Also available from Continuum: After Finitude, Quentin Meillassoux Art and Fear, Paul Virilio Being and Event, Alain Badiou Chronicles of Consensual Times, Jacques Rancière Conditions, Alain Badiou Dissensus, Jacques Rancière Infinite Thought, Alain Badiou Logics of Worlds, Alain Badiou Negative Horizon, Paul Virilio Politics of Aesthetics, Jacques Rancière Seeing the Invisible, Michel Henry The Five Senses, Michel Serres Theoretical Writings, Alain Badiou Theory of the Subject, Alain Badiou Time for Revolution, Antonio Negri Forthcoming: Althusser’s Lesson, Jacques Rancière

Mallarmé The Politics of the Siren Jacques Rancière Translated by Steven Corcoran .

II.Continuum International Publishing Group The Tower Building 80 Maiden Lane 11 York Road Suite 704 London SE1 7NX New York.Z5R3413 2011   841’. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means.   PQ2344.  Mallarmé. 1996 This English translation © Continuum. Norfolk NR21 8NN . NY 10038 Originally published in French as Mallarmé: La politique de la sirène © Hachette Littératures. Jacques.         p. or any information storage or retrieval system. Title.8--dc22 2011002463 Typeset by Fakenham Prepress Solutions. Stéphane.    Includes bibliographical references. Fakenham. 1842–1898--Criticism and interpretation. cm. including photocopying. recording. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.   I. English]    Mallarmé : the politics of the siren / Jacques Rancière . translated by Steven Corcoran. electronic or mechanical.   [Mallarmé. ISBN: 978-1-4411-4182-8 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Rancière. Steven. 2011 All rights reserved. without prior permission in writing from the publishers.   ISBN 978-0-8264-3840-9   1. Corcoran.

dance.Table of contents Notes on the translation Foreword  ix xiii The foam of the poem 1 The white concern4 The poetics of mystery 9 The terms of mystery10 Scene of the dream13 From nothingness to the nothing16 The method of fiction21 The fan of the poem23 The hymn of spiritual hearts 27 The religion of the century27 Two theses on divinity29 The poet and the worker31 Musical religion35 The god Wagner: poem. poem: the circle of ‘mimesis’48 The authentic page54 v . music and politics38 The duty of the book 43 The poem as thought: a secular history45 Music.

mallarmÉ Appendix: selected texts 61 Notes87 Index93 vi .

as part of the Burgess programme run by the Cultural Department of the French Embassy in London. vii .This book is supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Notes on the translation Mallarmé’s poetic enterprise. ‘included and latent’ in it). which implies a certain discussion between philosophy and poetry. at bottom. and while setting Mallarmé’s work in its socio-political context. care is taken ix . it would form an interval between philosophy (traditionally understood) and poetry. This relationship. Rancière brings a set of operations to bear on Mallarmé’s texts so as to enact a leveling out of philosophy and poetry. thought and the politico-historical moment. to be sure. cannot reside in the particular philosophical notions it might seek to convey. In this way philosophy could be described as the creation of a language that works to translate between forms of discourse without seeking to institute a hierarchy of one over the other. And yet. as if. is then redoubled in a specific way by Rancière’s treatment of the Mallarméan oeuvre. Rancière seeks to uncover a Mallarmé that is delivered of the metaphysical mystifications and banalizing psychologizations. and showing us the specific links that the Mallarméan poetic undertaking forged between poetry. it does. But he makes sure not to adopt any of the various positions of philosophical mastery that would subjugate the text to a ‘meaning’. as Mallarmé says. to give us a more straightforward reading of his specific difficulty. to say nothing of the uncomprehending condemnations that plague interpretations of his work. entertain a singular relationship to philosophy (which is. Rancière claims. his poetry was no more than an aestheticized philosophy. then. In so doing. This singularity. if it stands. must be understood as something that stands or falls insofar as ‘its light as well as its night comes from itself’. Taking poetry as a form of thought on a par with philosophy.

H.mallarmÉ to avoid falling into the trap of historicism. Uniquely situated as an interval between discourses. I have mostly had recourse to two books: Stéphane Mallarmé: Collected Poems and other verse. Indeed. 2006. and Stéphane Mallarmé: Collected Poems. and have tried to use their multiplicity as productively as possible. 1994. but also furthers Rancière’s own ideas about the ‘politics of the poem’ or the ‘politics of aesthetics’. translated and with a commentary by Henry Weinfield. notably insofar as they variously draw out the key linguistic relationships and syntax that are central to Rancière’s argument. in its fictional revelation of the light and the night of Mallarméan aesthetics and poetry. Instead. one could think that it would be exceptionally fruitful one day to have a comprehensive retranslation of these texts. but insists on the irreducibility of the poetic dispositif. but one that deconstructs the pretences of philosophy and the figures of the poet it must necessarily construct for itself. even on its own. exacting syntax and novel linguistic relationships beset any translation of this work with myriad intricacies which push beyond the resources of the English language. The English translation of his prose is taken from Stéphane Mallarmé: Divagations. There exists no adequately resonant English language into which to translate this discursive hybrid of the nineteenth-century poet and the twentieth-century philosopher. It constitutes a philosophical intervention into the discourse on Mallarmé in particular. Mallarmé’s poetic ambitions.M. And of course I have not omitted to include the original French for readers who wish to explore a little further. Blackmore. translated by E. done in the wake of Rancière’s work—as the changing views of Mallarmé scholarship must necessarily have an influence upon our translations). For the English translations of Mallarmé’s poems. that an encounter between poetry and philosophy can emerge only through a fictional reconstruction. and with an introduction by Elizabeth McCombie. in a way that is fully consistent with Mallarméan aesthetics. Concerning Mallarmé in English. I have learnt much from the many admirable translations of his work. Oxford: Oxford University Press. thus presents singular challenges for the translator to find a similar light and night in English. and poetry in general. This poetico-philosophical work. x . one in which discourses and genres are set free from the hierarchical moorings which overdetermine their conclusions. and A. (As an aside. Rancière shows. this book provides a scholarly reactivation of the historical sediments of the times. Berkeley: University of California Press. It sheds light on Mallarmé’s ‘specific difficulty’.

guidance was taken from Mallarmé on Fashion. Finally. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.N. xi .M. edited and translated by Rosemary Lloyd. Cain. 1988. Oxford: Berg. for Mallarmé’s writings in La Dernière Mode. 2004. and his correspondence from: Selected Letters of Stéphane Mallarmé. Lastly. my warm thanks go to Jacques Rancière for his friendly support and encouragement. 2007.Notes on the translation translated by Barbara Johnson. My own efforts at understanding Mallarmé’s texts would have been considerably less precise (and certainly much less enjoyable) without having had the privilege of Aurélie Maurin’s literary verve and abiding friendship. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. translated with a commentary by P. Furbank and A.


have a tight-knit network whose mesh counters the eye habituated to reading a line ahead trying to grasp the meaning of the following sentence. of which his posthumously published booklet of obscure poems is said to reveal the debris. insomniac and sterile. in which he confessed his mad ambition and radical deadlock. The revelation of that truth is then performed according to two inverse and complementary logics: discovering xiii . Matching the obscurity of the text is the figure of poet. feathers of celestial birds and storms of passion. grappling with the virgin sheet of paper and the nothingness encountered in hollowing out verse. In order to grasp this difficulty. His poems.Foreword Some names project a shadow that devours them. buried under clouds of reverie. The following pages would like to help shed light on this night. And some poets’ names seem to thicken this darkness even further. and that of an obscurity close to the impenetrable night. The idea of secret presupposes that the truth is hidden somewhere beneath the surface apprehended by the eye and the mind. to extricate both the poet’s words from the shadow cast. it has to be separated from notions that travesty it. and. and even his prose pieces. The name Mallarmé is obstinately associated with a twofold image: that of a poetry that is carried to the quintessence of something akin to the silence of infinite spaces. in which he recommended burning the vain pile of notes destined for the grand oeuvre of the Book. and Mallarmé’s specific difficulty from obscurity. From the letters that Mallarmé wrote as a young man. it is easy to trace a line straight to some confrontation with the night of the absolute. to his last will as a poet. This is true of the name ‘poet’. from that of secret. Mallarmé symbolizes the poet of obscurity par excellence. first of all.

referred to as Stéphane. The advantage of the hermetic explanation is to evade all proof. conversely.1 The converse explanation has the symmetrical advantage or drawback: it is not wanting in material. or not the same as Mallarmé’s. the way in which the verse’s lace manifests and subtracts its object. interpreters will still always find it possible to invoke the testimony bequeathed from his father of the story of long and ­ mysterious nocturnal conversations with the poet of the night. an insomniac who was born into a complicated family situation and had his ‘problems’ with women. if a body of doctrine is nowhere to be found. above all. was indeed a rather anxious man. a double ‘key’ to Mallarmé is yielded. 3 The poetic game or ‘blasphemy’. millions of people have had such problems and not left behind any verse.2 Still. as he pleases. Lace sweeps itself aside In the doubt of the ultimate Game Only to expose profanely Eternal absence of bed. the spiritual message dissembled by the visible intention of images or. Setting within the same lines the virtuality of several more or less trivial or allegorical readings is the act of a poetics that the point is to understand. The poem and its ‘difficulty’ emerge from the poetic arrangement and from it alone. can read either a metaphysical allegory or the story of an extra-conjugal escapade. denies all secrets. By these means. Gnosis.mallarmÉ the extraordinary beneath the ordinary or the ordinary beneath the extraordinary. The first key attributes his oeuvre’s difficulty to the hermetic intention to say and hide simultaneously the secrets of some gnosis or Cabbala. And Étienne Mallarmé. conceals from the curious the paths by which it wends its way. he is a difficult author. What remains. We are told this in the poem’s continuation: from the belly of the mandolin alone ‘might one filial have been born’. He also liked to be facetious and certainly took delight in the ambiguity of those of his poems in which the reader. the intimate secret of a sexed body hidden beneath the pomp of thoughts and words. by definition. Mallarmé is not a hermetic author. Une dentelle s’abolit Dans le doute du Jeu suprême À n’entrouvrir comme un blasphème Qu’absence éternelle de lit. So. sublime or naughty. A difficult author is one the xiv . which is to say. is the fundamental rule of Mallarméan poetry: that the poem is only of worth on condition that its light as well as its night comes from itself. in keeping with the spirit of times that were avid for great initiatory secrets. Doubtless it was not by chance that Mallarmé set out this rule just above two deliberately ambiguous poems.

this other way is identified with a radical experience of language and thought. the pure passivity of language. He is xv . Mallarmé is held to be a privileged witness of this experience of writing. The time has come to free him from that from which he strove to free himself. wherein the writer becomes the hero of a spiritual adventure. the equivalence of the two experiences of writing and of suicide? The paradox of suicide is to want one death and to meet with another: the indefinite anonymous death. turns the writer into a witness and reduces the difficulty of his writing to the authenticity of an experience of impotence and shadows. or through the shattered project of the Book. to this meaningless game which aims to turn impotence into a power. in his tale of Igitur. in accordance with different modalities. the intention of the work reaches the point at which it is experienced as identical to its contrary. It is time to stop reading Mallarmé through the testimonies of his dreams and failures over the course of twenty-five years. he seeks to exit from the night to turn his tale of suicide and night into the homeopathic remedy to cure the impotence to write.Foreword wording of whose thought is done such that it breaks with the ordinary circle of the banal and the hidden. even that of ‘being done with’. He wrote the tale of Igitur precisely in order to ‘cure’ himself and to be able to become a ‘pure and simple writer of literature’ again. of a language which no longer says anything but is content to be. in Mallarmé. a circle that constitutes what Mallarmé calls ‘universal reporting’. Mallarmé is not the silent and nocturnal thinker of the poem that is too pure ever to be written. Privileged and deceptive simultaneously. and.4 In the night of writing. all interesting authors are difficult. Mallarmé.5 Perhaps saying that he wrote it goes too far. Beyond the banality of the secret. for starters. the existence of a singular dilemma between the testimony of veridical impotence and the deceptiveness of writing that is unfaithful to its nocturnal source. In this sense. which abolishes all power and all will. conceiving the poem’s night in this way is in fact to imply. It was Maurice Blanchot who ennobled this interpretation. again. Accessing Mallarmé’s difficulty presupposes that you traverse yet another way of thinking through his night. since it was left unfinished and none of it was ever proposed for publication. However. The authenticity of writing is thus to take account of the parallel experience of an activity of language which is only possible from the very point where it encounters pure passivity. This. the essential passivity which dissolves every power in advance. made a clear separation between writing and testimony. for his part. without relation to anyone. Did Mallarmé not record.

Mallarmé visibly preferred the attentive gaze grasping the splendour of a decorative object. one which responds to an acute awareness of the complexity of a historical moment and the way in which. If Mallarmé’s writing is difficult. that ‘the social relationship and its momentary measure. and of the relations forged in his time between politics. multiplied the clauses attaching its connections to an idea and its diverse analogies to an image. short of rare essences and of unheard-of words. abbreviations and detours that Mallarmé believed were necessary to work into the common use of language – possible. Concerning the sense of ‘earthly association’. He was an enthusiastic listener of the Lamoreux and Colonne concerts. in this moment. By no means did he write absent-mindedly the following: namely. it is possible to understand the displacements. On this basis. belonging to the domain of Letters’. He enjoyed the ‘dietary’ task of reporting on World Expositions as he also did the spectacle of pantomimes and fireworks. to enter into the simple difficulty of his oeuvre. was ‘a fiction. or the dream of revamping popular melodrama. the role that fell to it.mallarmÉ not the artist living in the aesthete’s ivory tower. Mallarmé was thus a witness and analyst whose lucidity found scarcely an equal among the professionals of thought. Des Esseintes. in short. the economy. He heard and sought to understand the noise of anarchist bombs. too. of a rustling robe or a fairground attraction. had to tighten up or lengthen in order to play. in view of governing’. His friend Huysmans can himself take pleasure in the poor trinketry with which he decorates the interior of his hero. xvi . He was a reader of Zola.6 If he condensed a proposition into a word or. it is because the poem. in turn dazzled by the power of the novelist – a resolute opponent of naturalist poetry – and admiring of his civic courage in defending Dreyfus. designed. To the transcription of the great drama of the absolute. it is because it obeys a demanding poetics. He was the contemporary of a Republic which was celebrating its centenary and seeking forms of civic worship to replace the pomp of religions and kings. and he was an attentive witness of the Wagnerian revolution and the way that it linked an idea of community to an idea of music and theatre. among other things. the ‘crisis of verse’ was linked to a crisis of the ideal and of the social. dresses or frivolous festivals for the female readers of La Dernière Mode. in the complexity of the time. to broaden the education of the masses and to promote musicality among the people. art and religion. tightened or lengthened. conversely. His pages as an esthete are rather drab by comparison with the dazzling pages that Mallarmé devoted to describing objects of furniture.

7 What are we to make of these fourteen octosyllables. mais y baves) Suprême une entre les épaves Abolit le mât dévêtu Ou cela que furibond faute De quelque perdition haute Tout l’abîme vain éployé Hushed to the crushing cloud Basalt and lava its form Even to echoes subdued By an ineffectual horn What shipwreck sepulchral has bowed (You know this. In 1897. decadent poetry: A la nue accablante tu Basse de basalte et de laves A même les échos esclaves Par une trompe sans vertu Quel sépulcral naufrage (tu Le sait.The foam of the poem In what do the alleged unintelligibility and the effective intelligence of the Mallarméan poem consist? Let’s start with a poem specifically accused of obscurity. The flank of a young siren girl. Tolstoy. écume. in What is Art?. which unfold in a single phrase devoid of any punctuation apart from that which. but slobber on) The mast supreme in a crowd Of flotsam and jetsam though torn Or will that which in fury defaulted From some perdition exalted The vain abyss outspread Dans le si blanc cheveu qui traîne Have stingily drowned in the swirl Avarement aura noyé Of a white hair’s trailing thread Le flanc enfant d’une sirène. in the parenthesis. foam. cites the following sonnet as an example of incomprehensible. singles out a sole word: ‘écume’ (foam)? From which angle are 1 .

in effect. The arabesque has its own number and logic. which links together the figures appearing. It distinguishes the arrangement of its lines from that characterizing the newspaper: the open page receiving a cast of ink. at the intersections of the poem: ‘The total arabesque.mallarmÉ we to take this fugitive object. through hypothesis’. on a double syntactical pivot: the unique commas that isolate the word écume (foam) and the ‘or else’. of which our sonnet is like a summary and to which the indication thus applies a fortiori: ‘Everything happens. the trace of a ‘sepulchral shipwreck’ which swallowed up a ship to its last – its ‘supreme one’ – bit of wreckage. but on a strict condition. First hypothesis: the great drama went unnoticed. the poem is neither the translation of an indefinable state of mind nor a polysemic game with language. What is this play of hypotheses? The rarefaction of poetic language. meant to be a strict reporting of facts such as they can be observed by all and communicated to others in the way that a coin with constant value could be passed into their hands. Hypothesis is the name of that which replaces narrative in Mallarmé. an object or a feeling. The arabesque subtracts the poem from this circulation. Or else – second hypothesis – its agitation attests only to the frolics of a fictional sea being. A pivot of the preserved intelligibility of the poem. the supple line of the phrase which slips from grasp. But this opposition between great drama and lightweight pantomime is doubled by another alternative as to the relationship between the event and its effect in its site. which ties them together. by shortcut. but the virtuality of history. a siren. not to mention the siren that brings it off and seems to initial it? Against an immediate understanding of the lines spread out before the gaze. the mast. gives us not the keys to the enigma. or the choice between the hypotheses it proposes to us. He provided the following indication to the reader of A Dice Throw.9 Reading the poem reconstitutes not history. Mallarmé in fact placed a singular rampart: not the great wall of hermetic words. which weighs the two terms of an alternative against one another. Music and Letters states the law of this mobile line. it remained silent (‘tu’). First hypothesis: it is the witness of a major drama. has dizzying leaps into known fears’. but the syntactical articulations of the problem. reduced to its ‘essential rhythm’. but.8 The arabesque works to dispel the illusion that the poem is about describing – to enable the recognition of – a person or a story. suddenly. The ‘mystery’ that it sets up is not some vagueness into which all meaning would dissolve. the foam alone knows what it conceals. on the contrary. The poem’s single phrase turns. its 2 . The Mallarméan line is not vague.

Hushed to the crushing cloud. He said as much in an illustrious text: ‘Nature has taken place. which we can therefore identify with the white line of the foam. and less still A Dice Throw. He was most assuredly also a fervent disciple of Baudelaire. that champion of gold seekers. However. to go. The constellation that the dice throw caused to sparkle on the ‘vacant and superior’ surface is also reminiscent of the ‘new stars’ that these navigators would see rise from the Oceans depths. ‘full steam ahead’. for the amateur of adventures. the very opposition between the games of the siren and the sepulchral shipwreck tells us that he was of another era. can scarcely be understood. the mythical being – here. As in many tales. He was a contemporary of Monet and Renoir. his telescope aimed at the tumult of waves. and if this is forgotten.’10 And to the – far too few – subscribers of La Dernière Mode. the siren – leaves behind. But what light does this shed? Manifestly. Naturally. that which the surrounding world (vain chasm of billows) awaited but was denied. and simply sit down in front of the ocean ‘and look what there is beyond our abode. Second hypothesis: the great spectacular drama (the high perdition) is. The alternative can be clarified in this manner. at the end of the line. Mallarmé did what poets usually do – at least those who know what to do with the old moons of ‘inspiration’: he reworked the poems of his elders in his own way. he grew up in admiration of the Victor Hugo of Oceano Nox and the Vigny of The Bottle at Sea. And the dandies 3 . only an ironic trace of its ephemeral and deceptive appearing: a white piece of fairy hair.11 The time of nature and its poets is finished. that is to say. than theirs. the poem does not describe the uncertain impressions of some observer. and his art another cosmology. Mallarmé took no particular interest in scenes and stories of the sea. And he was the contemporary of Hérédia. He was no longer contemporary with painters of battles and shipwrecks. bent over the front of white caravels. it can’t be added to. the infinite and nothing’. the poet of Voyage and The Beacons. he gave the proof: the ‘modern image of nature’s insufficiency’ for us is attested by the very way in which vacationers cross it. their very ‘subject’: a boater for whom the beating of the paddle on the river surface and the light flickering in the trace of the oar replaces the ‘glory of the sun on the violet sea’ and the great dramas of confrontation between intrepid man and raging nature.The foam of the poem call – its trumpet – lacked the virtue to disturb the indifference of the site in which it occurred: a site of dark clouds like basalt and enslaved echoes. an environment naturally improper to the visibility and the hearing of the drama. on the contrary.

mallarmÉ who. just before that which declares the book closed again. the infinite or nothing. are immersed. it has an architecture in which the motifs. O my diverse Amis. which tells of another story of foam. the line by which the sea ‘becomes disjoint. from nature’12: a simple line of horizon. this foam. The book of verse. which is the infinite and nothing. The foam of the poem speaks to us of this very same: the thin line of junction and disjunction between the infinite and nothing. much more immediately intelligible. at the price of a pun (‘My old tomes closed again upon the name Paphos’). Mallarmé placed our poem second last. and bears the title ‘Salut’ (Toast): Rien. Mallarmé gave us another clue.’13 Accordingly. and combine to bring about the total rhythm: ‘Any subject is fated to imply. cultivate in its place the flowers of anti-nature. Instead. It is not an album gathering the secrets and impressions of the poet. The white concern So that we can hear this. has to eliminate chance and ‘omit the author’. vierge vers A ne désigner que la coupe Telle loin se noie une troupe De sirènes mainte à l’envers. from the master Baudelaire to the friend Huysmans.  Through winter wave and lightning burst. properly speaking. myself already on the poop. equilibrated at a distance. Nous naviguons. among the fragments brought together. There is thus every chance that our poem is an initial curtain call which finds its match in the initial curtain raiser: a similarly octosyllabic sonnet. virgin verse Only to designate the cup : Thus. in the meticulously prepared edition of his Poésies. navigation and sirens. cette écume. drowns a siren troop Many. a strange certainty about its appropriate place in the volume. Beyond nature there are railways. though the vessel lists De porter debout ce salut This toast on high and without fear 4 . moi déjà sur la poupe Friends. far off. as he understood it. remain halfway. upended. ô mes divers We navigate. At the end of railways is that which succeeds nature as object of thought and writing. Vous l’avant fastueux qui coupe You the sumptuous prow to cut Le flot de foudres et d’hivers . must balance each other out. Nothing. Une ivresse belle m’engage A lovely drunkenness enlists Sans craindre même son tangage Me to raise.

