue Française, which contained a number of previously unpublished poems. In general, the present volume follows the standard Pléiade edition of theɶuvres Complètesof 1951,...

    • POËMES EN PROSE (pp. 241-263)

      Published separately between 1864 and 1895, the twelve poems included in thePoëmes en Prosesection of theɶuvres Complètesfirst appeared as a group in Pages (Brussels, 1891) and then subsequently inDivagations(Paris, 1896) under the heading “Anecdotes ou Poëmes.” A thirteenth piece, “Conflit,” added to theDivagations, was omitted from thePoëmes en Prosesection of the Pléiade edition and included underVariations sur un Sujet(seeOC, 355-360). The present edition follows the sequencing of the Pléiade text, which in turn (except for the omission of “Conflit”) follows that ofDivagations.

      “Le Phénomène Futur” was composed...

    • UN COUP DE DÉS (pp. 264-276)

      Un Coup de Dés, a poem that occupies a singular position not only in Mallarmé’s oeuvre but in European literature as a whole, appeared for the first time in the international journalCosmopolisin May 1897. It was not published on its own until 1914, when it was issued by theNouvelle Revue Françaisein an edition prepared by the poet’s son-in-law, Dr. Edmond Bonniot. Before his death in 1898, Mallarmé had corrected the proofs to a deluxe edition of the poem, measuring approximately fifteen-and-one-half inches in height and eleven-and-one-half inches in width, which was to be published with illustrations...

  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 277-282)
  9. Back Matter (pp. 283-284)