Without fuss. sepulchral shipwreck and child’s flank that we are concerned with. vain chasm. But Mallarmé considered that he should place it first in his Poésies. this ‘Toast’ makes explicit the stake of the obscure affair of clouds. And. the indiscreet padding of those ‘diverse’ friends [divers amis] who rhyme. The poem. In a sense. raising the same toast ‘to whatsoever may be worth’: an apparently nonchalant ‘whatsoever’. on the work’s frontispiece. To the point. or interregnum. the surface of a tableau and a boat’s sail. récif. comprising winter wave and lightning burst. he supplies the opening of the book which gathers together poems written over a thirty-year period. At stake.The foam of the poem Solitude. and the star that the shipwreck survivor manages to inscribe on the ‘vacant and superior’ surface. there is a tendency to classify it as one of the ‘Occasional verses’ and carefully separate it from the grand oeuvre. thus unafraid of exposing. the poet raises his glass to the adventure of the journal gathering together symbolist and decadent poets. All these metaphors crop up often in Mallarmé and designate the space and time in which the ‘restricted action’ of the poem is carried out: the winter or ‘tunnel’ of an era of transition. here as there. he compares their enterprise to the course of a ship leading new Argonauts to their treasure. the final question responds to the initial affirmation. is sister with the ‘siren troop’ that was toasted at the beginning. As such. but one that is actually perfectly determined. with ‘winter wave and lightning burst’ [d’hivers]. the Golden Fleece or hair of a siren. At the end of the book. enslaved echoes. is the poetic act. bright star A n’importe ce qui valut To whatsoever may be worth Le blanc souci de notre toile.  Our sheet’s white care in setting forth. for whatever it’s worth. since it sums up the solitary crossing which turns from the ordinary commerce of words. was first composed for a banquet of the Revue indépendante. alone in the ‘vain chasm’. rocky shoal. In the metaphor of a single ‘white sail’. That is. The siren that has perhaps disappeared. étoile Solitude. initially called ‘Toast’.14 Nothing here leads to puzzlement. with this amicable toast of circumstance. low cloud of basalt and lava. when the poet is unable to make himself heard to a crowd still to come. the poetic act and its chances of accomplishment in the present environment. then. he condenses three things: the page of writing. the low cloud or ‘basaltic veil of the banal’15 by which the commonplace of the 5 . the shipwrecking reef. The ship that has perhaps been engulfed is the one whose ‘sumptuous prow’ was launched across ‘winter wave and lightning burst’.

out to reserve a future wealth for all. for it is out to adorn itself even with that which refuses it. Second. and the ‘vain chasm’ or ‘abyss of vain hunger’ which hollows out this same public.mallarmÉ newspaper. It – and by no means the ocean – is avaricious. Frustrated by the mediocrities of the social arrangement. a great shipwreck that the servile echoes of the gazettes ignored. It devoured these perditions wherever it found them: refined individuals in attendance at the spectacle of the ‘twilight of the gods’ as played in the Wagnerian temple. and the plebs attending the commonness of the melodrama. at Ponsard’s ancient-style tragedies. Mallarmé transforms them into the emblems of the poem as such. But there are two opposite ways to understand this burying. it can consist in the evasion by which the siren of the new poem dissimulates itself in the very stomach of the monster. Conversely. On the contrary. First hypothesis: perhaps the overproud poetic ship in pursuit of golden sound. In Homer. The vain chasm of the times and the public was by no means indifferent to the greatness of ‘high perditions’. be it with substitutes. it yearned for these perditions of the golden chimera – the chimera of a reign still to come that would take over from the simple monetary reign of gold used for the exchanging of commodities. The fury for greatness of the ‘jealous hurricane’17 or ‘famished riot’18 can only work to bury the frail siren of the new poem inside its voracious stomach. on the sea of indifference of the times. The siren is no longer 6 . because sirens. a public that is obscurely aware of the latent and avid greatness of whatever can nurture. do not drown in water. except in the writings of poets. each of which is sufficient: first. powers of a song which can simultaneously make itself heard and transform itself into silence. with its public. because sirens do not exist. drawn from an economic notion of the public. or of its chimerical star. ‘the opening of the maw of a Chimera that is misrecognized and carefully frustrated by the current social system. It can consist in the monster’s assimilating and travestying the new poem. foundered on the reef of its own ambition. Second hypothesis: perhaps the part played out differently. There are two reasons why the siren was not drowned in the abyss.’16 We can therefore reformulate the initial hypotheses in terms of the book’s balance sheet. they were fictional beings. and more radically. is filled with ‘mediocre elements’. deceptive powers whose songs would draw navigators into the abyss if they did not avail themselves of means to avoid hearing them. It matters to it to choose those to whom it should or should not speak. the bourgeois. or the spectacle. The Mallarméan poem is like the Platonic living logos. in contrast to boats. they dive down in its depths to escape danger.

palpitating in the unconscious flank of the hour. It is the transformation of the narrative into a vanishing hypothesis. what the poem carries out. will find the hour ready’.  .19 The movement of our sonnet thus sums up the adventure of the new poem. is very specifically the event and calculated risk of the poem in times and a ‘mental milieu’ which are not yet ready to welcome it. the suspension itself of fiction. with the tacit injunction that nothing. at the very least. To the friend who wants to ‘act’. In short. one which transposes the old fable of the overproud. to risk certain conclusions of extreme art [. The poem escapes from the abyss awaiting it because it has modified the mode of fiction itself. The argument of this poem is very strictly prescribed by the question concluding ‘Restricted Action’. rather than ‘betting on. our sonnet is something like a fable with a moral.] to play them. it is the act. So what the siren metaphorizes. The ‘mast stripped’ bare is at once that to which Ulysses had himself tied in order to resist the siren song and that to which he clung in the storm to reach the shore of the Phaeacians. its internal transformation. an incomplete context around you. shown clear and evident to the pages.  . but also its play in the site in which it is produced. has substituted for the great Odyssean epic the song of a vanishing siren. And it is this transformation which scans the poem. even through a triumphal reversal. the poet asks whether it would not be better. The play of hypotheses is also an operation of substitution. 7 . stormvanquished willow and the frail reed with the art to escape the storm’s fury.The foam of the poem a deceptive being of fiction.


But what exactly did we do? Say what the poem ‘means’? However. the turns of its seduction? The Mallarméan poem undoubtedly exploits a finite bundle of poetic images and metaphors. It remains only to know what is meant by ‘material’ and in what exactly the act of symbolizing consists. rose and setting dawns congealed in crimson and blood. here again. The material is old. does not lead to puzzlement. turning the poem into a skiff floating on the vast sea of ages.20 The definition. Conversely. than this ‘mysterious meaning of the aspects of existence’ – in short. 9 . then. more than one of which has been lost to the night of time: the risk and solitude of the work launched among the fortune of billows. We marked out a translation of the poem’s initial hypotheses. Nothing is vaguer. the singularity of the enterprise which has associated the generic name of ‘symbolism’ with the proper name Mallarmé plays out in the very idea of what it is ‘to mean’. or a siren apt to reveal to the senses. he once ‘stammered’ the following definition: ‘Poetry is the expression through human language restored to its essential rhythm of the mysterious meaning of the aspects of existence’. No more than in describing them. and dissemble from the intelligence. the paleness of a lamp and the uncertain shine of stars. at first glance. Mallarmé had no interest in using marine impressions to communicate general thoughts about human destiny. celestial choirs and swans with captive wings. nights hesitating between the cold of empty rooms. ‘bruised’.The poetics of mystery Shall we say. So what is poetry for him? In response to a pressing questioner. by and large. Only to misinterpretation. as is the way in which it serves as a symbol. that the crushing cloud of the involuted arabesque succeeds the rather dull light of the ordinary metaphor. the foam – to whose expression the rhythm of the Mallarméan poem is dedicated.

our abode with authenticity and constitutes the only spiritual task there is. We shall call mystery the system of relations between the aspects of existence proper to that consecration. conversely. in turn. it can be the glory of that which turns this contingency into an unheard-of power of affirmation. beauty or a louse – with the divine model that it 10 .21 What ‘takes place’. Beyond nature – Mallarmé’s century cried it out repeatedly – there is the mind. as world or abode of man. beyond the necessity of that which is? Logically. What exactly is nature? Behind its usual ‘common definition of foliage’. ‘spirit’ has no other content than the ‘beyond’ of nature where each individual lodges his god in the way he pleases. models were imitated in order to provide the spectator or reader with the pleasure of recognition. In the times of nature and its representation. which renders its idea tangible. and there are archetypes. namely a model. So. or spirit. that which provided every human reality – justice of the city or carpenter’s bed. The poetic task is the highest spiritual task because it fixes the system of aspects which consecrate an abode. nature can be summed up by the ‘absolute expression’ according to which ‘only what is. Mallarmé summed up that beyond of being in two words: existence and abode. that which consecrates the site of existence. it is that which can not be. in this way. As such. The trouble with that response is that it is tautological. is an aspect? Let’s start by saying what it is not. Only this takes two figures: it can be the illusion or the misfortune of that which has no reason to be. the Platonic eidos.mallarmÉ the whole problem in Mallarmé lies in seeing that all these notions are perfectly articulated. Anticipating some philosophers of the century to follow. which is very precisely that which takes place ‘beyond’ nature. but the type that sums up each of these virtues or excellences. man of duty or beautiful woman. in order to determine it an idea of nature is also necessary. then. have a single venerable model: the idea or form.’22 We shall call spirit. now. is’. in its immanence. in the first analysis. But there are two sorts of models: there are characters that we recognize similar to the experience we have of who we are and of those who are close to us. The terms of mystery What is this mystery then? First let’s define its place. or. These models. the essential forms. What. which are not at all such and such a courageous warrior. the definition of poetry is extended into a task: ‘it confers.

Above these Ideas stands. Mallarmé was a contemporary not only of Monet. ‘the one available act.23 Instead of the pulverized idea. the Idea of the Good. that is. that assembles separate elements into figures. but events. or cuts out a completely new figure from a sensory datum. not the forms of things. a device which made it possible to see the invisible moments of the successive times into which a bird’s flight or horse’s gallop breaks down. unknown and floating’. the light that illuminates the intelligible world in the way that the sun lights up the sensible world. in the meantime. forever and alone. The poet no longer has a model. The anecdotic crisis of the venerable Alexandrine refers back to the more serious blackout of the sky of Ideas. according to Plato.24 But his problem was obviously not to break natural phenomena down in order to understand or depict them better. aspects to grasp. the exemplary tracing of an ideality without model. there is. Mallarmé expressed this in his own way: once Nature ‘takes place’. but also of Etienne Marey and his chronophotographical gun. It is neither a model nor a character but an ‘essential aspect’: not the copy of an essence but. It lies precisely in this act of reordering. Henceforth. We will call the products of this work types. golden fringe of light on a stage curtain. There is no longer ‘some supreme mould for something that doesn’t exist’. The Mallarméan type differs from what is usually understood by this name. It is an essential aspect. according to an essential rhythm. The new idea is a wholly superficial thing. 11 . Aspects are not to be compiled to form the recomposed unity of a known scene. There is nothing mysterious about this mystery. or rather synthesis of aspects. To understand this. on the contrary. the snapshot of world events. it is by the ‘mere dialectic of verse’ that he will be able to revivify the seal of the idea. there are. few or many’.The poetics of mystery tried imperfectly to imitate. which are present in every ordinary spectacle on the condition of noticing them. The idea assembles scattered aspects to turn them into viewpoints onto another world – present-absent in the ordinary spectacle – a world of virtualities of correspondence between human acts and the forms of their abode. is to understand the relations. It was to raise them to the power of the artifice. In the place of models to copy. precisely. ‘many scattered veins of ore. to imitate. by forging together. its dust: hair of foam. They are reordered – differently configured and set in rhythm – in the mystery of the Idea. no more ‘divine denominator of our apotheosis’. scattered in this dust. This is what has disappeared. there is no need to get lost in metaphysical depths. clown sequins. and woman’s hair as flight of flame. celestial or human.

we encounter it. either recognized as such. Aristotle to Horace. But the siren does not stand opposed to the classical canon as some monster. eagle and majesty. ‘symbol’ means.’25 This is what is ‘absent from all bouquets’: not the ideal flower or the idea of the flower. once and for all. Horace to Boileau. Accordingly. but a ‘metaphor summing up one of the elementary aspects of our form: knife. etymologically.  . . in the form of a virtual flower. The metaphor and the symbol are not first of all concrete images representing abstract ideas or ways of associating them together. as some impossible alloy of incompatible bodies or properties. most working-class – forms of art. or symbol. Horace fixed. is this Latin of the Petit Larousse’s pink pages: [.  . but the tracing of that entrechat. floating between the woman and the flower. pertaining to the era of representation owed its virtue to its fixity: sun and glory. immediately dissipated. or one through whom we recognize something. accord or sign of alliance. lion and courage. the absolute evil: it was the incoherent metaphor. The metaphor. of a calyx-chalice26: schema or matrix of all flowers. the beautiful power of artifice that stands in contrast to the ‘beautiful boy’ whose model the Plato of the Phaedrus bequeathed to Aristotle.mallarmÉ Above all. The symbolist metaphor is the gesture of a displacement that puts together. etc. We encounter it with the most self-evidence in the most ephemeral – indeed. the dancer does not present a woman dancing any more than the story written on the booklet. it is momentary. that is. in its own way. The dancer is not a woman. and Boileau to everybody else. goblet. Desinit in piscem. serpent and ruse. In his The Poetic Art. flower. to outline the form. What the end of our poem translates. The siren is the emblem of the new beauty. a way of combining steps and a schema of the world. The siren is not the combination of 12 . . on the condition of being placed at the ‘philosophical point’ where the mystery of its appearing takes shape in the exact interval between a human movement and a suggested figure. the beautiful body of a woman that ends in the tail of a fish.] Avariciously will have drowned The child’s flank of a siren. but also of all unions between the opening of a flower and the gesture of a hand that lifts the cup of friendship and celebration. The metaphor is above all displacement. It consists entirely in the vanishing tracing of a precarious ideality.

but of accord in general. ‘Dream’ designates not the cloud in which the sentimental soul looses himself but the capacity to ‘compare aspects and count their number as it touches our intelligence’. it is the random and momentary alliance of a woman’s movement – the dancer’s entrechat but also furl of hair or unfolding fan – and a form of world.27 the inner fold of the vanished heaven of ideas. an emblem of no virtue or property. qua substitute for the vanished sun.28 it is the gap remarked by the attentive spectator in ‘what is’. But all of a sudden the spectacle spun out of control. the metaphor unfolds and refolds the accord between a vanishing tracing and any bit of golden dust. After a skilful movement from the clown. Not by chance did Mallarmé talk of his ‘indubitable wing’. In Mallarméan terms: a man ‘used to dreaming’. Allusion. Hence. The bear trained into a question mark is here tantamount to his homonym. this instantaneity. This is the ‘mystery’.The poetics of mystery woman and fish. It was the sublime spectacle of the animal adopting a human posture to ask this maker of illusions the secret of his power. of the accord traced and immediately effaced by the steps moving between the theatre of our spirit and the theatre – or rather theatralization – of the world. discerning in it the disappearing appearing of that which can or can not be. on an evening like any other. requires a spectator on the spot to discover in it and make explicit the other theatre that is present in the everyday. Simply. is play – both theatre performance and wager on a dice throw. the celestial constellation of the Ursa Major. Suggestion is the movement of this play which carries towards a spectator – perhaps absent from the encounter – the emblem traced by the dancer. a sequined clown led the exhibition of a tamed bear. it involves real accuracy and instantaneity. that which makes it possible to grasp its golden dust in ‘many scattered veins of ore’. in order not to dissolve into nothingness. Its theatre does not lose itself in any vagueness. Scene of the dream The word dream is used very precisely. ‘Suggestion’ and ‘allusion’ – two Mallarméan master words – are to be understood in this sense. It is the movement that unites – or symbolizes – two theatres in a single presentation. according to its etymology. the bear’s two front paws were made to settle on his shoulders. in a working-class theatre into which no aesthete ordinarily strays. On the contrary. Between the biological individual and the physical world. which appears at the end instead of A Dice Throw or the ‘Sonnet 13 .

and magnified the stage’. Brusquely arose the interval of décor pertaining to another emblem. The crowd here disappeared ‘in the emblem of its spiritual situation. Or rather.mallarmÉ in –yx’. In this ‘absolute place’ there lives ‘one of the dramas that astral history could elect to take place in this modest theatre’. of the director. These figures broke all the charm. a place charged with ‘sight’ instead of ‘visions’: Oui. Of course. the point of view which separates out this ‘clear spectacle’ from ordinary trestles. in the spectacle. in an isle that the air had charged De vue et non de visions not with mere visions but with sight Toute fleur s’étalait plus large every flower spread out enlarged Sans que nous en devisions.30 This is the point of view which elects an ‘aspect’. a flower akin to its name. The trained bear. a messenger of the gods and substitute of the flown gods. but also to the new figure of the Idea – itself no longer the celestial form but the type. turned into the emblem of the crowd convoked to the spectacle of its greatness. dans une île que l’air charge Yes. as is said in another poem. not only to productions of nature or ornamental flowers. is identical to the hundred irises summoned in the poem to ‘arise to this new duty’ of being. also reputed to be incomprehensible. at no word that we could recite Telles. The ‘lucid contour’ that. surrounds the flowers and separates them out from gardens is the essential aspect.29 The dream consists in the power of catching this other performance with the gaze and marking with it speech. just like Iris. immenses. The ‘hermetic’ poem does not say any more than the narrative of this evening full of surprises. that each was usually garlanded with a clear contour. iris. another way of seeing was possible: that of the clown. the aspect itself is a ‘point of view’: a point from which is defined. and this breach parted it from the garden bed. the limpid power of the gaze. que chacune Ordinairement se para D’un lucide contour.31 And so immense they were. which is that of ‘reality’ par excellence: a piece of raw meat was offered to the bear as bait to get him to give up the living prey that he held between his 14 . a performance that is ‘clear and larger than the stage’. like a golden halo. the sensory flower that is turned into the allegory of itself and the emblem of the ideality of the sensory: a calyx-chalice identical to the halo surrounding it. lacune Qui des jardins la sépara.

the agreement.33 This is what the poem writes. and maybe even the true one’. None of these exegetes apparently noticed the following strange fact: all the play’s characters die by the hand or the deed of this character who ‘does’ nothing. but instead the shadow – tomorrow’s promise – of the new theatre of the Idea. it is ‘a summary of types and accords’ that ‘anyone who has really looked at nature’ bears in himself. that is. What exactly does this dreamer par excellence show? Hegel. theatre and the poem’s greatness: Hamlet. the juvenile shadow of us all’. Hamlet thus announces the future of a type of poetry freed from the care of having to make characters recognized: he is ‘the latent lord who cannot become. Hamlet is hardly yesterday’s shadow. Obedient to exhibition and common reward. He is. the hero who. he who cannot decide. since he is the exemplary son of Christian times. in a world deserted by the Resurrected. in short. Attesting this is the character that simultaneously symbolizes dream. the shadow faced with which all characters perish. on a happenstance stage in the inner theatre. There is nothing psychological or Christian in this. The doubt or the dream that he embodies is the power of the latent. or do anything.34 He is the power ‘to be or not to be’.The poetics of mystery paws. The dream is this power of grasping the virtuality. is what is expressed by Hamlet’s monologue: ‘to be or 15 . is no longer able to find any action worthy of himself. of electing aspects – the bear’s acts – and ordering them in mystery is ‘superior. On the contrary. of this exact interruption. sealed in the sole momentary act of a performance. of the virtual that returns all characters to the rank of extras or tapestry figures. of a completely new sky. he organizes the play of the other types in the manner of a Coryphaeus: leader of the Greek chorus. the power of equalling the type that takes shape.32 Poetry is the pursuit of this truth. Yet the dreamer’s way of seeing. the power to be without reason. present in every fairground stall. precariously. turned him into the prototypical Romantic character. The Idea is the symbol. the theatre staff only saw in this sublime scene something terrifying. This. and a few others. This is because Hamlet embodies the very trouble with appearing. come to dethrone the theatre of characters and the recognition of models. the symbol of the poetical symbolization which brings to be the ideality of types in place of the idealism of models or the realism of characters. of ideal aspects. the bear dropped back down onto all fours and ‘all of a sudden’ the curtain fell ‘with its advertised prices and banalities’. between aspects of types limited to their appearing alone. This is the natural way of seeing. Hamlet is the supreme type. that is to say. Indeed. in a nutshell. to be by artifice.

they bring it to be. at the liking of the speaker. They belong to the same ritual of consecration of the human abode. But neither did he employ it randomly. take on their positive value: rien.36 and finally the chalice of a new Eucharist. ‘metaphor of our form’. between being and non-being. the ocean metaphor comprising the poem’s content. belongs to the singular family of those negative pronouns which employed by themselves can. continuity is assured by the equivalence between the fictional siren and the cup of elevation: the goblet. Let’s look again at our ‘Toast’: it is not the case that. From one to the other. like Hamlet. a thing held perpetually.mallarmÉ not to be’ – to be the shadow that projects a beyond onto being. on the one hand. therefore. Pure vase of no brew Save inexhaustible widowhood. The French word rien. The ‘real’ gesture of the hand raising the cup and the ‘crossing’ of writing which carries the poetic troop are woven in the same cloth. obviously did not by chance make this ‘nothing’ the first word of the book that would serve as his testament.37 From nothingness to the nothing ‘Best to say nothing’. the institution of its ritual. conserve the shadow of the negative that ordinarily accompanies them or. They are the act of its production. conversely.38 He who wanted for the poem to vanquish chance. rem. on the other. like aucun. the symbol is not an image. no more than the idea is a form of object or the metaphor a means of communicating feelings. a beyond which is the pure power not to be. word by word. something.35 the white water lily of a purely ideal encounter between a Ulysses of calm river and a Nausicaa summed up in furtive steps. nothingness – we are rather all too aware today that this is one of the two abysses that the young poet encountered while ‘hollowing out verse’ back in the days of Herodias: days when he was 16 . there is ‘the occasion’ of the poem – the common gesture of the raised glass at a banquet. Symbol and metaphor do not express the idea. and the flower’s calyx detached on the first day from ‘golden avalanches of the old azure’ and ‘the eternal snow of stars’. a purely human transformation of the human abode: Le pur vase d’aucun breuvage Que l’inexhaustible veuvage. Non-being. which is maybe a banquet of poets but could also be one of industrialists – and. With Mallarmé.

In this work. the Medusa’s head of the Spirit – the Absolute and Nothingness. its two vanished nymphs and its flute – ‘instrument of flights’ – it bids farewell to the ‘hoard of old night’ and to the cold lunar ‘scintillation’ of the pure Idea’s ‘pale clarity’. which are more cloistral still than the robes of monks or shroud of the dead. With Herodias. Commentators have unceasingly inquired into this point: was it thanks to Villiers de l’Isle Adam or Lefébure that he came across Hegel. the infinite immanent to the nothing. This dramaturgy sets out from the poems of the Ideal. the system of the spirit. the Absolute as Nothingness – into a new duality. It contrasts them with the pure power of artifice of the ‘the great twin reed played under the azure’ and which knows 17 . one that is accessible to the gaze. those first sought in the heights of celestial azure. controllable by the quill. This is very precisely the one that we have already encountered: l’infini et rien. it closes its shutters on this beautiful azure and enters into the cold lunar night in which the poet. must become impersonal in order to make gleam the pure beauty of the new poem of pure Ideas. our escape from both dogmatic slumber and the insomnia of the absolute has taken place through critical thought: the type of thought able to discern the field of its exercise and the limits of its power. in his image. Mallarmé followed suit at the end of the great crises of the year 1865.The poetics of mystery seeking the pure work. the poems are arranged by Mallarmé on the basis of a dramaturgy that is detached from their chronology. inheritor of the flown sun. Ever since Kant. With ‘Faun’. the Absolute Subject and the original identity of void. and escaped from this ‘illness’. separated from every self by the ‘spidery ruff’ of Igitur. indeed by the knife that deposits the head of Saint John the Baptist on a silver plate. on his own behalf. being and indeterminate nothingness? Was it through the Revue des deux Mondes or some other journal that he discovered Schopenhauer? The important point lies elsewhere: it lies not in the way in which he encountered the absolute and nothingness – which were lingering just about everywhere in his time – but in the way that he regulated this encounter. the vanishing difference of everything to itself. He converted. in a critical way. produced by a pure consciousness. He reorganized. has left behind the ‘voracious Art’ of the ‘Cruel country’ of the Absolute. akin to the ‘thin and pale azure line’ that ‘the limpidsouled refined Chinese’ paints ‘on his cups made of moon-ravished snow’ as does whoever.39 The Poésies enable us to see this conversion. dreaming like his heroine of the ‘bed of vellum sheets’.

] faire aussi haut que l’amour [. vaine et monotone A sonorous. à soi pareil]. in the ‘frigid dream of scorn’ of the pure Idea.mallarmÉ [. shut eyes create Une sonore. of ‘airs’ and ‘sonnets’. high as love se module itself can modulate Évanouir du songe ordinaire de evacuating from the commonplace dos illusion Ou de flanc pur suivis avec of some pure loin or rear that my mes regards clos. a winter night of the poet-swan. unaltered’ [espace.] [. institutes so many scenes wherein the drama of the flown sun and the descent into nothingness are transformed into the mystery of an evanescent presence: [. grand calice clair Que.] and dreams of. Reste là sur ces fleurs dont nulle rain and diamond. summoned like the hundred irises to the new duty of figuring. pourpre ivre et a huge clear bloom. . an aspect of the new Idea. on these flowers ne se fane. which Mallarmé set out into four seasons and four nights: an initial autumn night of a flown sun and a godless sky. . pluie et diamant. . that never fade away Isole parmi l’heure et le rayon isolates in the hour and radiance du jour ! of day! 41 However nothing better encapsulates the transformation from nothingness into nothing than these ‘Several sonnets’42. a purple ecstasy. with his inaccessible model. ‘like some child-empress’s war-morion’. Herodias. a spring night in which the poet flees the ‘beautiful suicide’ of suns of yesteryear. line. . as cloistral as the ‘space. and a summer night emptied of every funereal material as of every object. monotonous and empty ligne.40 Beyond this line of division. Just like 18 .] Une agitation solennelle par l’air a solemn stir of words stays alive in the air De paroles. . le regard which his diaphanous gaze diaphane remaining there. put in charge of looking after the heritage of the Idea-sun. and reduced to the status of ‘abolished bauble of inane sonority’. . . . immobilized. and a funereal room which is also a hall of sacrament in which is lit the ‘festive star’ of poetic genius. the distribution of ‘tombs’ and ‘fans’.

the power by which. the poet’s companion exhibits. Hence. The aesthetics of Flaubert’s novels are animated by one leading idea. In other words. In Mallarmé’s time. nothing except her own stature and her hair flight of a flame. the void in which its infinite is encapsulated: that of the great sun above the desert of the Orient. In any nothing. on condition that it gives rise to the presence of the infinite. Nothing is apparently closer to Madame Bovary than the aesthetic of ‘The Fairground Declaration’. in any null story – café conversations. in exchange for the single cent required from the visitors who have flocked there en masse. identical to the footlights which. those sentimental and humoristic novels of the style of Jean-Paul. Flaubert’s art consists in bursting open the pegs of conjunctions and explanations. that is. In Hegel’s time. the ‘nothings’ or ‘almost-nothings’ traced by the poet’s brush are to nothingness what ‘aspects’ are to the ancient model. in this farm room. the substitutes for the Idea-sun are identical to the almost-nothings that conjure away nothingness. devoid of all furnishing. this connection generated the works of ‘bad infinity’. the space of the poem substitutes its light – the septet of its scintillations – for the extinct fires of the sky. 19 . the ptyx here. Line upon line. by introducing into the description of all these random places with their meaningless scenes the void of the infinite. combine the ‘naïve fold’ of the curtain with the ‘gold of a fringe’.43 At this point. The golden dust of the pulverized Idea is equal to the foam of nothingness. of its own nothingness. without any accessory story or ornament. banished. a distinction still has to be made if we want to separate Mallarmé’s brush from that of Francois Coppée. that is. in which. what the infinite is to the absolute. for the duration of a spectacle. The connection between the infinite and nothing can be understood severally. and his aesthetics from that of Des Esseintes. namely that anything at all can be beautiful. and the characters who resemble it – the hollow-sounding heads of noble bearing and the ragged lice-eaten persons clothed only in jewels.The poetics of mystery the ideal iris of every bouquet. discourses of agricultural associations or provincial adultery – at stake is to open the attic windows through which to see the black hole of the infinite: the indifferent flux swirling atoms about eternally. between the crossing and the mirror. is properly the power of the almost-nothing that blocks the brutality of being and the anxiety of nothingness. the awkward health officer smelling the iris and the young woman whose nails were at first all that the officer had noticed. its most complete expression came about in the Flaubertian novel. by chance reuniting.

20 . of essential types of the human abode as accord between the theatre of the spirit and that of the world. is too similar to that which it denies. figured. by dint of the sumptuous bareness. with the brutal constraint of its anecdotes about husbands and wives and the absence of constraint of its measureless time. . The ‘style is extraordinarily beautiful’. and ultimately restored as nothing. The subject seems to imply an aberration. or. The twofold task – ‘simplification’ and ‘glory’ – is something for which the novel. The imperceptible difference of the infinite which ran right throughout the lines is cancelled out. its aspects selected.45 With the return of Bouvard and Pécuchet to their writing case. will always be inappropriate. The res. which deepens the void of the infinite in the void of stupidity. This almost nothing. simplification. The lesson to be drawn from this: the almost-nothing that infinitizes anything whatsoever cannot consist in that great void-making machine. exploit and glory instil distance.] [. However.mallarmÉ [. ‘but at times it is rendered null. ordered. it has to be a ‘metaphor of our form’. or act of elevation. . The infinite must be numbered. the nothing. Its ‘foam’ is perhaps unable to be separated from an ‘exploit’. referred to by Proust as the ‘trottoir roulant’ [rolling footpath] of style.] Rien qu’à simplifier avec gloire Whose dazzling head is the only la femme means Accomplit par son chef By which woman simplified with fulgurants l’exploit glory conspires De semer de rubis le doute To sow with rubies the doubt she qu’elle écorche would scorch Ainsi qu’une joyeuse et In the manner of a joyous and tutélaire torche tutelary torch44 The expression ‘sow with rubies the doubt’ – that is the almost-nothing that separates any mediocrity whatever from itself – seems apt to sum up the Flaubertian enterprise. It can be achieved by the poem that fixes an exact time not to stories but to aspects: possibilities of history. will not simply be anything at all. the great void of the infinite settles for the ordinary void of stupidity. of historicity. as it were. noted Mallarmé à propos of Bouvard et Pécuchet. . which is strange with such a powerful artist’. .

Returning to an earlier point in the poem. 21 . ‘at the extreme west of desires’. an agreement seems to emerge between Mallarmé and Flaubert: Une nudité de héros tendre The tender nudity of heroes diffame demeans Celle qui ne mouvant astre ni The one on whose fingers no stars feux au doigt wave or fires Rien qu’à simplifier avec gloire Whose dazzling head is the only la femme means Accomplit par son chef By which woman simplified with fulgurante l’exploit glory conspires The ‘tender naked hero’ who is conjured up would defame both the head’s and the poem’s ‘nudity’. In that exhibition of the woman who. or the virtuality of events and figures that define a play of correspondences. They will consist in tracings of schemas. it is the nudity of the anecdote. as ‘a chain of actions’ bringing characters into play. which will be interposed between ‘the kindling of the fire ever within’ and its manifestation. or compromises its ‘glory’ with sentimental anecdotes. unfurling her locks of hair as an evening chariot of the sun. This is not. fiction had been defined as the ‘imitation of acting men’. is the same one that in another sonnet ‘is introduced’ into the story of the woman-peacock.The poetics of mystery The method of fiction In short. Ever since Aristotle. the vivid golden cloud of the unfurled locks of hair. This head of hair is a diadem – the emblem of woman and coronation of the human abode in its virtual magnificence – insofar as no ‘story’ either ‘defames’ it. who would be malapropos here. in thus defining it. precisely so that its scope could be more effectively reduced to banal operations of recognition. fiction was burdened with loads of flesh. in order to authenticate the relation between the infinite and nothing. the very status of fiction itself has to be changed. But. Here is situated the division between two ideas of fiction. of the story in general. The hero. unfolds only the ‘hair’s flight of flame’ – which itself stands metonymically for the pulverized sun as well as the body’s subtraction from display – there is nothing indecent. But the hero’s tender nudity is also that of Ulysses disembarking on the shores of Nausicaa. New fictions will no longer consist in the chains of actions used to establish characters.

Sens-tu le paradis farouche Ainsi qu’un rire enseveli 22 Do you sense how a primal Eden Like laughter barely hidden . Let us understand: of the human spirit insofar as it is human. gleams’. a mere matter of abstracting from fiction. of foliage or sea waters. to a great forbidden and thunderous height. Ne peut jaillir ni s’apaiser. But this game is higher in essence. things from their ‘solidity’. Fiction may well be a game. It is the ‘very procedure of the human spirit’. But this consecration always plays out in the instantaneousness of a vanished tracing. the Cartesian method insofar as it does not encounter any veracious god.mallarmÉ however. through vacant space. Cannot gush forth or be assuaged. for as many solitary festivals as we wish’. up there. born for no one. that interposes the rustling of its feigned landscape between every spectator and every reality. for ourselves.48 Instead of some sky of Ideas.46 One can say that this projection is a deception [superchérie] or forgery. It institutes them in the incertitude of the game and the glory of elevation. The forgery endows them with ‘splendour. the poem is conserved for whoever wants to read it. But this letter is dead if it is missing the exact ritual by which the reader is instituted strictly as the new theatre where the poem replays its choreography. that is. Poetry is meditation. and that which ‘projects. our conscious lack of what. having been written. The game of fiction always boils down to the movement of the fan that ‘delicately pushes the horizon back’. Fiction can by no means simply con-sist. of the consecration of the human abode. which is the infinite unfolded and folded anew into a strict number of folds that reduce to a single one. the human spirit insofar as no god guarantees it any truth – in short.47 But the forgery is also the work done by a goldsmith in ‘sowing doubt with rubies’. Sometimes referred to as hyperbolic doubt. The poem is the movement of the fan. Vertige ! Voici que frisonne Vertigo ! see how space L’espace comme un grand baiser Shimmers in one vast kiss Qui. hence deranged. The point is to give fiction a much more radical meaning. The ‘superior attraction like a void’ is that which we draw to detach. That. fou de naître pour personne. The combined effect of the game of forgery and the work of the goldsmith is called ‘consecration’. Of course. it is this procedure of the first Meditations which has to be radicalized. fiction institutes the conditions of human experience in general. doubt transformed into hyperbole.

its captive wing stuck in the ice-sheets of winter. The old tragedy of nature is strictly replaced by the mystery of nature’s beyond. which is that of the first autumn. Gardner Davies pursued what he saw as the traces of a single ‘solar drama’ in Mallarmé’s work. Appearing and disappearing: that is. The ‘solar drama’. this tragedy has had its time. unfolds 23 . If the golden headdress is the exact metonymy of the vanished sun. Mallarmé. The poet who does not bear this in mind is like the swan. the fan is the exact metaphor of the poem. according to the anthropologist George W. setting in its place the glorious name of the infinite and nothing.The poetics of mystery Se couler du coin de ta bouche From the corner of your mouth has flowed Au fond de l’unanime pli ! To the depths of the unanimous fold! Le sceptre des rivages roses The sceptre of rosy shores Stagnants sur les soirs d’or. Stagnant on golden twilight hours Ce blanc vol fermé que tu poses Is this white closed-up wing you set Contre le feu d’un bracelet. as reflected in the panes of a window. Against the fire of a bracelet. is the key to ancient mythology.51 As with nature. It therefore has nothing more mysterious about it than a fan’s fluttering which. born again with each dawn from the darkness in which it dies each evening.50 His undertaking is valid. the smile of lips with the unanimous fold which re-bends space to turn it into a world. the golden foam of verse that pushes back every line of horizon. the artifact that imitates. which is the initial fold or the lining of things that makes of them a world. the great ‘tragedy of nature’. this movement of appearing and disappearing. to reduce the drama of disappearance to the fineness of a white hair of foam. and to unfold and refold the movement of correspondences which render equivalent ‘the sceptre of rosy shores /Stagnant on the golden twilight’ with the ‘fire of a bracelet’ on the hand holding the fan. in the fluttering of its folds.49 The fan of the poem The fan is thus the elementary emblem of the work of fiction in general: it is the magnificence of the pure movement of appearing and disappearing. ce l’est. on condition of specifying whether the issue is one of traces or of dust. Cox and his translator. to raise the fleetingness of appearing to the glory of the vanished sun. in its vivacity. This ‘mystery’ is the organization of the ‘dream’ – its aspects noted down and rhymed – into a glorious artifact.

Let us not understand this to mean that the poem is ‘polysemous’. shipwrecks. a siren’s white hair. like the fan. or that each person can understand it as he will. It means that in the flapping of the fan. it plays on it. in general. on the side of the tercets the spray of a siren’s undulation. Here we return to our initial poem. One disappearing contains many others within it. What appears? What disappears? The movement of the fan does not say. it says.mallarmÉ the folds of its emblem. the white water lily or that which is absent from every bouquet). and perhaps now we can understand why our question about its ‘meaning’ was out of place. Second meaning: the new poem replaces the stories and dramas of yesteryear (adventures. This is the mystery that succeeds tragedy: the great metaphor of the Idea-sun. if we labour the point. He thwarts the appetites of the public’s ‘vain outspread chasm’ and leaves the famished ogre only a trace. has two faces: on the side of the quatrains is the whirlpool of a shipwreck. It transforms every ‘solid and preponderant’ reality (for example.52 It remains that if there is a ‘thought of the poem’. the swan and the oar. It emblematizes the doubt itself about the nature of that scansion. giving rise to a question from the observer: is it the foam from a sunken ship or the hair of a siren? Let’s imagine now that the poem. But the poet is like the crafty siren. buried in sea waters and darkness. It emblematizes the gesture of saying as the scansion of appearing and disappearing. several forms of appearing and disappearing can discover they are analogous. to discern many meanings in the fable of the ship and the siren – the meanings of ‘mystery’. which encapsulates them in one and the same act and turns this act of doubt and hyperbole into a ritual and the very emblem 24 . a ship on sea waters in a tempest. we will have a pretty good idea of what Mallarmé might have thought. as so many splinters of the great pulverized sun. The first meaning: the poem. in combining them. therefore. None of these meanings are unjustified and. is a process of disappearance and substitution. is shattered into a multiplicity of schemas of disappearing that respond to. reefs. of the trick that he played on it. from which the play of aspects take its power of ideality. it ‘suggests’. The poem does not ‘mean’ anything. We are able. stars) with a play of vanishing aspects. Third meaning: the ship of the poem must forge its way through the hostile cloud of a world in which the poet has no place. solitude. that ‘fold of somber lace which retains the infinite’. a king’s daughter or a flower in a vase) into an inconsistent and glorious simulacrum (the siren. substitute or combine with one another. it is in the fluttering which draws all these possibles into the same fold.

25 .The poetics of mystery pertaining to the consecration of human play. this play of appearing and disappearing which turns silent eternity into the space of a world. The poem is the supreme consecration because it is the supreme artifice. replete with the ability to elevate the traces of writing on a white page ‘to the heights of the starry sky’. the fan which identifies the movement of its folds with this doubling of the sensory.


instead. And the nineteenth century consisted in the deployment of an idea that can be stated in two ways: the first is to be done with the 27 . by no means in the sense of a ‘theory of art’. Aestheticism is not the issue. For I inaugurate through science The hymn of all hearts spiritual In the labour of my patience. books of emblems of flowers/chalices which profile the new figure of the Idea. L’hymne des cœurs spirituels En l’oeuvre de ma patience Atlas. The Mallarméan ‘grimoire’ is also a ‘book of the future’: Car j’installe. A century. A century is an idea of a century. It is the book which psalmodizes the greatness of a crowd to come. herbariums and rituals’. herbiers et rituels. and it is inscribed in its books: ‘altas. Atlas. and rituals of consecration of the common greatness. par la science. as a measure of time. At stake. that is the maps of skies of fans.The hymn of spiritual hearts In short. but as a thinking of the sensory configuration able to establish a community. none of this has any more to do with art for art’s sake than it does with sinking into some night of language. The movement of poetic ‘hyperbole’ is the very method of science. has no more reality than the line of a horizon. The religion of the century Mallarmé was a man of his century. herbariums and rituals.53 The successor of bygone antiphonies. is an aesthetics. the Mallarméan grimoire is not a simple game for ‘solitary celebrations’.

the religion of rehabilitated matter. a religion that renders the bread and wine of everyday alienated existence of human powers into divine attributes. Feuerbach drew its consequences: beyond the speculative lie. the creation of a new religion and a new mythology for the people. the community needs a new religion. on the very basis of that new philosophy which internalizes and radicalizes the political revolution.mallarmÉ preceding century. of the spirit made flesh. To complete the revolution. the Saint Simonians were raising differently sonorous trumpets to their lips. All things considered. religion made industrial – in order to establish the new hymn and theatre and replace the representative political machine. 28 . Industry made religious. The representative regime misleads with promises of citizens’ emancipation like the reign of gold misleads with promises of the emancipation of man’s industrial powers. The community lacks its idea. this contrast may come together in a common thought. And. made flesh in the scientific precision of railway lines establishing communication between people better than any speech. at issue is the liquidation of the century of unbelief and dereliction. it is to bring to completion the work that could not be undertaken. that of the Enlightenment and the Revolution. the task of a new religion of humanity was to be carried out. ‘To be done with’ can mean very many things. And for this to happen. in the spiritual community reuniting the army of work under the hierarchy of science and love. It was to be the ‘first systematic programme of German Idealism’: that is. all of which are situated between two opposing poles: for some. the laws that fix inter-individual relations and the regulatory constitutions governing the game of representative institutions will never be enough. before Marx. At the century’s dawn. The idea was left abandoned in draft form but not forgotten within the very rigours of speculative philosophy. bond is expressed as religio. In the Latin of Romantic philosophy. in the religious organization of industry replacing state hierarchies and revolutionary whirlwinds. for others. Hegel. The idea of community is the idea of a bond. Hölderlin and Schelling committed this idea to paper in a rough draft. which is encapsulated in the second way of thinking the century’s idea or task: that the bonds of the new community must be built out of the ruins of the old order. as Hegel was dying from cholera. the work of those who had time enough only to destroy the old order. But already. announcing the new century’s spirit and task: the ‘new Christianity’. in one and the same destruction of the community bond. The two are joined in one and the same regime of egoism. and in the new temple of the theatre’s replacing the old church.

The first proposition: the gods do not emerge in the astonishment and fear generated by the dangers of natural phenomena. the power of the star of fire at its zenith. Linking both theses together a history of the spirit is formed whose third phase it is poetry’s task to write. sometimes combining – two ideas of the earthly future of religion. the anthropology of religion expressed in the work whose French translation he carried out – a work of ‘dietary’ drudgery. Cox. But we should also determine its precise part in it: that is. There were those who wanted man to adopt God’s attributes and make them the ‘bread and the wine’ of a new life delivered from super-terrestrial illusion. where linguistics is brought to lend rash reinforcement to the rationalizations of the Enlightenment? Even so. its death and its rebirth. two of its essential propositions may be retained. Two theses on divinity Two essential theses sum up the Mallarméan idea of religion: one about mythology and another about Christianity. daily and yearly. Mallarmé took up. cities have dreamt of civic religions and erected great edifices of glass and steel hosting industrial Expos and promising the spectacle yet to come of a self-transparent humanity. The names of the gods bespoke the dawn and the dew. peoples of days gone by recounted merely what they saw. It is impossible to understand Mallarméan aesthetics and its poem outside of this secular game. so he claimed – namely. they emerge 29 . of its wager on the ‘religious’ future of the community. the motives and forms of its ‘dice throw’. The proper names of the gods of Mount Olympus and the heroes of the founding myths both derive from the common names of even older languages. to accompany the new communications of electricity and rail. The Ancient Gods by George W. Is this not merely some newfangled anthropology of the time. There were those who wanted new choirs to sing the worship of industry and progress. that is. The thesis is simple and easily seems simplistic: the gods and myths of the Greek Pantheon are living personifications of natural phenomena. Concerning mythology. but above all its perpetual descent in the kingdom of darkness and the miracle of its perpetual resurrection. the century almost never ceased to oscillate between – sometimes opposing. adapting it to his own views.The hymn of spiritual hearts Ever since the Saint Simonians. At the junction of both ideas. languages that had become unintelligible. With the aid of these ancient names. of the sun. the twists and turns of the ‘tragedy of nature’: the twin evolution.

The human animal is a chimerical animal. Instead. In a nutshell. whether man’s or god’s. revealed the specific nature of the human animal. Hence. this tendency demanded the restoration of honours to the daily bread and wine of the family and community that the illusory ceremony of elevation projected into the chimerical sky of religion. Mallarmé aimed to restore to the human abode the sole act of elevating the chimera.54 The chimerical condition is this chanceridden fold of absence that without reason affects ‘cloistral eternity’. the elevation of golden dust dedicated to the false. it happens that that the true ‘end’ of religion is the restitution to language of its powers. The second. unaltered. in its purity. But ancient divinity – like beauty – underwent a deepening in revolutionary form. distressing drought or the refreshing rain which makes life fertile than the very movement of appearing and disappearing of light. not at all the breadbody. the chalice emptied of blood. designated by the Eucharistic Sacrament. if it grow or deny itself’. but the glorious powers of the human abode. this properly human task of glorification of absence. Quite to the contrary. that ‘space. ‘push back’ the horizon of rising and setting suns. Our race ‘has the honour of lending guts to the fear of itself felt by the metaphysical and cloistral eternity’ and of ‘baying out the abyss throughout the ages’. Or rather it would reveal it in its purity if it did not compromise it with the ‘barbaric feast’ of the body and blood of the Saviour. the power of the chimera. with the shadows of its churches and the gold of its ciboria. by screening. the ‘perfect opening salvo’ [gerbe just initiale’ de l’épi]: namely. Christianity reveals. correlative proposition is that the immediate object of religion is less terrifying thunder. the gold of ciboriums and monstrances. The greatness of the Christian religion was that it consecrated the ‘real presence’ of absence. the gold of the sun and the old tragedy of nature. Man thereby directly names not beneficial or harmful powers to the daily bread. The flight of the ancient gods is the radicalization of the ‘glory’ celebrated by language. that task which institutes ‘our communion or sharing of one in all and all in one’. The Christian ritual. Church pomp.55 Mallarmé’s ‘humanizing’ of religion thus runs counter to the dominant tendency of the century. but the only thing that ‘sheds light’ on life devoted to its acquisition. what mythology teaches us is that the ‘religious’ function is first that of the language which glorifies.56 It is not the religion of the nourishing earth or of industrial groups that must succeed Christianity. As encapsulated by Feuerbachian anthropology.mallarmÉ through the language which recounts the latter. it is the ‘religion’ of artifice: the institution of artifacts and rituals that transfer to the 30 . They lend themselves to the glory of its true content: absence.

but is inscribed in the very arrangement of bodies which transform thought into reality at ground level. making holes designed for the foundation of the Temple. the ‘mystery’. midday hostility wells up between the man of culture on holiday who has protected his retreat with a gate and the worker used to crossing this same man’s garden to go from the canteen to work. ‘one’s walking is blocked by work’: early morning discontent arises in the idle walker at his appearing on his hillock alongside the worker risen well before him and already.58 It was a perfect illustration of the ‘new Book’ which is no longer written on paper in volatile words and empty declarations. as the Republican riot was brewing in Paris. except that this one shatters all the ceremonials of ‘new Christianity’. some ‘apostles’. enclosing the play of the world in the fold of its leaves.57 But this religion also presides over ‘intimate celebrations’: the celebrations of the furnished abode of the ‘tangible chimera’ – bibelots. solemnly shifted the earth. The crowd sees this religion of artifice prefigured in the fireworks whose ‘multiple and illuminating spray [gerbe]’ consecrates the annual cycle of its works in public festivities. One Sunday in June 1832. To the strains of the work-king’s new choirs. cloths. provided the workers who came to visit them on Sundays with the spectacle of a remarkable ceremony: the opening works on the Temple of the new religion. books or bouquets – which transpose the delicacies or violences of the solar cycle. by means of his nearby mattock.The hymn of spiritual hearts community. It matters little whether Mallarmé knew the story of that utopian Sunday. purified by the religion that. subjected to the gold of sheenless metal and the obscurity of the ballot box. gathered in their community at Ménilmontant. What ‘Conflict’59 and ‘Confrontation’60 stage is the same scene of relation between the man of the book and the man with the mattock: the same scene. lined up in half-squadrons of diggers and wheelbarrowers. and even more the intimate celebrations of the book. the pulverized gold of setting suns and agonizing natures. celebrates the real presence of absence. through its golds. buried in his hole. Ruthlessly. The poet and the worker At this point enter Mallarmé’s politics. that is. bourgeois apostles and workers of Paris. very close to and yet the exact converse of the great Saint-Simonian dream of industrial religion. The essential thing is that in two of his prose pieces he provided a precise retort to it. and evening malaise ensues as the dreamer’s 31 . all the ceremonials of religious consecration of mattock work made spiritual by men of the book made wheelbarrowers.

in advance. to see it ‘magnified’ close to them by the gold of the setting sun in a stand of tall trees.mallarmÉ horizon. nourishment and reproduction. In contrast to the more fortunate – who possibly claim to be poets and fiddle joyfully about with their quills – the daily bread pulled from the pit is not enough for these workers. . It is the cycle of production and reproduction.] the dimension of the sacred in existence by a work stoppage. hollowed out in the commonness of a destiny [destin]. without fold [repli]. So. Mallarmé could lend the support of his daughter and his verse to the makeshift theatre that his young cousins. even if it then means taking it back again: a worthless task whose only price is the universal equivalent. It’s on the basis of this other gap [trou]. the intoxications of which disturb the ordinary course of the working day and the restorative night. one is reborn each day. into a repetition aping a simple eternity. . is barred by a ‘swath of workers bearing flails’ – that is. this Sunday evening. The hole into which the worker sinks is not and will never be but the vain work of taking earth from here to place it over there. put on in a barn at Valvins. above the sleeping gravediggers. an awaiting. And. but he was unable to share in the unanimist illusions of the ‘theatre of the people’. It must be conceived from within the very difference of Sunday’s libations. This programme contains no populism. above all not in the form of hymns to work. from which. the everyday gold that is exchanged for bread. in short. the sundowners slumped in the middle of the field.61 They fail to see symbolized the chimera which supplements work. Paul and Victor Margueritte. ‘without saying what it is or elucidating this ceremony’. that the consecration of human generations is possible. This is the ordinary cycle of daily descent into a tomb. In these ‘little glasses’ of the day after payday ‘they honourably reserve [. consecrations of bread or transformations of men of the book into manual workers or eulogists of glorious work. drowsy from the libations celebrating the end of work. Work is not and never will be glorious. At the hour the constellations light up. for simple survival. he also poured scorn on what was to become 32 . the consecration can only be added on the side [ne peut être qu’à côté]. in the very name proletarian. and the momentary suicide’. There is no direct way out of this confrontation. the task of the poet-Hamlet thus becomes clear: it is to fix the ‘points of clarity’ which give to the slumped honour of the herd the chimerical glory it seeks instinctively. And no doubt they do so unaware of this ‘honour’. of births lapsing into anonymity. and that strikes with derision any rituals designed for the consecration of work. everything that is encapsulated.

he forbade them from taking in their hand the material gold of possessed goods and remunerated work. nor futurist anticipation. the symbolic gold. In preparing the ‘hymn of spiritual hearts’. in the composition of his soul. has been conferred gold or iron from the divinity. rejecting the democratic and public sphere. he ought to be remunerated by the work done by the men of iron. Any relation to come between the poet and the people passes. whose brilliance – equalling the fires of the vanished sun in the honour of the chimerical race – will illuminate the celebrations of the future. winning. Mallarmé. of rhythms’. the archaic elsewhere of skies’. presently. by a decision of separation which subtracts the task of the poet from the normal cycle of day and night. Plato separated out the race of those on whom god had conferred the gold of thought from the men doomed to the work of iron. Revolutions were made for precisely this reason: so that whoever is ‘elected’ can simply be anyone at all. like Mallarmé. through ‘dilution into the colour of electricity and of the people. the poet must set his own task apart from that of making deals. We ought to understand the politics of the dice throw – and the ultimate meaning of the fable of the boat and the siren – as follows: the conditions do not yet exist for the union of poet and crowd in ‘the hymn of spiritual hearts’.62 So. The ‘extraordinary hour’ has not arrived. Their scope will be misread if they are likened to the nihilistic will to constitute the oeuvre in a ‘column of silence’. whether this is for commercial profit or for social position. like the Platonic guardians or the ‘monks’ of the English universities. marks an essential difference here.The hymn of spiritual hearts the programme of the following century’s various futurisms and avantgardisms: lighten.63 The poet’s ‘solitude’ and the cloud with which he surrounds his verses must be understood on this basis. the gold of everyday survival in order to devote his nights freely to his task of being a ‘servant. from the ordinary exchange of work and gold. The poet’s isolation is strictly linked to the ‘absence of present’. But this nondescript elected representative fixes a strict division of tasks and metals.64 It would be much fairer to compare Mallarméan ‘restricted action’ with the Marxist notion of a necessary maturation of revolutionary conditions. there is here neither populist indulgence. He must. By giving the former the symbolic gold and the command of the city. For him. the first or the last to arrive and devote himself to working on that other gold. earn his own salary. through his daily job. The separation of the man with the mattock from the poet effectuates the same type of division as that between real gold and symbolic gold. nor has the ‘prodigious auditorium’. which 33 . nobody. So it is not that. however. in advance.

To celebrate the splendour of the great shipwreck in anticipation will mean that the ship of the Argonauts of the poem sinks into the abyss. is what separates the human destiny of the common grave from the production and reproduction of life. whose glass dome would become identified with the community palace in which the hymn of spiritual hearts would ring out. And by no means is nihilistic ceremony the reason why ‘its buried meaning moves and arranges. at some ‘central station’. today already.68 This reserved ‘delicacy’ is the fold [repli] which turns the ‘cloistral eternity’ of space into a world inhabitable for the human community. then. The act of writing has as its place on the paper alone. that the poet must isolate himself and ‘sculpt his own tomb’. it is necessary to understand properly the injunction to solitude pertaining to the artist and the work. that sumptuousness like a sinking ship. Burial in the chorus book of the future puts an end to the Saint-Simonian illusion of the ‘new book’. So it is pointless to try to cut short the ‘tunnel of the times’ and alight. It does not mean that the writer writes only for himself. But. and celebrates sea and sky as it burns’. The assertion according to which the ‘book does not demand a reader’. 34 . The moment has not arrived to celebrate the splendour of its sunset.65 By taking the crash of Panama or any old bank collapse as the revolutionary dawn.66 It is better to ‘try’ these scales and chords while the ‘other crisis’ is in gestation. For the poem and community alike. as sculpted by the ‘suicide’ of the poet.mallarmÉ is identical to the stage. it is madness to wager immediately on the replacement of the reign of material gold by that of symbolic gold: ‘now gold strikes the race directly’. the poet himself will be behaving like a risky financier. the pages’. This is what the small marine fable tells us: the hour is hardly ripe for some great and glorious shipwreck. So. It means that the book – in the sole material reality of the solitary volume whose leaves simultaneously conceal and offer their treasure – is already the institution of a place. It is precisely due to his solidarity with the worker. a refolded infinite and intimate delicacy of being in itself’.67 deepening the ‘suicide’ parodied in Saturday night libations. who daily sinks into and is reborn from the common pit of work. dragging the gold of the future into the mediocrity of ordinary bankruptcy. It is the hour of the discrete siren who refuses in advance to disseminate and cause to vanish truths that are still only in the state of ‘scales or chords played in prelude to a concert’. to satisfy the elitism of an aesthete that the book argues ‘against the brutalities of space. and making himself its hasty eulogist.69 The tomb of the book. ought not to be understood in a contrary sense. that ‘it takes place all by itself’. which will not give up. It is not at all. into a chorus.

its theory and its divinity. pulverizing all matter and image. by the most direct paths. which Christian sacrifice compromises with simulacra of the barbaric feast. ‘beyond nature’.The hymn of spiritual hearts moreover. while music is the last ‘sacred state’. the baton of the orchestra conductor represents the final purification of this ritual. Indeed. Three texts ‘Sacred Pleasure’. the note that sounds the time to return to the capital is given 35 . which ranks presence alongside absence. the most perceptible communion between men. The new religion that henceforth claims to assume the secession of Christianity bears a name which concentrates the Mallarméan problem in its entirety. its abstraction is precisely what makes its language the most immediately accessible. Nature was the first form.72 The response can be deduced from two fundamental theses of the Mallarméan theory of religion: if the gods come from language and must return to it. in recognition of their chimerical greatness. And if the essential content of the Christian religion is the very gesture of elevation. now nearing thought’. It is music. still primitive and caught in the solidity of matter. music presents itself as this language par excellence. It is this abstraction that transforms ‘aesthetics’ into the last ‘religion’ and enables music to establish.73 ‘Now. in a ‘volatile reduction [dépouillement] into corresponding features. the role of being ‘the last plenary human religion’. at which a suddenly invented reading majority will marvel’. the tangible form of the Idea. We can put this differently: music appears par excellence as that which. The abstract shivers that the writing of notes and intervals confides to the timbre of instruments can thus immediately be transformed into shivers of emotion. welcomes the sacredness lost by nature in the age of industry. Music explodes the screen of the image and representation. the book preserves the rhythms of the hymn for celebrations of the future. The new religion already has its own temples. to understand how what seemed merely to be one art among others came to play a wholly other role. Now. Music presents the form of writing and ritual that is most abstracted from corporeality and figuration. gathered by Mallarmé under the title ‘Services’71.70 Musical religion For a redoubtable game is played around this hymn. have the same welldefined objective: namely. then a purified language is best able to lay claim to being the last religion. ‘Catholicism’ and ‘The Same’. the ‘innumerable Thousand and One Nights. the spiritualized form of the Idea.

that is. en réciprocité. that space of mystery where the greatness hidden in the ‘scient flank’ of the public is confronted with the greatness of the stage. . à travers les affres et l’éclat.75 The place of theatre is the human place par excellence. L’orchestre flotte. straightaway proclaims: ‘Suppose that this is really taking place and that you are there!’76 The naturalist convention of modern theatre thus transforms the ‘magnificent hole’ of the golden chimera into the simple nothingness of banality looking at itself in the mirror. by raising the curtains to sets depicting everyday banalities. on which ordinary ladies and gentlemen see only other ordinary ladies and gentlemen. The stage is the ‘obvious focus of pleasures taken in common’ and ‘the majestic opening to the mystery whose grandeur one is in the world to envisage’. ne s’isole étrangère et nous de demeurons des témoins  : mais.74 This apparently frivolous remark is. en cours. Whence emerges the conquering force of the symphonic deluge. du mythe et de la salle. face à la scène  : absence d’aucun. The promised glory of the chandelier’s brilliance and the curtain’s fringe of light is brutally belied by the stage. Le miracle de la musique est cette pénétration. the capital is the place par excellence of consecration of the human abode. remplit et l’action. par excellence. with simple convention. the temple of popular communion whose ‘little glasses’ of the evening after payday contained the derisory promise. the theatre.mallarmÉ by the opening of a new season of concerts’. . And yet the theatrical place. for Mallarmé. the night which invents its light and its luxury. Second. velvet and glassware. the return of autumn symbolizes the very transmission of the ‘glory’ of nature in celebrations of community. l’espace vacant. which. the new sacredness of the concert signifies that glorious form par excellence. où s’écarte l’assistance et que ne franchit le personnage. was the opening of the chimera’s golden maw. de chaque place. Last. par quoi se comble jusqu’à étinceler des arabesques et d’ors en traçant l’arrêt à la boîte sonore. laden with meaning. tour à tour. sommes circulairement le héros [. Those who ask of art to spellbind them are met by the theatre of representation with the degree zero of fiction. But the theatre of the late nineteenth century proves unable to respond to the promise of magnificence of its golds.] 36 . The baton of the orchestra conductor empties the theatrical space of those tiresome individuals whose dull stature and coarse anecdotes had obstructed ideal space. First of all.

like the priest. the poem has the forms of chant and myth as its essential content: that is. It remains at a distance. from each seat. the absence of anyone. musical action can be identified with the ritual of consecration of place. in choirs. The poem. in short. through tortures or gleams. But neither do they incorporate any formerly divine greatness. The Romantic age contrasted the cold classical allegory with the heat of the symbol that bears the seal – hidden inside itself but susceptible to becoming manifest again in its sensory truth – of community alliance. It takes up on its own behalf the Platonic dream of the choral city.]77 By destroying the games of representation and recognition. the orchestral shivers in the golds of the hall with the folds in the dresses of female spectators. indeed a twofold distance: the people of the musical temple no longer look at themselves in the mirror of banality. itself internalized as the sensory rhythm of the life of each and all. circularly. of the myth and the house. the narrative by which the community can recognize its principle and. . Mallarmé also adopted the language of the symbol and the idea of a generalized music. And this consecration of place is also tantamount to the public’s celebrating the cult whose hero it is. Mallarmé’s difference stands out here from the poeticopolitical programme that continued from Romanticism via symbolism and futurism. And 37 . However. better than the priest. Nobody consumes the divine bread and wine. It comes to it only via the arabesques which. The aesthetic distance of the mystery is also a political distance. link. the vacant space. The chimerical animal only ever appropriates its greatness through an empty space. is symbolic in essence. the hero [. . in reciprocity. ‘Mystery’ means distance. The conductor of the orchestra. But his symbol bears the property of the allegory. and the action in progress does not seem isolated or foreign to the spectator. one is each by turns. sing what it is that makes it a community. facing the stage. which trace the blockage of the pit. topped by the sparkling of arabesques and golds. pushes back the common glory that he exhibits. The orchestra floats and fills in. who is no longer just a witness: but.The hymn of spiritual hearts The miracle of music is this penetration. the celebration at issue can only be a distant one. across this vacant space. In this programme. through its wordless and imageless language. enchanting itself incessantly by playing and singing in unison its proper law. The cup is ‘empty of any brew’. where the audience parts and which characters can’t cross. for the time of a performance.

that music is doomed to turn itself into the servant of poetry? This would mean forgetting the coup de force which. The opposite of ‘pure music’ is not music as servant of the poem. already noted this downside of musical privilege.mallarmÉ the musical ceremony is not a choral ceremony. the coup de force of a musician who read Hegel through two of his great critics. and therefore not to say anything bearing meaning. and thus to find itself.79 Musical language can be self-sufficient only at the price of substituting the banalities of theatrical recognition for the mystification of the Unutterable. Music is the art of interiority par excellence. Music is a language whose sublimity is somewhat suspect. in his own way. It is an orchestral performance in which the crowd participates only silently in the mystery of its own greatness. Hegel. where the composer has the possibility of ‘suspending even the temptation to explain himself’. But this ascension of the silent multitude. but as queenly and commanding. directly. the servant of another art. since Hegel. has occurred in the relations between music and the poem. a milieu of ideality enveloping the listener. Wagner. is perhaps merely ‘a case of enormous and superior reportage’. poetry without the words’. Richard Wagner. following Hegel. Music is unable to control its effects. music and politics Is this to say. or else to borrow meanings from speech and drama to express. But the privilege accorded to musical silence has its downside. that is. Mallarmé recognized this dilemma. Feuerbach and Schopenhauer: namely. is unable to be reduced to its own principle. To the anecdote of opera and its choirs. crossing ‘literary distances’ in a single blow and finding itself directly ‘face to face with the Unutterable and the Pure. the one in which mathematical intervals and sonorities of wood. But this beautiful interiority is an empty one. The god Wagner: poem. a poem ‘all the more comprehensible for being stilled’. by the same token.78 This language without words boasts of its having eliminated the banality of universal reportage. relegating the ‘poetic grimoire’ to the scrapheap: 38 . He thus inverted the second term of the alternative. strings and brass have the power to create. The orchestra conductor’s movement retains the mystery in its place and warns the crowd about adoring itself in the new temple. he contrasted the new poem specific to the times of peoples and revolutions. in his Aesthetics. had already announced the decline of the old theatre of representation. the synthesis of both arts. it ought to do so. the musical drama. Or rather. ‘Pure’ musical language is doomed either to retain its instrumental purity.

he reconciled the tradition of theatre. He is the artist who took fright at the novelty of his own art. ‘with the virginal. considère le secret. Siegfried. occult energy surging up from his scores’. one that also comprises a specific idea about the poem’s function of community: the total work of art. This hero ‘walks on the mist as one walks on earth’. neuf et barbare. Bury them in a cupboard after all. à une magnificence qui décore sa genèse. un public pour la seconde fois depuis les temps. d’origines. that man of myth and origins. Fraudulently. Greek theatre and the Christian mass. itself on the verge of obsolescence. in opposition to the conventions and vocalises of old opera. as a surplus for the refined. even injecting. proper to creating a site of communion – with its contrary: the theatre of representation. To the audience he simultaneously offers the ‘stupor’ of myths and the intimacy of a ‘familiar appearance by a human individual’. And he registered it within the perspective of a new thought of the poem. The upshot of thus leading symbolist mystery astray.81 Wagner. Hieroglyphs by the thousand scurrying To spread familiar flutters with their wing! Enfouissez-le-moi plutôt dans une armoire. Now Mallarmé sought precisely to denounce this fusion. maintenant germain. presented this marriage as his revolution. using the brilliancy of voices and instruments against the poem’s line of foam. what Wagner effectuated was a marriage between two principles and two eras: nature and music. As such. Quelque singulier bonheur. 39 . Wagner unites the abstraction of musical language – its ‘volatile simplicity’ [dépouillement]. représenté. l’asseoit : devant le voile mouvant la subtilité de l’orchestration. He brought about a synthesis between the legend of the flown gods and the power of the absent god: the ‘distant hero’.The hymn of spiritual hearts Notre si vieil ébat triomphal du grimoire Hiéroglyphes dont s’exalte le millier A propager de l’aile un frisson familier The old gay triumphs of our magic scrawl. hellénique d’abord. In this resides the essence of the following famous leitmotiv: the identification of ‘colours and lines of a character with musical timbres and themes’. in actual fact. representation and mystery. the gods of myth and the god of absence. its fable and its substantial characters. it represents the very absorption of the poem and its ‘politics’ into music.80 Not only does Wagner’s enterprise not represent unfair competition. is political as well as poetic: Avec une piété antérieure. some familiarity into these myths for the people with a few ‘chance symbols’. in celebration of myth. who was unable to wait for the hour of the crowd and the celebrations of tomorrow.

It needs only the ‘fictive focal point of the eyes of a crowd’. with a piety that belongs to former times. now Germanic. first Hellenic. ‘the sense which is latent in everyone’s striving’. the hero in whom it must recognize the secret of its origin and its community power. precisely. of origins. he all the same sought to oppose the Wagnerian project to a ‘French spirit’. and alone apt to express the anonymous greatness of the crowd. The play of symbols needs only the imaginary space of origins. like the modern political act. the Eucharist of the real presence to self of a people defined as a community of origins.83 40 . Moreover. at a magnificence which decorates its genesis’. Music. then. considers the secret. Rather. it transforms communion ‘through the vacant space’ into the people’s real presence to itself. of a people called itself to become the total work of art. It turns the abstract poetic type into a national hero. and which allows for ‘Man and his authentic earthly abode to exchange a reciprocity of proofs’. wanted Lohengrin banned from playing in Paris. the orchestra conductor’s baton no longer contains any mystery. Here Mallarmé’s rupture with Wagnerian fascination asserts itself. stamped by a specific poetics and politics: that is. a Cartesian poetics of imaginative abstraction that refuses the enchantments of legend. Wagner. distant and hazy. a pure combination of aspects and the power of acts able.82 The fraudulent compromise between music and representation effects a redoubtable political confusion. has a duty to be strictly allegorical. but present. As indignant as Mallarmé was towards those who. invited to the celebration of community origin. to have the people celebrate as a real body. represented. is consecrated as the religion of the people. opposed to the collective narrative amplified by the orchestral deluge stands the fable. decapitates kings and refuses.mallarmÉ The public. to encapsulate ‘our dreams of places or paradises’ without embodying them. to the myth that offers a community its own living image. leaving the public alone with the hero in person. Some singular happiness – new and barbarous – seats it down: before the moving veil the subtlety of the orchestration. The century and country that dissolved the myths of both origin and sovereignty were unable to acquiesce to their restoration. out of nationalism. and a revolutionary politics of justice that cuts into the course of history. From then on. withdrawn from all embodiment of anonymous power. The scenic act. time or known characters’. in their place. by their abstraction. interred the orchestra. it is necessary to oppose the type ‘without prior designation’. virgin of anything: ‘place.

en tant que l’ensemble des rapports existants dans tout. In view of the concordance between the occult power of the ‘abyss of musical execution’ and the vain hunger of that furious chasm – the crowd and its epoch carefully frustrated by the ‘social arrangement’ – the cause of the small poetic siren is also the cause of ‘justice’.  . . ce n’est pas de sonorités élémentaires par les cuivres les cordes. as the totality of relations existing in everything. And it also reveals the political stakes of the purification of fiction.] for it is not through the elementary sounds of brasses. in relation to the newspaper and to the representative status of theatre. is something altogether different from some sort of unfair competition between the arts. on the contrary. mais de l’intellectuelle parole à son apogée que doit avec plénitude et évidence résulter. by which it separates itself from myth to project its own light. which ought to consecrate this separation. The revolution that music operates. [.The hymn of spiritual hearts At stake. was. We have already seen that fiction is much more than the arranging of fables or filling the imaginary with delights. of its return to the purified power of the verb.] car. The way in which music. is too serious a thing to be left to the blind impatience of musicians.  . which Verlaine’s impair verse inaugurated. The fascinating and disastrous hymen of the musical storm and poetical ship must be contrasted with fiction’s return to the power of the verb purified by musical abstraction. able to restore myth is exemplary. free verse pursued. indéniablement. The programme is thus clearly laid down. . strings or woods. and contemporary dreams of ‘verbal instrumentation’ wanted to settle. whose ‘flap of wing’ has to ‘dust off’ the domes of glass designed for the celebrations of the future. and the relation between the status of fiction and the community’s way of being. [. that it is the very method of the human spirit. with plenitude and obviousness. then. les bois. la Musique. By ‘breaking up classical literary rhythms’ and ‘dispersing them into articulated shivers close to 41 .84 This is the fundamental stake of the ‘crisis of verse’. but undeniably through the intellectual word at its height that there should result. It is up to the language of words to retranslate the revolution that the language of ‘instrumental rendings’ introduces into both the poem and human ritual. the system otherwise known as Music. At stake is the status of fiction.

what is in gestation is the art of ‘achieving the trans­ position.mallarmÉ instrumentation’. into the Book. which is also ‘the procedure itself of the human spirit’. 42 . the reconquest by poetry of its own good. of the symphony’.

It belongs to the movement by which man appropriates a humanity that is a match for the game of the world. or the allegory of its obligation. the problem stems not from the fact of writing.The duty of the book Here is where Mallarmé’s difficulty begins. It is properly speaking that which must take up the succession from religion qua elevation of the human to its greatness and the principle of a community keyed to that greatness. And this victory is not the simple exercise of a specific virtuosity. nor in the reappropriation of its 43 . must be distinguished from general psychological considerations about anxiety. To the luminous splendour of the ‘alphabet of stars’ placed against a dark background. and it must be well defined. The difficulty lies in the task that he set himself as a poet. faced with the white page. in its turn. but from the mission attributed to the poem and the constraints that this imposes on its writing. This difficulty. responds the movement of writing: ‘man pursues black on white’. The surface of writing is the place of a taking-place. Put another way. It belongs to the very movement and texture of the poem. Fiction is not simply the work of the imagination. The poem’s concluding white marks the return of the poem to the silence whence it emerged. The difficulty lies not in understanding what Mallarmé says in his poems. Mallarmé’s problem is linked to the fact that the page is not only the material support of the poem. but no longer is it the same white or the same silence. Let us recapitulate: the poem is not only a ‘work of art’. The task involved in succeeding from religion consists neither in some prosaic demystification of its celestial content. Mallarmé’s specific problem is not that of the schoolchild or the obsessive individual wondering how he will blacken his page. It is a determinate silence where the happenstance of some leaf of paper has been vanquished.

on this side of the concept. [.mallarmÉ sacredness on behalf of humanity. not even that of humankind. feeling and objects with the enunciation of philosophical messages. It must. it must therefore be in the specific way in which thought ‘takes place’. . are not myths buried in the collective unconscious. in short. […] L’armature intellectuelle du poème se dissimule et tient – a lieu – dans l’espace qui isole les strophes et parmi le blanc du papier. they are forms-of-world that are to be resuscitated by the ordering of words.] The intellectual armoury of the poem is dissimulated and holds – takes place – in the space which isolates the stanzas and among the white of the paper. the poem is unable to abdicate the privilege of speech and thought for the ‘ineffability’ of song. on this side of words. as purely as reflecting. in the white which separates and surrounds the lines of the chant: Le chant jaillit de source innée : antérieure à un concept. a thousand rhythms of images. Mallarmé’s text gives a twofold figure to this first inscription: the burst of song. If philosophy is present. by turning away from representation as from dissertation. with the effusion of the community presenting itself to itself. mille rythmes d’images. He was quick to add. Poetry. si purement que refléter. on this side of the ordinary forms of discursive thought. humanity’s original poems. Song breaks forth from an innate source: prior to a concept. reaching further back than the religion of music. The young Valéry summed this up as follows: the poem’s ‘high symphony’ liberates the poet ‘from the banal rescue of banal philosophies. And if it has the instantaneousness of a vanishing act. The poem geared to serving this function is itself subject to a strict set of conditions. it is nevertheless not to be identified with the pure happening of the living artwork.86 44 . . outside. must not constitute a new religion. au-dehors. false tenderness and lifeless descriptions’. not without ruining the stated postulates can it consist in a ‘philosophical meaning’ to be discovered in the fable of the poem. return us to the origin of all religion as such. in which the Idea is inscribed in the form of a poem. that philosophy must be ‘included and latent’. ‘Poe’s opinion’ was the one Mallarmé ‘revered’: no vestige of any philosophy ought to appear in the work.85 But these. and the inscription of its power of thought. to the ‘poems immanent to humanity in its original form’. What is a ‘latent philosophy’? To be sure. It can no longer recount stories in the old style or describe what nature suffices to produce. however. But. nor by any means replace the description of characters.

the rediscovered power of myth and of ancient epos and animal magnetism. the history of a poetic power of nature and of life. the differences of potential that generate the lightning flash to bring them to life and establish new and indefinitely renewable potentialities of meaning. the Spinozist natura naturans. constantly creating new forms and being written – in more and more elaborate and significant figures – on these forms. the Schlegel brothers elaborated the idea of a poetry-thought. the power of nature manifested in its formations. Leibnizian dynamism and the transcendent fantasy of Don Quichotte retranslated. the dissolving powers of irony and the revolutionary dissolution of old orders. the power of images and the educational novel of the artistic soul. On the other. that which penetrates the living meaning of symbols and reads the age and the law of constitution of minerals. with this idea of spiritual revolution. by itself. On the one hand. electric energy. within this whirlwind. of a type of poetry in furtherance of thought and capable of reflecting. and the power of life that through its self-reflection never ceases to elevate itself to new forms. a discussion that was also a century old. the theory of wit defined an electric form of poetry. The poem’s power of thought simultaneously consisted in the power of mind to deny finite determination and fossilized meaning. The poetic games of Witz thus crowned this movement. Schelling and Hölderlin jotted down on a bit of paper their project for a poetry-religion for the people. the Kantian chemistry of the faculties of mind. the science of hieroglyphic decipherment. who in Wilhelm Meister had found his bible. on the infinite.The duty of the book The poem as thought: a secular history How are we to understand the relation of this innate breaking forth and this invisible architecture as the latent and effective ‘philosophy’ of the poem? For this. constituting. In the times when Hegel. 45 . summoned to always higher forms of self-symbolization. all sorts of discoveries and rediscoveries came to swirl around together: the chemical decomposition of bodies. between hackneyed words and significations. young German thinkers were proposing to prolong France’s ‘frozen’ Revolution by elaborating what it had lacked: a spiritual revolution. we must reset the Mallarméan project within a discussion of the poem’s capacities of thought. two leading images. And. marking a poeticity already inscribed within the structure of the collective poem formed by language itself. the theory of the symbol registered that power of electrifying within a natural history of poeticity. In this era. The ‘progressive universal poetry’ thus named by Friedrich Schlegel combined.

namely language. sound or language. in which it expresses adequately what it knows about itself in a resistant material – and. the mind manifested itself only as the power of organization and interiority of a sensory weave. Poetry. there is the language of signs. We can put this differently and say that the mind can express itself in three material aspects: first. Poetry’s power of thought is that of a spirit which does not yet know itself except in the figure and rhythm of a language that itself is still caught in the figurativeness of images and the temporal thickness of its materiality. concerned itself only with the purest form. the image and rhythm of the poem.mallarmÉ In his Lessons on Aesthetics. On the one hand. no longer having to concern itself with materials. On the other. This division fixed the powers of poetry and its limits. and the mind would pave the way toward its own clarification. there was thought in its proper element. other arts came up against the resistance of the stone. More than in any other art form. prosaic consciousness would find it was clearer. colour. an old Hegel set this extravagance of thought in order. wherever thought is separated from itself. qua that which knows itself in the inert virtue of the image-returning mirror. it was in poetry that the following general law would appear: art only arises wherever thought does not think itself. This is why it was the ‘general art’. the wood or the colour applied to a surface. But this power had its strict complement. wood. common to the modern prose of the world of interests and laws and to the expression of thought in itself. the mind’s opacity to itself and language’s resistance to becoming the simple instrument of thought. that supreme form of opacity which resists the mind: that is. there is plastic form. what it ignores about itself. the language which functions as a simple medium of communication. In manifesting thought. It had the most ideal of contents. there was thought outside of itself. other than a language of signs that is indifferent to what it signifies. To the power of the poem’s ‘self knowledge’ he contrasted the clear division of two modes of existence of thought. And doubtless the art of poetry was that where the matter was finest. He shattered the idea of the poem of the poem. second. as in all art. more than through any other art. In poetry. and the most ideal of materials. and then there is the third 46 . of the poem as ‘self reflection’. though. thought having become the spirit of the painting. in which the two brothers had generously identified the active power of thought. Through poetry’s power to whip words into images. a thought entirely bound up in the material it animates and raises to ideality: stone. by the same token. the smile of the god of stone. namely the very representations of mind.

a majesty or a king. that already bears. significations to be deciphered by a superior form of poem. It brought them to the point at which the mind. which seeks to define the idea of courage and finds merely a lion. The symbol is that bat-like creature that simultaneously takes after both form and sign. then. Here is the point on which Hegel’s surgical operation bears. itself reduced to the role of substituting a thought. The supreme form of art. For poetry thrived on a twofold opacity: the opacity of language. Wanting to cumulate the powers of form and thought. to inscribe the meaning that it fails to master in the matter that it fails to give form to. expressed the idea – still very material but well determined – that the Greek people entertained of divinity. even obscurely. but more generally thought’s failure to give itself body. is a sign not of force but of weakness. Thus form talks only when it is limited to its own power. the mind no longer needs poetry. of itself. I am the writing of a thought. but simultaneously wants us to recognize in it a force. a witness to the power of a mind that creates living forms. in its plastic perfection. It passed on wholly to the stone a thought that it would fall to a subsequent discourse to translate into the language of words and into the history of the mind. It delineates and has us recognize a lion. The romantic theory of the poem privileged this mode. In this way. though without managing it. Symbolism. for him. could be uttered in an exact language and be recognized in the forms in which it was externalized. This double nature of the symbol. The symbol builds a pyramid of stone and wants us to read in it the mystery of death and the beyond. It is the form that tells us: do not be deceived. it lacks both of them. This is as much to say that. as for it.The duty of the book mode: that of the symbol. to place an idea in a material. The symbol. it is the form of writing which pretends to be more than writing. clear to itself. but inscribed in the very texture of the sensory. This is precisely the menace that weighs on poetry’s pretension to be thought by itself. and already to be presenting the sensible form of what it names. but also the spirit’s opacity to 47 . its resistance to the traversal of meaning. is not only the first age of art. It lets us see the work of an intention which strives. I am more than form. the Greek statue. in coming to know itself. an outline deprived of the spiritual power of form. poetry purified simultaneously the representations of the mind and the material of language. the cloud that floats on the border between two modes of thought and that menaces the thinking that claims to unite them in one. wherein meaning was not enclosed within the solitude of words. but also that the very matter of poetry escapes it. Conversely. however. wants to pull ahead.

to the power that Hegel denied the poem: that of a thinking which is the immediate identity of thought and form. which constrained it to go looking for itself in the materiality of the figure. nevertheless without becoming philosophy. But it thereby ceases to be poetry.mallarmÉ itself. in the interiority of thought or in the exteriority of the sensory. poem: the circle of ‘mimesis’ Mallarmé seems to have known Hegelian thought only through intermediary persons. in short. its distance to itself. The ‘French’ theory of fiction rejects this presence of meaning at the power of formation of things. The ‘poem of the poem’ is simply the poem that wants to turn the desertion of its form into the proof of its character of thought. it is because the mode of supreme manifestation of the Idea is a pure music. here is woven a singularly complex relationship between model and copy. This notion rises. Thought must be either on one side or the other. But how are we to conceive this proximity? In its immediate context. it is because it is ‘music par excellence’. His notion of the poetic symbol is nevertheless defined by the frame of division traced by Hegel’s thought. and that of an abstract language which simultaneously writes. says Mallarmé. It lays claim. Doubtless Mallarmé’s thinking was far removed from the Romantic theory of generalized symbolism. the power of thought which gave rise to it. Poetry is more musical than music. The poem ‘nears the Idea’. the poem contrasts the signifying structure of the poetic verb with the claims of instrumental music and its language. the true music of which the other is only an imitation. It strictly maintains the division between nature. and its beyond. in the traces of signs. It loses itself in the fogs of humour and feeling. or confronts its prohibition. It thus seeks to make up for what it loses in formal power by jumping across to the other side of the barrier. which simply is. because it is 48 . which contrasts with the orchestra’s ‘mutism’. conveniently exempt from explaining itself. because it is the art of the verb. dance. in the element of thought itself. However. by attributing to itself the power of thought which knows itself. However. of which strings and woodwind instruments give a mere imitation. and second. for two reasons that are presented as equivalent: first. if poetry nears the Idea. on the other hand. Wherever this twofold opacity is missing. poetry loses its unconscious finality of form. to the Hegelian challenge. Music. The work claiming to unite these two modes of thought misses them both. in the border cloud of the symbol enclosing those who aim to occupy both sides at once. of thought expressed. in its own way.

in Mallarméan terms. the power to elicit in the soul of the individual and of the city the virtuality of a harmony that imitates the harmony of divine beings or. meaning. of a sensory language of the number. à son défaut que les plus beaux discours émanés de quelque bouche. apt both to replace things with the relations connecting them and to have the harmony of these relations communicate directly. philosophique. Thought’s mode of expression as rhythm is anterior to and higher than its discursive mode. A travers un nouvel état. or the word. in a determinate time and place. The dialectic of the verse: ressuscite au degré glorieux ce qui. It is the writing. […] ne resterait. It draws it in its new status: the unity in act of scattered fragments of beauty. its Greek meaning and its Platonic function: the transcription of mathematical harmony which creates a kosmos. 49 . Musical fiction draws the idea in the form of a rhythm. the play written in the folio of the sky. ‘Use Music in the Greek sense. but the movement itself of its flight. living discourse is called writing. contrary to Plato. in short. Music purifies fiction. with the ‘types’ and the ‘accords’ of our inner theatre as with the unconscious greatness of the gathered crowd. of the spirit as opposed to the gossipy mutism of voices: that is. motifs and differences of intensity. but the idea itself. separates it from the figure in order to commit it to the intellectual power of the rhythm. It delineates not at all the result of a thought. to the orchestra’s clamour but also to the discourse of the concept. which contrasts with its clamour – it is ‘the same thing as the orchestra. the slumbering poeticity at the core of any multiplicity whatever. which itself fails to go beyond the power of the ‘most beautiful speeches to come out of some mouth’.88 this is the idea of music that the orchestra imitates and that it simultaneously betrays with the noisy and ‘industrial’ mutism of gut strings and pistons. It recovers.87 How are we to understand the relationship between this mutism and this silence? Music presented the paradigm of a language which. tout sûr. In musical presentation.The duty of the book the art of silence. dismissed the ‘brutality’ of designation. except literarily or silently’. But here the old Platonic theme takes on a paradoxical figure. of the ‘tacit concert’ or of the ‘tacit flight of abstraction’. The orchestra is thus like the silent and noisy letter that knows not whereof it speaks. idea or the rhythm between connections’. basically. it is no longer things that are mimed. more radically than conceptual abstraction. This is because for Mallarmé. sublime. awakening through the distribution of voices. imaginatif et éclatant que ce fût.

In this new sublime state. is this original virtue of words? It can only be understood in two ways. closer to thought. and in ‘Crisis of verse’ its principle is fixed once and for all: it is because words do not resemble things that verse receives its function as higher currency and as a new word. The primary music of the poem purifies the coarseness of the orchestral tumult. then.90 We find ourselves. there is a fresh beginning of the conditions and materials of thought. meaning by this not at all one which. as in Vigny. But it is in a new theatre that thought lays its ‘wing’s blow’ – the figures of its movement – open to view. in Les Mots anglais. that the spirit shows itself as theatre. after this difference and the experience of the beyond. the stability and frankness of st. après cette différence et l’essor au-delà. find their virtue. in the chapter on sibilants. he becomes intoxicated with the rapidity and the exaggeration of sw. If the flight of verse gives words their virtue. there is the old and ineradicable idea scoffed at by Plato in the Cratylus: that the sounds of words are similar to what they say. celebrates the purity of the spirit. when. revives a celestial vision of humanity  ! without it there is just beautiful discourse out of some mouth. glorious and philosophical and imaginative. First. makes more than one pledge toward a neo-Cratylism. But this science of sounds announces straightaway the colour of the chimera. eux-mêmes. resuscitates. Doubtless Mallarmé. in fact. it is not by moving them closer to their origin. by themselves. laid down naturally for a prose study: the vocables. on the contrary. atteignant leur vertu. before the Hegelian core of the problem: what are we to do so that this ‘silent’ pyrotechnics of words can become more than simply the most beautiful metaphor illustrating a purely empty intention? Where are we to find the paradigm enabling us to think the poem of the pure spirit. The music of the orchestra dismissed the coarseness of the imitative figure and the theatre of representation. the good sentiments of sm and the rampant perversity of sn. What.89 The ‘dialectic of the verse’ is introduced at the price of a remarkable reversal. Only this theatralization renders to words their primary ‘virtue’ prior to discourse. it is by the oblique movement which draws them outside of themselves and enables them to light up through ‘reciprocal reflections like a virtual swooping of fire across precious stones’. to the degree that it.mallarmÉ il y a recommencement des conditions ainsi que des matériaux de la pensée sis naturellement pour un devoir de prose: comme des vocables. but instead one which presents us its 50 .

clearly.. the dancer’s ‘flighted form’ will never give us the representation nor even the impression. as illustrated on stage at the Théâtre Français. that the dancer is not a woman dancing. what it would take pages of prose. more precisely than it. that minor art forgotten by Hegel. like Loïe Fuller. dialogue and description to express. dance institutes the pure place of an ideality. The silent music of the spirit. the appeal to the ‘fractioning’ of equal motifs and to the ‘reciprocity of fires’ between the words of the poem finds its strict model in the following choreographic law: ‘that the first subject. for these juxtaposed reasons: that she is not a woman. Never. an art’s pure capacity for fiction stands in inverse ratio to that offered by the ordinary games of recognition. blendable and clear aspect. if it were transcribed: a poem independent of any scribal apparatus. by its vanishing as individuality in the pure writing of steps which cause any anecdote to disappear: The judgement or axiom to be affirmed in the case of ballet! Namely. by its lone act.The duty of the book effective theatre? To this question. in its ceaseless ubiquity. story or feeling. cloud and jewel’. presented for divination’. of dance. But. flower. is a moving synthesis of the attitudes of each group. The dancer’s ‘flighted form’ thereby carries out the programme that is proposed for the new poem: ‘To institute an exact relation between images. is illustrated nowhere better than in the figures traced by the illiterate ballerina with her steps. its bare writing. but a metaphor summing up one of the elementary aspects of our form: knife.93 It is this pure relationship of reciprocity between types and the synthesis of their attitudes that is lost in the ‘loquacious vacuity’ of the theatre.91 And it lends its exact model to the ‘elocutionary disappearance’ of the poet. unclassifiable. The theatre of the pure spirit that the page of writing must institute has a privileged model: ballet. Better than music. a kind of corporeal writing. goblet. Of the ‘scattered general beauty. we can give a response that is at first glance surprising. or even. and that she is not dancing. with the movement of her skirt. detailing the whole. through the miracle of bends and leaps. waves. What it draws is the pure trajectory between a virtual aspect and a mind able to ‘divine’ it and recognize it as analogue to the types and accords of its inner theatre. where the members who play Laertes or 51 . of the infinite’. but suggesting. etc.92 Similarly. flower. and let detach there a third. will a step be able to represent or to suggest any object. just as each group is only a fraction.

Always. the ‘book of verse’ springs forth as the true theatre of the mind. silent music of the poem. But it had to avow the emptiness of this wordless language. that is. then. The silent language of music freed it from the coarseness of figuration and representation. it is still in the mode of a simulacrum that this ‘rather unconscious revealer’ proposes a realization of it. in order to show. Jacques Derrida not long ago lauded Mallarmé’s subversion of the Platonic system of the ideamodel and the copy. the true choreography of the idea. vainly and unconsciously. through the last full stop which consecrates it and the silence that closes it. Yet it remains no more than its caricature. Of this silent music the ballerina. But Mallarmé never managed to conceive this first model. but maintained a mimetic status for the poem: the poem imitates no model. However.95 But two things have to be distinguished. the ritual or the first sacrament of which the others repeat the symbol. 52 . Mallarmé dismissed the art of representation of the idea-model. Only the gaze of the poet ‘used to dreaming’ is able to recognize in it the choreography of the mind which is misrecognized by the choreographers of the stage. Ballet seemed to furnish the poem with its model. except as the imitation of its imitations. as she simulates with the movements of her dress ‘an impatience of plumes toward the idea’. instead of being merely walk-ons. The first copy cannot show its model. that it really is the first copy. then. It must present the ‘nuptial proofs’ of the Idea. The supreme artifice must be a veridical copy of the written piece ‘in the folio of the sky’. The exteriority of the figure thus returns as the mode of the manifestation of the idea.mallarmÉ Polonius want to impose their ‘character’. which is that of the words of the poem. The silent writing of the dancer copies. in which is encapsulated the ‘few summary equations of all fantasy’. mimed in the writing of timbres and of steps and is to be repatriated to the book in its anteriority. It must no less be masterfully authenticated. In this infinite recourse. Hamlet. writing without words. the theatre which imitates only the Idea and of which every other art is a simple imitation. provided the model: the writing of truth.94 The poem of the pure spirit is. that ‘latent lord who cannot become’. the idea as the movement of its own breaking forth. tapestry motifs typified by their juvenile shadow. That the idea is only fiction does not prevent there from being a first copy of its movement. It admitted to being a copy or caricature of the true. one that is to be found. The real writing of the mind can be seen in the pure plastic figure that is illustrated in the silent discourse of the dancer. but traces perceptibly the movement of the Idea. concealed by the clamour of bare sounds. drawn into a singular spiral.

that ‘music of relations between everything’. in its authenticity. Orpheus’ task does not suppose long vigils over old grimoires. whose intention Mallarmé follows. For want of such writing. and to show the adequation of its structure to the ‘primitive rumbles of logic’96. ever since Plato another type of writing has always had to stand in for it. And it is less than written: the power of the word must be held in the mere white which provides the poem with its invisible architecture. have to be grasped in this logic. only a short to-and-fro to the land of the dead. to the ‘orphic’ poet it is enough. false tenderness and lifeless descriptions’. The ‘orphic explanation of the earth’. and infinite dream and detachment [recul] of the book. Words only can attest to this. and more than written. without constituting her as an object of the gaze. and refuses to mime ‘banal philosophies. unless their disposition on the page of writing sets between them a distance equal to that which separates the flashes of the mind that the idea summons up. whose authentic imitation can only be perceived in the copies which falsify it. Likewise.The duty of the book The problems of the white of the page. unless the arabesque linking them in a phrase happens to match some originary mould of syntax. a leaf of a book authenticating our abode. It is necessary. is not the business of the Cabbalists and the book’s detachment hardly the result of the heavy secrets that he would have to transmit to us of some long tradition. one that is both less than written. for every cosmogony. projecting onto that which is only the light of what has disappeared. This materiality is more than written: it is the casting of the idea. the perfume of what is absent from all bouquets. similar to the breath of the spirit. It has only to be shown that this leaf is really and truly authentic. The circle of mimesis: the poet who ‘is satisfied by no fruits here’. to return the dead woman to the surface without turning back towards her. The true choreography of the idea is the paper which must attest it in the arrangement. but they are also insufficient to do so. The Mallarméan theory of fiction rejects the figures of carnal incorporation and immaterial breath. is no less strictly held to attest is that what he has placed in his poem really is the relish of their ‘learned lack’. then. that these two figures of another type of writing merge in the sole materiality of the book. the light of the spirit materially reproduced in the declivity of words on the page. that it actually imitates the idea. on the white 53 . to inscribe the premier rite of the idea. They do not pertain to an anxiety that the psychoanalyst would have to explain to us or to the reprisal of a millenary esoteric dream to which the Cabbalist specialists would alone have the key. to show. or etched into the very texture of things. either as it is averred in the body of one who fulfils speech.

which had been sabotaged by the adept of uneven verse and then that of free verse.97 Correlatively. It is hardly the Spirit of God that breathes on its waters. apt to consume that future in advance. The ‘crisis of verse’ is itself part of the ‘crisis of the ideal’. The forgetting of the ancient manoeuvre and the change of accessories means the following: that the spirit is no longer that which one throws to sea. But this loss of traditional knowledge is linked to a more exact knowledge of the ocean of the times that must transmit the legacy of the present to the future.mallarmÉ of the open page. In Mallarmé’s epoch. in the authenticity which rivals it with the folio of the sky. is the arrangement of A Dice Throw. But this casting can no longer be that of the message entrusted to time. before being carried to its tomb by the Hugolian ogre. enclosed in its bottle. the seven days of the creation of the world. apt to reproduce the topography of the theatre of the spirit. illuminating the gold of the vessel that sinks the celebrations of the future. the game played ‘in the name of ocean waves’. charged with the task that is identical to all of posterity: hosting the heritage of the ideal that was misrecognized in its time. jubilating so little that it notices the coarse imagery of its divinity’. and to adapt its gaping depth to any ship’s hull. the ‘surge of the crowd. we know. What the ‘unanimous horizon’ contains of mixed promises and threats prohibits the ancient game of the bottle at sea. It is the chasm of vain hunger. The setting it depicts is one with which we are already familiar: the course of the poetic ship on the seas of the times. It is the pure power to project 54 .98 This ‘conflagration of the unanimous horizon’ encourages the decisive movement. The Ocean no longer metaphorizes the passage from the tribulations of the times to the triumphs of the future. itself the complement of the social crisis. one had ‘forgotten the manoeuvre’. The ‘crisis of the ideal’ is the absence of ideal gold proper to founding popular worship: the ‘thousand-fold joyous amplification of the sky-instinct in each of us’. lost with the ancient bar of the alexandrine. in alexandrines. of unequal lines of characters borrowed from diverse fonts. In Vigny’s era. There is no need to discover in it. The authentic page Such. one threw bottles onto the seas. the crisis is also the insatiable hunger of the chimera of the crowd frustrated by the social arrangement. the opening of the Chimera’s maw. as this or that interpreter. a message to enclose in a watertight container. There is no great difficulty in understanding what this poem ‘means’ either. bottles of poetic messages intended for posterity.

proceeding victoriously. That is why it is necessary to include in the game the hesitation to play it. that of the outspread chasm ready to engulf it. and there is the primary sacrament that this elevation repeats. without becoming lost in it. for the celebrations of the future. and the fixation of swirling fiction in a fixed point where the constellation inscribed on ‘some vacant and superior surface’ avers the number of its stars as the exact rite of the Idea. in a sense. At this cost. to plot in the cast of the poem. the risky game it plays with the chasm. and to hide it from the present pit of vain hunger.The duty of the book oneself. create its theatre: great shipwreck or waveform of the siren? Is it a ‘mystery. in its ‘victory’ over its own chance. rather. word by word. the dilemma staged by the prose of ‘About the Book’ and the meditations accompanying the chronicles of ‘Scribbled at the Theatre’. the septet of the ‘Sonnet in –yx’. It must be transmitted perfectly. it operates that ‘triumphal reversal’ spoken of in ‘Restricted Action’. and authentic fragment of the Book: ‘the successive shock/in the way of stars/of a total account in the making/keeping vigil/doubting/ rolling/shining and meditating/before coming to a halt/at some terminus that sanctifies it’. howled’ or ‘a simple insinuation inrolled in silence with irony?’ The unique occasion is also an absolute risk. and the siren in particular. the vanishing trace of the Idea is not a zero-sum game. carried off by the writing of lines as by that of steps. It is necessary. to trace a drawing of oneself on a specific space. But this vanquished chance. It has to be the foremost sacrament by which every effectuation. over chance in its threefold form: the author’s personality. are consecrated. hurled. upon the place which denies it. and language’s irreducibility. institute its place. to unfold that ‘recommencement of conditions as well as of materials of thought. The number must be transmitted and not betrayed. But what the poem says about the poem is one thing and what the poem effectuates as poem is another. a simple equality of hypotheses carried on.99 What. accomplished rite of the Idea. will only ever be a throw of the dice – a hyperbolical affirmation of pure contingency. And this game of denying and reaffirming chance must itself be passed on. the poem ‘says’. What the Book must do – what it must spread across the double page and conceal in the fold [repli] of the volume – is to fix and authenticate the 55 . the subject’s triviality. the projection of radical doubt into celestial hyperbole. The Dice Throw has been lost if all it announces is either the ideal or the metaphor of poetic work. With his two die. the spirit must. to another chance. There is what the poem effectuates in its particularity as a singular elevation of the chalice-calyx. we know from the siren of ‘Hushed to the crushing cloud’.

] without any moment’s having any reality.] Here.  . repris par les Lettres à l’estampe originelle. in systems. . distributed in clusters.] there. The game of the ship and the Ocean. dreamt. Yet its linkage with the infinite – ‘as far as a place merges with the beyond’ – must still be assured. extension spoke. The poem that has refused to include on the subtle paper the palace stone and the forest wood must strictly imitate the ‘history’ which is its metaphor: La constellation y affectera d’après des lois exactes. gave birth to temporal forms. . for every firework display illuminating the celebrations of the future. Le vaisseau y donne de la bande. nothing at all. it is only able to attest to it at the price of simply miming. on the very paper. assures this linkage. concentration were visible things. We know the famous pages in which Paul Valéry summed up the felt effect of seeing the storm of thought thus projected black on white: ‘It seemed to me I had seen the figure of a thought for the first time placed in our space [. My view was engaged with silences which would have taken shape [. du haut d’une page à l’autre. . pure fiction to the banalities of representation. . However.’100 There is most certainly nothing pejorative in this ‘nothing’. Expectation. une allure de constellation. the singular poem proceeds in the manner of the dancer. co-existed Speech! He had tried. I know not what scintillation of last stars trembled infinitely pure in the same interconscious void where. I thought. . . etc. of the rolling dice and the sidereal count ending at the point of sacredness. on the double page. doubt. of the hand which retains and casts. or its page witness. figuré sur le papier.  .101 The Book. and what happens is. which opposes. at last to raise a page to the power of the starry sky’. malgré tout quelque chose [. gloriously. et autant qu’il est permis à un texte imprimé. the ship’s listing or the constellation’s tracing.] le rythme d’une phrase au sujet d’un acte ou même d’un objet n’a de sens que s’il les imite et. La littérature fait ainsi sa preuve : pas d’autre raison d’écrire sur du papier. fatalement.  : car [. But it assures it on condition of presenting the figure that resembles materially what it says and what the poem does in general.102 But the condition of this pure mimesis of pure thought is given by Mallarmé unequivocally. . like a matter of new species. Only typographical mimesis can attest that it really is the primary game of the spirit which is inscribed here. finally. 56 . It is here that the anti-mimetic mimetism of the Idea reaches its point of paradox.].mallarmÉ first rite. in trails. . must be proven for every poem to come. en doit rendre. Without this authentification. veritably. ‘pricking’ an object and unrolling ‘our convictions in a writing of pirouettes extended towards another motif [.

a singular effectuation of that power without norm which is verified alone by its act. of genres and the poetic arts. depending on the case – the proof by effects: the pleasure or emotion felt by people of taste.  . comedy for the bourgeois. The Book had to prove that it indeed was the voice of God. the consecration of bread and wine. rediscovers the circle of the Christian proof of Scripture. Literature. assume. each time. but also the initial movement which consecrates it. In the times of mimesis and Belles Lettres. The Book and the Body have to confirm 57 . the proof of its minute and decisive difference. enacted on paper. The word literature primarily means that what is represented prescribes neither genre nor style. whereby body was given to the speech of the prophets. It was further necessary to prove through the Book that the one who had transformed the Book in truth was indeed the same one that the Book itself had announced. it was enough for each poem to present the fable and style appropriate to the rules and usages of the genre that it illustrated. the real presence of its idea. etc: for [. In the last instance. will triumph in the white following the last word. dead and raised from the dead.].. .] the rhythm of a sentence about an act or even an object has meaning only if it imitates them and. Literature thus makes its proof: there is no other reason to write on paper’. line by line. . which can be called the Flaubert paradox: the less that literature owes to what it represents. To this formal proof was added – or substituted. It must. the more it proves that this power really is its own.  . it proved this through the incarnation of the Word. according to precise laws and insofar as it is possible in a printed text.103 Literature must prove itself. the nature of what was represented prescribed the forms of its representation: tragedy for kings. that each episode of the Passion. fatally. with each line. the form of a constellation. and the suffering body on the cross. No writing can designate the rule or the public that testifies for it. This also means that it is. which. in any case. was well proven by its conformity with what was said in figures in their writings. at the edge of cancellation. This obligation leads to a first paradox. It constitutes. prove that it really is literature. and pastoral for the shepherds. when the Letters have taken over from the original etching must convey something despite it all [.The duty of the book In this poem the constellation will. with the metres and the figures suitable to each. The ship will list from the top of one page to the bottom of the next. To refuse that headlong rush that takes the name of prose requires that literature inscribe in itself not only the rhythm separating the verse from the newspaper. then.

Its form must simultaneously be the body and the idea of its idea. joy. perhaps. uniquely in the materiality of its arrangement. But ‘the man charged with seeing divinely. beyond any disposition of rights and interests. before his gaze. harmony. tying together the relations among everything’. on the contrary. the idea of its god within its form. This repeated dramaturgy then met up with the great dream of the century: that of the true community. has only. the parallelism of pages as model’. literature rediscovers the circle of the incarnation which avers the text and the text which avers the incarnation. conversely. owes nothing to the decision of intransitivity. The shadow of the old Hegel convoked here can help us to understand the following: the specificity of Mallarmé’s enterprise. but the pure trace of the idea. is its lost paradise. But this last point of the consecration returns it.mallarmÉ each other indefinitely. that is. which can be stated as follows: the poem must contain. by the sacrament which is overloaded with symbols in order to confirm the identity of the text and the body or. it is because. By abandoning the codes and hierarchies of representation. in accordance with Hegel’s prediction. and the idea which. he wanted to uphold a twofold requirement: to make the poem into the religion of the future. without remainder. in opposition to the instrumental language of communication. the Greek statue that enclosed. The poem must be the ‘hymn. the living spirit of the human collective. that which it accomplishes or misses under the name of literature. and simultaneously to refuse all incarnation for this religion or a body of any sort to guarantee the poem. whether that of the subject it represents or of the community that it animates. conversely. And the inheritors of the Book were obliged to carry endlessly on with confirming it: by the infinite return of the Book on itself. The works’ modern status does not reside in ‘intransitivity’. the text that is closed in on itself. the incorporation which guarantees it.104 If the question of the book achieves its greatest radicality in Mallarmé. embodying. ‘Literature’ begins when this unity of matter 58 . enclosing its meaning or its absence of meaning in the closure of its words. or the celebration wherein a people attests to its ‘transfiguration into Truth’.105 The ‘proof’ of literature thus achieves its radicality in the paradox of Mallarmé. more than any other. overwhelms the page with its arabesques to make itself into the sinking vessel of the times and the scintillation of the future that its sunset lights up. by the sacrifice which goes to the extreme of dispossession so as to expose a body to the verification of the letter. because of the willed limipidity of the links. to the deadlock of the symbol: the ship whose form vanishes to assure us that it is not that of a vulgar ship. Such. a pure cluster grouped together in some shining circumstance.

regardless of the dull old refrain of the accursed poet. This is why he had to identify his public function with a subtraction from every specific audience. imperceptibly. for New Man or the 59 . more than any discourse ‘to issue from some mouth’ is able to say about it. The new work. between the pit of work and the ballot box. The poem has to be aristocratic. And in fact. and the supplement of writing. too quickly understood in his role as bard of the hymn. it could use poets to chant for the war of right or might. that passage of the void – the infinite – which separates. not simply ‘in spite of the fact that’ its author is a good democrat. Mixed with the ‘horror’ that is provoked by the sentiment of the book’s required ‘qualities’ for averring the chimera is another fear: not the banal fear of the artist afraid of being met with incomprehension and rejection but the inverse fear of being too well received by the open maw of the monster. when it must be recreated and submitted to the test. Flaubert could merge it with the realization of form. with Flaubert’s paradoxical project: to remake intentionally the work of these poet-worlds who knew not what they were doing. for example. far from its glory. this century knew only too well how.The duty of the book and of what it says is lost. It begins. of vanquished chance and irreducible chance. the syntactical arrangement of the phrase from its usual powers of signification. but because he works for the celebrations to come of a crowd that the present social arrangement holds. the century was to understand the promise of the new poem only too well. which forms the proof of literature. before killing them. is also the way in which the political relation is negotiated between the work’s and the writer’s aristocratic exceptionality and the triumphant democracy expressed by the equality of every subject with every other one and the scattering of novels to the four winds. to make it appear as the unity of conscious intention and unconscious matter. By identifying the realization of the idea with this imperceptible vibration at the surface of signs. must be entirely calculated so as to be identified with the pure mirror in which is reflected the unconscious relation of the whole to itself. moreover. Mallarmé refused both arrangements. But he also confronted the political paradox. Literature’s specificity is the duty to say more about itself than it does say. ‘the book about nothing’. Flaubert’s genius – or his forgery [supercherie] – is to identify this more with a less. He was thus obliged to inscribe in the text the supplement of writing correlative to the poet’s subtraction. This poetic arrangement. as organizer of the new worship of a community celebrating ‘the divinity it knows how to be’. to set on a par with the ‘elocutionary disappearance’ of the poet.

the etching of the poem has to say simultaneously more than it says and less than it says.107 Mallarmé. simultaneously painted and effaced. the archaic elsewhere of skies’. and its unity with both in science. seeing that this beautiful reconciliation lay far from us. to enable their dawn. 60 . the gold of mornings to come.106 Grey on grey. He knew that.mallarmÉ people rendered to its identity. in the grey-blue-rose of the symbol. Hegel painted the spirit’s movement in achieving the reconciliation of its powers: self-consciousness recognizing its substantial will in the state. for the glory of the machine and that of the community: ‘dilution into the colour of electricity and of the people. This twofold constraint is perhaps enough to render speech rare and the poem difficult. its ideal essentiality in religion.

Torch snuffed out by a sudden stirring Without the immortal gust deferring The abandonment about to come La chambre ancienne de l’hoir The heir apparent’s ancient room..Appendix: selected texts N. Gallimard. p. 61 . O. Henry Weinfield. 1945). Through passageways back through the gloom. (1st edition. Torche dans un branle étouffée Sans que l’immortelle bouffée Ne puisse à l’abandon surseoir ! Does Pride at evening always fume. Than the console glittering there. Ne serait pas même chauffée Would still be cold if he came faring S’il survenait par le couloir. (Poésies.B.) in the collection ‘Bibliothèque de la Pléiade’.C. Héritage I/Heritage I Tout Orgueil fume-t-il du soir. Disavowal’s sepulchre: Sous un marbre lourd qu’elle isole Beneath the marble it isolates Ne s’allume pas d’autre feu No other fire fulminates Que la fulgurante console. 78). De maint riche mais chu trophée Rich though fallen trophies bearing.) (trans. 1992. 73. p. The page references refer to the edition of Oeuvres Complètes (O.C. Affres du passé nécessaires Inevitable death throes of the past Agrippant comme avec des serres As with talons gripping fast Le sépulcre de désaveu.

Let’s dig around again. Nature – Music – Terms to be taken in their common definition of foliage and sounds. la rue. éventée par le manque du rêve qu’elle consume. où se sacrifièrent les bosquets et les cieux  . ainsi m’invitèrentils – primitif.] The double stimulant added to Letters. in destiny.mallarmÉ Au-delà de la Nature I/Beyond Nature I [. dans l’ordre absolu. has. sans douter. jusqu’à une source. Aussi.C. avec répercussion de clartés.  . . maintenant proches la pensée. 62 . son bûcher. exteriority and means. (‘Bucolique’. selon une chronologie. envers un. irrésistiblement au foyer subtil. Esthétiquement la succession de deux états sacrés. au destin. épars. O. La merveille. à la musique. pour en épandre les ténébres comme plafond de temple. en plus que l’abolition de texte. communiquait à ma jeunesse une ferveur que je dis passion comme. quand mené par je comprends quel instinct. extériorité et moyen ont. directe. d’avoir étagé la concordance . 402–3. au cours de la transformation naturelle en musicale identifié. in absolute order. en public. le secret ne reste pas incompatible avec l’homme. La première en date. un concert aussi d’instrument n’exclue la notion : ce fantôme. Repuiser. tout de suite.] Le double adjuvant aux Lettres. elle l’allume avec le virginal espoir d’en défendre l’intérpretation au lecteur d’horizons. simply. l’un ou foncier. ardent. dense des matériaux encore (nul scandale que l’industrie l’en émonde ou le purifie)  : l’autre. les jours évaporés en majestueux suspens.) [. simplement. p. et que. là. l’existence. graduated its influence. le même..  . que. in my case. un tel. poursuivi aux forêts. lui soustrayant l’image. un soir d’âge. dans ce suicide. Toute clairvoyance. je reconnus. . l’arrière mais renaissante flamme. la nature. éloigne les vapeurs de la désuétude. par compensation. gradué leur influence. La Nature – La Musique – Termes en leur acception courante de feuillage et de sons. Idée tangible pour intimer quelque réalité aux sens frustes et. si c’est soi. volatil dépouillement en traits qui se correspondent.

Any clairvoyance that. extasiant. crispant ou apaisant les âmes . existence. (‘Bucolic’. doesn’t exclude the notion: this phantom. this one instrumental. attendu. a reduction into corresponding features. there. towards music. the succession of two sacred states thus invited me – the one.Appendix: selected texts The first in terms of date – nature. scattered. détesté. tente de le 63 . the same. primitive or fundamental. in this suicide. one evening of agedness. remercié. un écho .] Mille secrets (histoire volage d’une soirée) se détachant du brouhaha fashionable. listes de danseurs perdues avec les fleurs effeuillées. where woods and skies are sacrificed in public. So-and-so.) Au-delà de la Nature II/Beyond Nature II [. another concert. right away. and that if it was oneself. une littérature particulière. Aesthetically. Un sourire ! mais il circule déjà. is to have layered their concordance. all the way to a water source. The marvel. without doubt. ayant en soi l’immortalité d’une semaine ou de deux. Rien n’est à négliger de l’existence d’une époque : tout y appartient à tous. irresistibly into the subtle origin of all. béni. chronologically. fanned by the lack of dream it consumes. with echoing clarities. sees that its secret is not incompatible with man clears away the vapours of desuetude. dans les salles aux lourdes portières. and direct – imparted to my youth a fervour I call passion. composent. 267–8. Divagations. avant de se confondre dans l’éclat de l’orchestre. trouveront ici. éperdu maintenant. I recognized. jalousé . pursued to the woods. still with the density of materials (it’s no scandal that industry either shapes it or purifies it): the other. Thus. while its funeral pyre transforms the days that have evaporated into majestic suspense. more volatile. à peine formé. programme du concert ou carte des dineûrs.  . pp. is identified. et c’est en vain que l’éventail. the backgrounded but reviving flame. so as to intimate to the uncultivated senses some reality. it spreads shadows around like the roof of a temple.  . now nearing pure thought. certes. the Idea that is tangible. while being led by a well-known instinct. it was lighted with the virginal hope of being able to defend its interpretation to the reader of horizons. qui crut d’abord le cacher. along with a textual abolition if the image is forbidden. the street. in the course of his transformation from natural to musical.

now frantic. loathed. certes. Ainsi les choses. suivant tout bas cette lecture. on le tient de quelqu’un. (La Dernière Mode. comme le port d’une robe. which other lips.] A thousand secrets (an evening’s banter) overheard amid the fashionable hubbub. blessed. brode de son écume  ? Sans le moindre de remords. avides de reposer tout à fait vos yeux dans l’oubli causé par un horizon vaste et nu  . A smile! barely formed. au bas.  . et probablement de n’y point lire la Présentation de Votre Serviteur. irritating or soothing them. pour trouver une nouveauté de regard habile à goûter le paradoxe de toilettes ingénues et savantes. si les plaisirs connus sous les lambris ayant cédé leur saison à des jeux du grand air : courses au bois et régates sur le fleuve. c’est-à-dire de chacun. received with thanks or with jealousy. I mean to catch its grace. Disregard nothing of the times: everything in it belongs to everyone. vous quittez encore le bois et le fleuve.. ses lieues. in itself possessing the immortality of a week or two. Everything. before drowning the next moment in the éclat of the orchestra: discarded lists of dancers with depetalled flowers. will already be trying on. to hope to retrieve it or to dissipate its flight. Tout s’apprend sur le vif. sending souls into ecstasy.  . reading this deep down. déjà s’essaient. in auditoriums with their heavy portières: expected. apparu dans cette saison de vacance comme à son heure exacte d’apparaître. and it is in vain for the fan. O. n’est-ce pas. et justement  : le monde n’a-t-il pas comme un droit de reprise sur la manifestation la plus profonde de nos instincts  ? il la provoque. thought at first to have hidden it. Fuir ce monde  ? on en est  . ce Journal s’interpose entre votre songerie et le double azur maritime et céleste : le temps de le feuilleter. à laquelle d’autres lèvres. 718–9. il l’affine. even beauty and the holding of one’s 64 . concert programmes or dinner menus certainly do make for a peculiar literature. already moves about.mallarmÉ ressaisir ou de dissiper son vol. pour arriver autre part  : moderne image de son insuffisance pour nous  ! Oui. j’en noterai la grâce. Pardon  ! cet épanouissement de vos deux lèvres. p. pour la nature  ? comme on la traverse à toute vapeur.) [. même la beauté. avec ses paysages. que l’Océan. dans sa réalité extérieure. That is how the world works and properly so: has not this world a right to repossess the deepest manifestations of our instincts? It provokes and refines them. et le port de tête. will here find an echo. Forgive me! That blooming of your two lips.C.

ce qui me rappela à mon identité mondaine. Oxford: Berg. les yeux au-dedans fixés sur l’entier oubli d’aller. from anyone. is borrowed from someone. ce juillet de flamme. indeed. Qu’arrivait-il. to appear in the holiday season. ingenuous yet subtle. without the least remorse. Furbank and Alex Cain. is learnt on the go. and probably not to read in it the Presentation of your Servant. though the season of pleasures taken beneath the stucco has yielded to open-air games – the woodland chase and the river regatta – you quit even the woodland and the river. for nature? Full steam ahead. terme mystérieux de ma course. to arrive elsewhere – such is the modern image of its insufficiency for us! Yes. one crosses it. Get out of this world? of which one is part. choosing. me remémorer mon départ tôt. Sans que le ruban d’aucune herbe me retînt devant un paysage plus que l’autre chassé avec son reflet en l’onde par le même impartial coup de rame. je venais échouer dans quelque touffe de roseaux. just like the wearing of a dress.N. Tant d’immobilité paressait que frôlé d’un bruit inerte où fila jusqu’à moitié la yole.Appendix: selected texts head. L’absente/The Absentee J’avais beaucoup ramé. in its external reality. to get a fresh outlook on things. 2004 (translation modified). maritime and celestial: long enough for you to leaf through it. comme le rire de l’heure coulait alentour. je ne vérifiai l’arrêt qu’à l’étincellement stable d’initiales sur les avirons mis à nu. à qui je devais improviser un bonjour. sur l’intervalle vif entre ses végétations dormantes d’un toujours étroit et distrait ruisseau. as the right and proper moment. d’un grand geste net assoupi.* *Mallarmé on Fashion: A translation of the Fashion Magazine La Dernière Mode. en quête des floraisons d’eau et avec un dessein de reconnaître l’emplacement occupé par la propriété de l’aime d’une amie. is this not. that the Ocean embroiders with its foam? This Journal. intervenes between your dreaming and the double azure. translated by P. pour voir clair en l’aventure. au milieu de la rivière  : où tout de suite élargie en fluvial 65 . one with a taste for the paradox of the toilettes. seeking complete rest for your eyes in the oblivion brought about by a vast and bare horizon. its leagues. où étais-je ? Il fallut.

 .] Courbé dans la sportive attitude où me maintenait de la curiosité. Le pas cessa. à terre. mieux que visite. Quand un imperceptible bruit me fit douter si l’habitante du bord hantait mon loisir. on est ensemble : je m’immisce à de se confuse intimité. au point que la révélation d’un (n’allez point le pencher. Séparés. pour ces joncs à ne dépasser et toute la mentale somnolence où se voile ma lucidité. [. d’ici et de là. avéré.mallarmÉ bosquet. l’inconnue à saluer. L’inspection détaillée m’apprit que cet obstacle de verdure en pointe sur le courant. » Ma présentation. des ceintures. ou inespérément le bassin. elle-même la promeneuse  : et n’est-ce. « – A quel types s’ajustent vos traits. . Si vague concept se suffit  : et ne transgressera le délice empreinte de généralité qui permet et ordonne d’exclure tous visages. avec une boucle en diamant. suivie d’autre. je sens leur précision.] Connaît-elle un motif à sa station. je souris au commencement d’esclavage dégagé par une possibilité féminine : que ne signifiaient pas mal les courroies attachant le soulier du rameur au bois de l’embarcation. avec l’excuse du hasard. . en cette tenue de maraudeur aquatique. « – Aussi bien une quelconque… » allais-je terminer. dans ce suspens sur l’eau où mon songe attarde l’indécise. Je me rendis compte. masquait l’arche unique d’un pont prolongé. sur le furtif seuil où je règne) chasserait mon trouble. comme sous le silence spacieux de ce que s’annonçait l’étrangère. comme on ne fait qu’un avec l’instrument de ses sortilèges. . moi. oui ! ce charme instinctif d’en dessous que ne défend pas contre l’explorateur la plus authentiquement nouées. Simplement le parc de Madame…. elle étale un nonchaloir d’étang plissé des hésitations à partir qu’a une source. que d’interroger jusque-là le mystère. avec lequel il n’a que faire. tendre trop haut la tête. interrompre chose installée ici par le bruissement d’une venue. Madame. Que de discours oiseux en comparaison de 66 . l’autorisera. pourquoi ? [. par une haie clôturant des pelouses. je la peux tenter.

I had to call to mind my early departure. avant de retrouver aussi intuitif accord que maintenant. l’un de ces magiques nénuphars clos qui y surgissent tout à coup. Conseille. tel que n’en jaillira le vol.) I had rowed for a long time. en mémoire d’un site. la Gaie. toute dame. comme au bord d’une source à franchir ou de quelque pièce d’eau. which recalled me to my worldly identity. la Méditative ou la Hautiane. my eyes turned inward in utter forgetfulness of the passage. la Farouche.. What was happening? Where was I? To see clearly into my adventure. p. in search of water flowers and with the intention of reconnoitring an estate belonging to the friend of a friend. emportant comme un noble œuf de cygne. 283–6. elle a paru. partir avec : tacitement. Without having 67 . qui ne se gonfle d’autre chose sinon de la vacance exquise de soi qu’aime. dans les allées de son parc.Appendix: selected texts celui que je tins pour n’être pas entendu. comme on cueille. sweeping. So much motionless idled away the time that. tant pis pour cette indicible mine que j’ignore à jamais  ! car j’accomplis selon les règles la manœuvre  : me dégageai. que faire ? Résumer d’un regard la vierge absence éparse en cette solitude et. faudra-t-il. à poursuivre. as the laughter of the hour flowed round about. mon imaginaire trophée. du bonheur qui n’aura pas lieu et de mon souffle ici retenu dans la peur d’une apparition. virai et je contournais déjà une ondulation du ruisseau. with a clean. on this flaming July day. attirée par un sentiment d’insolite. through the lively opening. arrêtée parfois et longtemps. (‘Le Nénuphar blanc’. fait de songes intacts. l’été. of an always narrow and meandering stream. banked by dormant foliage. drowsy motion. Si. ô mon rêve. I was only able to determine that it had come to a halt by the steady glittering of initials on the bared oars. enveloppant de leur creuse blancheur un rien. O. en déramant peu à peu sans du heurt briser l’illusion ni que le clapotis de le bulle visible d’écume enroulée à ma fuite ne jette aux pieds survenus de personne la ressemblance transparents du rapt de mon idéale fleur. l’ouïe au ras de l’acajou vers le sable entier qui s’est tu ! La pause se mesure au temps de ma détermination. brushed by a dull sound into which my boat half slid.C. to whom I might pay my respects on the spur of the moment.

Madame. ‘ – Probably just anyone. [. each being borne away with its reflection in the water by the same impartial movement of the oars. she herself. am I not holding up my head too high if. . . I raise it up beyond those reeds and all the mental somnolence in which lucidity is veiled. . ‘To whatever pattern your features correspond. the unknown lady I was to greet. When an imperceptible noise made me question whether the inhabitant of the shore was haunting my leisure. . interrupting something established here by the rustling of 68 . the mysterious end of my voyage. unexpectedly. to interrogate the mystery. . .mallarmÉ been detained by any strip of grass before one landscape more than another. Then I understood: this was simply the estate of Madame. for standing still. I smiled at this commencement of a bondage released by a feminine possibility: which the thongs attaching the rower’s shoes to the wood of the boat symbolized quite adequately. . then. The footsteps stopped: why? [. suddenly widened to a fluvial grove. the pond. in the middle of the river where.] Leaning forward in the agile posture in which curiosity held me. it displays the indifference of a pool rippling with the hesitations of a well spring about to depart. as if beneath the spacious silence in which the stranger would announce herself. . I had just run aground in a clump of reeds. I sense their precision. for we are always at one with the instruments of our magic spells.’ I was about to conclude. the stroller: and I. by a hedge enclosing a series of lawns. on both sides. or. A detailed inspection revealed that this obstacle of tapering verdure in the current masked the single arch of a bridge that was extended on land.] Has she a motive.

O my dream: what shall I do? Sum up with a glance this virginal absence dispersed in this solitude and. on the secret threshold where I reign) would drive away my turmoil. which the most authentically fastened sash. closed water lilies which spring up suddenly. will enable me to do. Counsel me. she happened to appear – she. my ear flat against the mahogany toward the sand which has now fallen entirely silent! The pause measures itself by the time of my decision. depart with it: steal silently away. in memory of a site. rowing little by little. from a happiness that will never take place. enveloping nothingness with their hollow whiteness. better than any visit. How many trifling conversations there would have to be. I can try to present myself in this pirate’s outfit. as one gathers.Appendix: selected texts an arrival. formed from untouched dreams. so as not to break the illusion with a shock and so that the rippling of the visible bubble of foam unwinding from my flight does not throw at the feet of the lady who has arrived a transparent resemblance to my ravished ideal flower. and from the breath that I am now holding in fear of an apparition. one of those magical. So vague a concept suffices and will not transgress against the delight imprinted by a generality that permits and ordains the exclusion of all faces. confirmed. If. with a buckle of diamonds. the Cruel or Gay – so much the worse for that ineffable face which I shall never know! for I accomplished the 69 . in this moment suspended over the water in which my dream delays the undecided one. before we could recover as intuitive an understanding as we now have. with the excuse that I came here by chance. yes! this instinctive charm of something underneath. followed by others. do not incline it. drawn by an unprecedented feeling. to the point at which the revelation of one (oh. we are together: I inveigle myself in her obscure intimacy. the Meditative or Haughty. Separated. does not defend against the explorer. in comparison with this one which I held in order not to be heard. with which it has nothing to do.

quelque instinct la chercha dans un nombre considérable. contrairement  à la majorité et beaucoup de plus fortunés. demain.mallarmÉ manoeuvre according to the rules: disentangled myself. as she stops sometimes and lingers. moins officiant que victimes. sans témoigner de ce que c’est ni que s’éclaire cette fête. de l’ouverture où je m’accoude. Ainsi vais-je librement admirer et songer. simplement et se montrer debout – alentour magnifiée par une colonnade de futaie  . cette jonchée de fléau . Ils réservent. l’un après l’autre qui la forment. d’abord . my imaginary trophy. qu’y a-t-il ? L’escouade du labeur gît au rendez-vous mais vaincue. pp. je dois comprendre le mystère et juger le devoir  : car. aujourd’hui. en ma qualité. perhaps on the edge of a spring that must be crossed. la voici. put about. dans la réalité des terrains (fondation. Non. rampent par le vague et piochent sans mouvement – qui fait en son sort. de petits verres et ils en sont. Henry Weinfield. (‘The white water lily’. un trou égal à celui creusé. chancelant tous comme sous un projectile. like a noble swan’s egg. ils ne savent pas. la part du sacré dans l’existence. d’arriver et tomber à cet étroit champ de bataille : quel sommeil de corps contre la motte sourde. pour l’obtenir. par un arrêt.) Les Importuns/The intruders Véritablement. bearing away. indûment. tous les jours. et. résister. le pain ne lui a pas suffi – ils ont peiné une partie notable de la semaine. trans. pour les déjeter ainsi. s’échapper dans la direction de l’horizon. Ils ont trouvé. sans que quelque chose de moi n’enjambe. de temple). avec l’absolu d’un accomplissement rituel.110–3. ici affalée en l’herbe. such as will never burst into flight. ma vue ne peut. à 70 . certes. honorablement. which swells with nothing but the exquisite vacancy of self that many a lady loves to pursue in summer. l’élan à peine. maintenant. avec manque d’égard et de convenance à mon tour. dont. La connaissance qui resplendirait – d’un orgueil inclus à l’ouvrage journalier. and was already skirting a river wave. or of some other body of water. jusqu’ici. l’attente et le momentané suicide. along the paths of her park.

Appendix: selected texts

figurer, au soir, l’hébétement de tâches si l’observance relève de la fatalité plus que d’un vouloir. Les constellations s’initient à briller  : comme je voudrai que parmi l’obscurité qui court sur l’aveugle troupeau, aussi des points de clarté, telle pensée tout à l’heure, se fixassent, malgré ces yeux scellés ne les distinguant pas – pour le fait, pour l’exactitude, pour qu’il soit dit. Je penserai, donc, uniquement, à eux, les importuns, qui me ferment, par leur abandon, le lointain vespéral  ; plus que, naguères, par leur tumulte. Ces artisans de tâches élémentaires, il m’est loisible, les veillant, à côté d’un fleuve limpide continu, d’y regarder le peuple – une intelligence robuste de la condition humaine leur courbe l’échine journellement pour tirer, sans l’intermédiaire du blé, le miracle de vie qui assure la présence  : d’autres ont fait les défrichements passés et des aqueducs ou liveront un terre-plein à telle machine, les mêmes, Louis-Pierre, Martin, Poitou et le Normand, quand ils ne dorment pas, ainsi s’invoquent-ils selon les mères ou la province  ; mais plutôt des naissances sombrèrent en l’anonymat et l’immense sommeil l’ouïe à la génératrice, les prostrant, cette fois, subit un accablement et un élargissement de tous les siècles et, autant cela possible – réduite aux proportions sociales, d’éternité. (‘Conflit’, O.C., p. 358–60.) What is happening, today, really? The labour squad has come to the meeting place, but lies defeated. One after the other, they have fallen on the grass, barely completing their first effort, scattered as if bombed by a projectile, the body as if asleep with the unfeeling clod. And so I walk by them, freely admiring and dreaming. No, my view can’t, from the window I’m leaning out from, go all the way towards the horizon, without part of me stepping over the window sill, awkward and lacking in social graces in my turn, to become part of the swath of workers: whose mystery and duty I should understand, unlike that majority, and a lots of those more fortunate. Bread hasn’t sufficed for them! – first, they may have toiled most of the week to obtain it, and now, maybe tomorrow, they don’t


know, they crawl around in vagueness and dig without movement – which makes, in their fate, a hollow equal to the one they have been digging every day in the reality of the roadbed (but of course, it might be the foundation of a temple). Without saying what it is or elucidating this ceremony, they honourably reserve the dimension of the sacred in their existence by a work stoppage, an awaiting, a suicide. Out of the pride inherent in daily work, simply to resist and stand tall, comes knowledge, magnified by the pillars of a stand of tall trees; some instinct seeks it in a large number, soon to be thrown away, of little glasses; the workers are, with the absoluteness of a ritual gesture, less its officiants than its victims, if one takes into consideration the evening stupor of the tasks and if the ritual observances come more from fate than from will. Constellations begin to shine: I wish that, in the darkness that covers the blind herd, there could also be points of light, eternalizing a thought, despite the sealed eyes that never understood it – for the fact, for exactitude, for it to be said. I will thus think exclusively about them, about those whose abandon blocks my access to the vesperal distance more than their daily commotion ever did. Keeping watch over these artisans of elementary tasks, I have occasion, beside a limpid, continuous river, to meditate on these symbols of the People – some robust intelligence bends their spines every day in order to extract, without the intermediary of wheat, the miracle of life which grounds presence: others in the past have built aqueducts or cleared fields for some implement, wielded by the same Louis-Pierre, Martin, Poitou or the Norman. When they are not asleep, they thus invoke one another according to their mothers or their provinces. But in fact their births fall into anonymity, and their mothers into the deep sleep that prostrates them, while the weight of centuries presses down on them, eternity reduced to social proportions. (‘Conflict’, Divagations, pp. 45–6.) L’animal chimérique/The Chimerical animal Une race, la nôtre, à qui cet honneur de prêter des entrailles à la peur qu’a d’elle-même, autrement que comme conscience humaine, la métaphysique et claustrale éternité, échut, puis d’expirer le gouffre

Appendix: selected texts

en quelque ferme aboi dans les âges, serait, non, j’en ris, malgré ce traitement céleste, comme si de rien, ordinaire, indemne, vague ; parce qu’il de reste trace, à une minute de postérité – quand ne fleurit même pas la vie reconquise et native. Tout au moins, pareil effacement sans que la volonté du début, après les temps, appelât, intimement comme elle frappe une solitude, l’esprit à résumer la sombre merveille – Lequel préfère, en dédain des synthèses, égarer une rechercher – vide s’il ne convient que l’ahurie, la banale et vaste place publique cède, aussi, à des injonctions de salut. Les plus directes peut-être ayant visité l’inconscience, les plus élémentaires : sommairement il s’agit, la Divinité, qui jamais n’est que Soi, où montèrent avec l’ignorance de secret précieuse pour en mesurer l’arc, des élans abattus de prières – au ras, de la reprendre, en tant que point de départ, humbles fondations de la cité, foi en chacun. Ce tracé par assises et une hauteur comme de trottoir, y descend la lueur, à portée, quotidienne du réverbére. (‘Catholicisme’, O.C., p. 391.) A race, our own, which has the honour of lending guts to the fear of itself felt by the metaphysical and monastic eternity, appeared, then bayed out the abyss throughout the ages, and would be, no, I laugh, despite this celestial treatment, as if none of this had happened, ordinary, immune, vague; since there remains no trace, to a minute of posterity – when not even reconquered, native life flourished. At the very least, such effacement, without the will of the beginning, after long periods, calling, intimately as it strikes a solitude, to the spirit to sum up again the sombre marvel – But the spirit, disdaining syntheses, prefers to lead research astray – empty in any case if it doesn’t agree that the astonished, the banal, and the vast public masses are also capable of answering the call to salvation. The most direct, perhaps, having visited unconsciousness; the most elementary, summarily of course, Divinity, which is never anything but Oneself, to which prayers have risen, in ignorance of their precious secret, in order to measure how far they have travelled, prayers leaping upward and being knocked down – to our level, and taken up again, as

peu de transfusion : ou le rapport consiste en ceci que les deux états auront existé. neuf. s’impose : cependant n’allez mal. pour une confrontation par l’esprit. d’ici. profanes. quelconque. This trajectory from layers of earth to sidewalk level is illuminated. exclusively our own avowedly original reminiscences. le lever du soleil d’une chape d’officiant. et j’ai voulu. avec rutilance. imposes itself: but don’t go and make the same mistake some preachers do. every night. qui m’angoisse : peut-être. avoués. ne rajeunit. (‘Catholicisme’.) Héritage II/Heritage II Je ne crois. (‘Catholicism’. l’archaïque outremer de ciels. 394–5. y gardera-t-on la sympathie. O. Tout s’interrompt. séparément. du tout. des réminiscences liturgiques exclusivement notre bien propre ou originel. du moins. L’éternel. rêver – Une parité. conformément à une erreur chez des prédicants. humble foundations of the city.. inscrites au seuil et de certains apparats. 243–4. Plus. enfonce aux cavernes et se tasse : ni rien dorénavant.) I don’t believe at all that I’m dreaming – A certain parity with liturgical reminiscences. ce qui le parut. by the circle of an ordinary streetlight. through I don’t know what 74 .C. ne naîtra que de source. Divagations. within reach. inscribed at the threshold of certain profane apparatuses. pour la masquer. élaver en je sais quelle dilution couleur électricité et peuple. en place que le desservant enguirlande d’encens. Alors s’en apercevra-t-on ou. Le nuage autour exprès : que préciser. effectif.. faith in everyone. p. analogue à l’Ombre de jadis. dans l’histoire. Oublions – Une magnificence se déploiera. pas . quand ce n’est prêt.mallarmÉ a starting point. and lighten. une nudité de lieu. accouder le Songe à l’autel contre le tombeau retrouvé – pieux ses pieds à de la cendre. p. serait entonner le rituel et trahir.

and hibernate: nor will anything new henceforth be born. is to push Dream against the altar found next to the tomb – its feet are pious with respect to ashes. to mask a nakedness of place. separately. Everything effective in history is interrupted. . to be brought together by the spirit. je constate que le siècle finissant n’en a cure. unless its comes from the source. comme compensation de 75 . ainsi comprise .] La scène est le foyer évident des plaisirs pris en commun. or. et que cet assemblage miraculeux de tout ce qu’il faut pour faconner de la divinité. or what appeared to be the Eternal. la majestueuse ouverture sur le mystère dont en est au monde pour envisager la grandeur. Divagations. To do more would be to intone the ritual and to substitute a false glow for a dazzling sunrise covered by an officiating priest’s vestments. Let us forget – Someday a magnificence will unfold. sauf la clairvoyance de l’homme. aussi et tout bien réfléchi. which upsets me: but maybe not. à qui le concours d’arts divers scellés par la poésie attribue selon moi quelque caractère religieux ou officiel. there’s little transfusion. pp. The Eternal. all I’ve wanted to do here. seeing that the time isn’t ripe. analogous to the Shadow of long ago. 75.) Un droit méconnu/A misrecognized right Notre seule magnificence. The fog around it was purposeful: it would be a mistake to be too precise. while the server should fill the altar with incense. qui en aura idée. la scène. cela même que le citoyen. .Appendix: selected texts dilution into the colour of electricity and of the people. fonde le droit de réclamer à un État. the archaic elsewhere of skies. si l’un de ces mots a un sens. will retain some sympathy. at least. crawl into caves. seeming like nothing. sera pour rien. [. (‘Catholicism’. doesn’t get younger. Then people will notice. or the relation consists in the fact that the two states existed.

les royaux pantins du passé. . without tallying up your disappointments or blaming them on anyone. ou bien reste. thus understood  . will end up being for nothing. 313–4. to what was laughable in their beribboned persons – to the simple generals of today) being anything but disturbed before an ignoramus’ pretension to the pomp. Can one imagine the governing entity (from the royal puppets – responding. fais-toi. the same thing that a citizen. our only magnificence. to your little corner of un-heard-of reverie. selon la somme amassée d’attente et de songes. according to me. or else stay. (‘Le genre ou des modernes’. à leur insu répondaient par le muet boniment de ce qui crevait de rire en leur personnage enrubanné  .mallarmÉ l’amoindrissement social. it is also the majestic opening to the mystery whose grandeur one is in the world to envisage. take the train back. à quelque solennisation auguste de Dieu qu’il sait être  ! Après un coup d’œil regagne le chemin qui t’amena dans la cité médiocre et sans compter ta déception ni t’en prendre à personne.. nulle part ne seras-tu plus loin qu’ici : puis commence à toi seul. I note that the century now ending couldn’t care less about them.C. all alone.) The stage. you’ll never be as far away as here. with a mute come-on. if one of these words has a meaning. all things considered. O. the splendour. go back along the path that brought you to the mediocre city and. so. ta nécessaire représentation. having an inkling of it. according to 76 . expects from the State: to compensate him for his social diminishment. mais de simples généraux maintenant) devant une prétention de malappris. the worship of the god he knows himself to be! After looking around. existe mais à ton exclusion (ce pacte déchiré parce qu’il n’exhiba point de sceau). au resplendissement. [. presumptuous guest of the hour. p. Se figure-t-on l’entité gouvernante autrement que gênée (eux. hôte présomptueux de l’heure. reverser par le train dans quelque coin de rêverie insolite .] The stage is the obvious focus of pleasures taken in common. . except for human clairvoyance. that miraculous assembly of everything needed for the divine. then begin. a religious or official character. to which the participation of diverse arts sealed by poetry contributes. à la pompe. Satisfait d’être arrivé dans un temps où le devoir qui lie l’action multiplie des hommes.

entre les accessoires humains. en de chastes crises isolément. Divagations. en cas de malentendu.) La traversée du tunnel/The tunnel crossing Extérieurement. Loin. il n’est pas de Présent. faute – de tout. but at your exclusion (that pact torn up because it didn’t exhibit a seal). la superbe de mettre en interdit. Mal informé celui qui se crierait son propre contemporain. de siècle. même quant aux fastes. your necessary spectacle. « Sans doute » il se convainc : « on traverse un tunnel – l’époque – celui. Aussi garde-toi et sois là. » Le souterrain durera. comme le cri de l’étendue. Le Livre. le voyageur percoit la détresse du sifflet. Le suicide ou abstention. où vit l’esprit satisfait. 143–4. un obligé par quelque pureté d’ébat à secouer le gros du moment. Satisfied to have arrived in a time when duty links the multiple actions of men. ne rien faire.Appendix: selected texts the sum of expectations and dreams built up. pourquoi ? – Unique fois au monde. long le dernier. Le sens enseveli se meut et dispose. important ou pas. ne réclame approche de lecteur. ô impatient. le volume. rampant sous la cité avant la gare toute puissante du virginal palais central. désertant. sache. Hors des premier-Paris chargés de divulguer une foi en le quotidien néant et inexperts si le fléau mesure sa période à un fragment. Tel. qui couronne. pendant l’autre gestation en train. 77 . quand du passé cessa et que tarde un futur ou que les deux se remmêlent perplexement en vue de masquer l’écart. La poésie. ton recueillement à préparer l’édifice de haut verre essuyé d’un vol de la Justice. parce qu’en raison d’un événement toujours j’expliquerai. Impersonnifié. pp. usurpant. sacre . (‘Of Genre and the Moderns’. Publie. non – un présent n’existe pas. Faute que se déclare la Foule. qui essaie. avec impudence égale. il a lieu tout seul : fait. étant. des feuillets. en chœur. autant qu’on s’en sépare comme auteur.

and be there. he says to himself. Suicide or abstention. qu’il ne faut frustrer d’années à cause que parallèles au sourd labeur général. why would you choose to do nothing? This is your only time on earth. deserting or usurping with equal imprudence. like a cry of distance. there’s no Present.C. en l’intégrité du Livre – les jouer. encore que n’en soit peut-être une autre où ce doive illuminer.. in view of masking the gap. Uninformed is he who would proclaim himself his own contemporary. Ami. Toi. Poetry is sacred. ‘we’re going through a tunnel – our time – that runs for a long way beneath the city before getting to the all-powerful station of the virginal central palace. s’il ne vaut pas mieux – que de risquer sur un état à tout le moins incomplet environnant. which crowns it all’. 78 . the traveller hears the wail of a whistle. dans ce temps à jamais. rare. avec l’injonction tacite que rien. palpitant en le flanc scient de l’heure. and inexpert if the plague measures its period to a fragment. ou aide une attitude spéciale. le cas est étrange : je te demande. when the past seems to cease and the future to stall. Therefore. aux pages montré. while the other gestation takes place. The underground will last as long. some people attempt hidden chaste crises in isolation. mais et par un triomphal renversement. keep yourself.mallarmÉ l’instant : on constate qu’un hasard y dénie les matériaux de confrontation à quelque rêves .  . For lack of the Crowd’s declaring itself. diamantairement. no – a present does not exist. certaines conclusions d’art extrêmes qui peuvent éclater. Outside of those All-Paris occasions whose job is to propagate faith in the quotidian nothingness. (‘L’action restrainte’ O. ‘No doubt’.) Externally. ne la trouve prête . clair. p. for lack of – everything. sans jugement. par manque de considérants soudains. and because of an event I’ll explain. Cependant la tempère déjà cette sagesse. évident. que tu traites mon indication comme une folie je ne le défends. 371–3.  . important or not. of a century. O impatient one. as your concentration in preparing to build the crystal palace swiped by a wing of Justice. ou discernement.

one feels an obligation towards some sort of purity of delight to shake off the dregs of the moments. énoncé de l’Idée. shown clear and evident to the pages. will find the hour ready. it is tempered by this wisdom. please note. You. The Book. Friend. even at celebrations. without judgment. Immédiatement le ballet résulte 79 . now or forever. either. pp. ou poésie. Its buried meaning moves and arranges. the pages. etc. at the very least. within the integrity of the Book – to play them. onde. glittering like a cut diamond. est-ce que ne paraît pas la danseuse à demi l’élément en cause. chez nous. or discernment: that it might be better (than to bet on. into a chorus. dans la flottaison de rêverie ? L’opération. the present: one notes that chance denies to certain dreams the materials of confrontation. or a special attitude helps them. 218–9. As such. does not demand a reader. it dares to forbid. (‘Restricted Action’. à demi humanité apte à s’y confondre. among human accessories. even through a triumphal reversal. Nevertheless. Impersonified. palpitating in the unconscious flank of the hour. Divagations. where the spirit lives satisified.) Le rite de l’Idée/The rite of the Idea Le ballet ne donne que peu : c’est le genre imaginatif. par excellence et le théâtre. si. with the tacit injunction that nothing. it takes place all by itself: finished. as a rare kind of folly. Afar.Appendix: selected texts Publish. without sudden factors. le moyen exclusif de le savoir consiste à en juxtaposer l’aspect à notre nudité spirituelle afin qu’elle le sente analogue et se l’adapte dans quelque confusion exquise d’elle avec cette forme envolée – rien qu’au travers du rite. I admit. to treat my advice as. whom it’s unnecessary to frustrate for years just because there’s a parallel with voiceless general labour. the volume. an incomplete context around you) to risk certain conclusions of extreme art that might burst out. Quand s’isole pour le regard un signe de l’éparse beauté générale. fleur. nuée et bijou. là. will find the case strange: I ask you. in cases of misunderstanding. while nevertheless it may be in another time that it will cast illumination. to the extent that one separates from it as author. it exists..

and adapt it in some exquisite confusion of ourselves with this fluttering form – even if it’s through a rite. wave. par excellence. ballet becomes allegorical: it will bring together as well as animate. fictional or outside time. entre sa féminine apparence et un objet mimé. pour en marquer chaque rythme. attendu que tout. all the correlations or Music. as art itself would want it. d’abord latentes. Divagations. puis déroule notre conviction en le chiffre de pirouettes prolongé vers un autre motif.mallarmÉ allégorique  : il enlacera autant qu’animera. p. tellement que la représentation figurative des accessoires terrestres par la Danse contient une expérience relative à leur degré esthétique. p. comme le veut l’art même. floating in the reverie? The operation. (‘Crayonné au théâtre’. and puts it in place. to mark out each rhythm. le pose .) 80 . so much so that the figurative representation of earthly props by Dance contains a test of their aesthetic merit. etc. destined for what Hymen: she sews it with her unerring points. latent at first. (‘Scribbled at the Theatre’. When a sign of scattered beauty is isolated for the eye – flower.. which is the proof of our treasures. between its attitudes and such-and-such a character. is. and a consecration results. the utterance of the Idea. in the whirling through which she illustrates the meaning of our ecstasies and triumphs. O. A déduire le point philosophique auquel est située l’impersonnalité de la danseuse. un sacre s’y effectue en tant que la preuve de nos trésors. then unrolls our convictions in a writing of pirouettes extended towards another motif. in the theatre. est. fictif ou momentané. Doesn’t the dancer seem to be half the element in question. – if our only way of knowing it is to juxtapose it with our spiritual nudity so we can feel that it is analogous. 120.) The ballet gives but little: it’s an imaginative genre. au théâtre. or poetry. and theatre. toute corrélations ou Musique. pour quel hymen : elle le pique d’une sûre pointe. cloud. between her female appearance and a mimed object. jewel. 295–6. it being understood that everything. We have to deduce the philosophical point where the dancer’s impersonality is located. also being played in the rumblings of the orchestra. Immediately. half humanity eager to melt into it. dans l’évolution par où elle illustre le sens de nos extases et triomphes entonnés à l’orchestre.C. entre ses attitudes et maint caractère.

attendu que sa matière discutable aussitôt. le numérateur divin de notre apothéose. sur quelque transparence comme d’éther) les milles éléments de beauté pressés d’accourir et de s’ordonner dans leur valeur essentielle. tout sûr.  . et les forger. on a pu. . à son défaut que les plus beaux discours émanés de quelque bouche. philosophique.Appendix: selected texts Théorie du vers I/Theory of verse I [. (‘Solennité’. dans notre langue. qui se révèle avec la fonction de gardienne et d’empêcher qu’entre tous. Voilà. cela est même l’occupation de chaque jour. . quelque suprême moule n’ayant pas lieu en tant que d’aucun objet qui existe : mais il emprunte.  . comme dans le cas présent.. Lui en rival jaloux. ignorés et flottants selon quelque richesses. 332–3. il y a recommencement des conditions ainsi que des matériaux de la pensée sis naturellement pour un devoir de prose  : comme des vocables. en raison de leur accord final.  . ne produirait de preuve à se tenir dans un équilibre momentané et double à la façon du vol. identité de deux fragments constitutifs remémorée extérieurement par une parité dans la consonance. mais indéniablement pour l’oublier dans sa façon ordinaire et se livrer ensuite à la seule dialectique du Vers. il ressuscite au degré glorieux ce qui. un usurpe. eux-mêmes. comment. constatation à quoi je glisse. pour y aviver un sceau tous gisements épars. p. gratuite. O.] avant le heurt d’aile brusque et l’emportement. atteignant leur vertu. A travers un nouvel état. après cette différence et l’essor au-delà. sublime. soit la loi mystérieuse de la Rime. les vers ne vont que par deux ou à plusieurs. Signe ! au gouffre central d’une spirituelle impossibilité que rien soit exclusivement à tout. [.C.  . imaginatif et éclatant que ce fût.) [. posséder et établir une notion du concept à traiter.] before the sudden wing beat that carries you off – you might 81 . une vision céleste de l’humanité  ! ne resterait. ou ne demeure péremptoirement : en quelle pensée fabriqué celui-là ! peu m’importe. auquel le songeur cède la maîtrise.] Ainsi lancé de soi le principe qui n’est – que le Vers  ! attire non moins que dégage pour son épanouissement (l’instant qu’ils y brillent et meurent dans une fleur rapide.

on something transparent like the ether) the thousands of elements of beauty crowding together and ordering themselves according to their real. in order to revivify a seal. and prevents any one of them from dominating. to whom the dreamer yields mastery. many scattered veins of ore.) Théorie du vers II/Theory of verse II Une dentelle s’abolit Dans le doute du Jeu suprême 82 Lace sweeps itself aside In the doubt of the ultimate Game . A Sign! In the central abyss of a spiritual impossibility that says that nothing can belong exclusively to everything. Divagations. momentary and double like flight.mallarmÉ once. As a jealous rival. p. but undeniably in order to forget it in its ordinary sense. and to give yourself wholly to the dialectic of Verse. by reason of their terminal accord. essential value. it resuscitates. the identity of the two halves being stamped by their parity in sound. (‘Solemnity’. unknown and floating like unclaimed riches. find their virtue. some supreme mould for something that doesn’t exist in the same sense as other objects: from which it borrows. [. that is. its becomes debatable. revives a celestial vision of humanity! without it. This – I slide into an observation – is why. . or peremptorily staying: in what thought was this made! Who cares? given that as soon as its material is debated. lines of verse go by twos or more. there is a fresh beginning of the conditions and materials of thought. laid down naturally for a prose study: the vocables. have had an idea of the concept to treat. In this new – sublime – state. to the degree that it. the mysterious law of Rhyme. and forges them together. . glorious and philosophical and imaginative. gratuitious  . by themselves. there is just beautiful discourse out of some mouth.] Thus emerges from itself the principle that is nothing other than – Verse! It attracts as well as sheds for its unfolding (the time it takes for it to shine and then die like a rapid flower. which reveals itself with the function of guardian. after this differences and the experience of the beyond. and that’s even every day’s occupation. 166–7. in our language. the divine denominator of our apotheosis.

Appendix: selected texts A n’entr’ouvrir comme un blasphème Qu’absence éternelle de lit. de rivaliser  ! Oui. dans le triomphe du génie. où interviendrait plus qu’à demi comme sirènes confondues par la croupe avec le feuillage et les rinceaux d’une arabesque. le vivant geste ou les voix des personnages et de dieux. Au creux néant musicien The hollow core’s musician Telle que vers quelque fenêtre Selon nul ventre que le sien. p. pour aboutir et cessant. ou un art. celui qui s’en tient aux artifices humbles et sacrés de la parole. might have been born. Enfui contre la vitre blême Flotte plus qu’il n’ensevelit. à quoi s’oppose tel contradictoire dessin : l’un et l’autre. (Poésies. tente. Un théâtre. one Through no belly but its own. O. maintenant le livre essaiera de suffire. Filial on aurait pu naître. Henry Weinfield. inhérent à l’esprit. This white and undivided garland’s struggle with the same Blown against the holy pane Floats more than it would hide. p. nous le considérons. la polyphonie magnifique instrumentale. par une ordonnance et leur individualité. selon sa ressource unique subtilement élue. Mais. mais parlé  . 74. qui aujourd’hui devient la poésie : or va-t-il se faire que le traditionnel écrivain de vers. Filial.. Un ensemble versifié convie à une idéale représentation  : des motifs d’exaltation ou de songe s’y nouent entre eux et se détachent. la figure. au surplus un excès apporté à la décoration matérielle. que demeure l’idée.C. avec Wagner. éblouis par une telle cohésion. 80.) Théorie du Livre/Theory of the Book Tout. Cet unanime blanc conflit D’une guirlande avec la même. Only to expose profanely Eternal absence of bed.) Such that towards some window. chez qui du rêve se dore But where the dream would shine within Tristement dort une mandore Sadly sleeps a mandolin. Telle portion incline dans un rythme ou mouvement de pensée. en tant qu’un opéra sans accompagnement ni chant. pour entr’ouvrir la scène intérieure et en chuchoter les échos. (trans. quiconque d’un œil certain regarda la 83 .

c’en est fait  : ou du hasard. like an opera without orchestra or son. of vision and dream.) Everything – the magnificent instrumental polyphony. au monde ! ou j’y perçois. comme elle règne en tout édifice. du spectacle.mallarmÉ nature le porte avec soi. the excess attention paid to the material sumptuousness of the decoration – we consider. according to the design or their individuality.C. and there are indeed such. he who works with the humble and sacred artifices of language alone. emerging like a mermaid whose tail is taken for foliage or the curlicues of an arabesque. A versified collection summons one to an ideal representation: motifs of exaltation or dream are linked together or detach themselves. qui ne doit. 328. de vision et de songes. 84 . Symétrie. should never be anything but simulated. le plus vaporeux. je supplée. le drame. The pleasure vainly sought by the late Dreamer-King of Bavaria in solitary attendance at the unfolding of scenery. with Wagner. at present now the book will try to suffice to open up the inner stage and whisper echoes into it. jamais qu’être simulé. the lively gestures of dance or the voices of men or gods. in retreat from the baroque crowd rather than in its absence from the bleachers.. Le précaire recueil d’inspiration diverse. what poetry has become today. à l’écart de la foule baroque moins que sa vacance aux gradins. a summary of types and correspondences. which the idea remains. ainsi que les confronte le volume ouvrant des pages parallèles. la voici. O. nu. in the triumph of genius. et pour sous-entendre le parti pris. blinded by such cohesion or a whole artform. another opposes it: both of them swirl around. La jouissance vaine cherchée par feu le Rêveur-roi de Bavière dans une solitaire présence aux déploiements scéniques. One portion sways in a rhythm or movement of thought. like that which reigns in every edifice. Does this mean that the traditional writer of verse. atteinte par le moyen ou restaurer le texte. discret. Avec deux pages et les vers. where there intervenes. a figure. puis l’accompagnement de tout moi-même. p. will try. crowned somehow by those very constraints. where chance. (‘Planches et feuillets’. Anyone who has really looked at nature contains inside himself a theatre inherent to the mind. the present volume not excepted. The haphazard collection. opening up its parallel pages. just as any volume confronts them. résumé de types et d’accords  . to compete? Yes. is found. and the author’s obsessions should be understood here. even the most vaporous. just spoken. There is a certain symmetry.

perhaps desperate. to the spectacle. in its nakedness. 160–1) Adieu Adieu Mes bouquins refermés sur le My old tomes closed upon the name nom de Paphos. O. Blackmore. Je n’y huluerai pas de vide nénie I shall not howl out any void lament. I supply the world! Or at least I perceive. p. au loin. With two pages and their lines of verse. (‘Stages and Pages’. silence run.) (trans. (Poésies.) 85 . Divagations. discreetly. 76. être éperdûment on A l’autre. our love flames afresh Je pense plus longtemps peut- I ponder longer. & A. de ses Beneath the distant hyacinth of its jours triomphaux. the seared breast of an antique amazone. par mille écumes a ruin blessed with myriad ocean bénie sprays Sous l’hyacinthe. vista to any place Ma faim qui d’aucuns fruits ici Satisfied by no fruits here. my ne se régale starvation Trouve en leur docte manque finds equal savour in their learned une saveur égale : deprivation: Qu’un éclate de chair humain let one burth forth in fragant et parfumant ! human flesh! Le pied sur quelque guivre où My foot on some wyvern where notre amour tisonne. its drama.Appendix: selected texts achieved by restoring the text. and the accompaniment of my whole self.C. p 81. Paphos Il m’amuse d’élire avec le seul I take delight in summoning by pure génie genius Une ruine. ancient Amazon.. au sein brûlé d’une the other.H. not one Si ce très blanc ébat au ras du if this so white frolic on earth’s bare sol dénie face A tout site l’honneur du paysage denies the honour of some feigned faux. pp. triumphal days Coure le froid avec ses silences Let the cold with its scythe-like de faux. E.M.


most recent edition. O.    5. p. p. 121. Gallimard.)  14.C. Les Clefs de Mallarmé.)    9. ‘Salut’.. p. Divagations.H. p.)    7. p. 187. p. p. 76. 208. and A.)   6. Blackmore. Correspondance. Divagations. (‘Music and Letters’.)  12.) 87 .C. (‘Lace sweeps itself aside’. translated and introduced by Ann Smock. O. See. p. The Space of Literature. p. Gallimard. (‘The beautiful suicide victoriously fled’. ‘Sauveguard’. Divagations.C. E. 647. 99. 3 March 1871. p. 80.. p. (‘Toast’. p. 1982 [French original.C.)   4. 188.    2. de la Pléiade’. Maurice Blanchot. Letter to Cazalis. Preface to ‘Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard’.C. translation modified. O. trans. t.)    8. (‘Hushed to the crushing cloud’.. 269.. Divagations. ‘La Musique et les Lettres’.. p.C. Divagations. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. (‘Crisis of verse’. p. p. 420. 290. (‘Music and Letters’..3. 1945.C. ‘Une dentelle s’abolit’ O. O. p. 1955]. 719 and 732. 648. 1954. O.). O.. ‘Bucolique’.)  11. Henry Weinfield.p.Notes    1... p.C. O. p. 455 (Preface to ‘A dice throw will never abolish chance’. p. (Mallarmé On Fashion. p. Henry Weinfield. I. p.)   10. 68. Charles Chassé. ‘A la nue accablante tu’. ‘Crise de vers’. ‘Bibli. 403. coll. 83. Henry Weinfield.C..)    3. Œuvres complètes (=O. Paris: Aubier. 1992.)   13. trans. p. 74. See.C. (‘Bucolic’. O. Henry Weinfeld. trans. 27. (‘Safeguard’.M. O. trans. ‘La Musique et les Lettres’. 366. 1959. translation modified. La Dernière Mode. ‘Victorieusement fui le suicide beau’. 33 and 56.C. trans. 342 (Selected Letters.

p. ‘Crayonné au théâtre’. 278. (‘An Interrupted performance’. p. p. 25.C.. ‘Solennité’. 67. Divagations. 647. (‘Music and Letters’. 373. p.C. (Ibid.C. Ibid. p. Divagations... p. Divagations. (‘Restricted Action’. 66. ‘Hamlet’.)   33. 125. La Musique et les Lettres.)  29. 404 (‘Bucolic’. translation modified. p. Divagations.. p. 300. O. 267). p. and ‘La Musique et les Lettres. O.)   31.)   19. 56. p. 33. 46. Letter to Léo d’Orfer of 27 June..C. Divagations. Divagations. Divagations.)   20. Divagations. O.)  34.C.C. translation modified. ‘Le Mystère dans les Lettres’. Henry Weinfield.... p. O. 414. p. p. (‘The Court’.C. 25. ‘Ballets’. p. 161. p. translation modified. p. ‘Bucolique’. 167..)   35. O. p. ‘Un spectacle interrompu’. p. p. p. 328. p.)  25. (‘The Flowers’. (‘Scribbled at the Theatre’. 219. p. (‘Solemnity’. p. (‘Music and Letters’. p. Letter to Léo d’Orfer of 27 June 1884.C.. 232. Henry Weinfield. O. Divagations. / Grieved at being swallowed in night’s black maw / If folded within me its indubitable wing’. ‘Prose (pour des Esseintes)’. 298. p. (‘When the shadow menaced with its fatal law / That old Dream. 187. trans... ‘La Musique et les Lettres’. Divagations.)   26. 277. (‘Music and Letters’. (Ibid. / Affligé de périr sous des plafonds funèbres / Il a ployé son aile indubitable en moi’.)   28. O.C.C. 118. trans. ‘Quand l’ombre menaça de la fatale loi / Tel vieux Rêve. ‘L’action restreinte’. 302. p.C. desire and pain of my spine. p. p. 130. (‘Stages and Pages’.)  16. 138. ‘Les Fleurs’. p.C.mallarmÉ   15. p. (‘Hamlet’. O. (‘Ballets’. (trans. O. 1884. Divagations. O. 24. 187. p. O. O. 283. (Selected Letters.C. p. O. p. O.)   18. Henry Weinfield. Divagations. 13. 138. ‘Un spectacle interrompu’. Divagations. (‘An interrupted Performance’.. See. 383.. (Selected Letters.. p.C. (‘Prose (for des Esseintes). but the reader should always bear both senses in mind. p.) 88 .   27.)   17. Cf. 647. ‘La Cour’. désir et mal de mes vertèbres.. Ibid. 647. O.)  30.)  23. p. 647.C. The word recurs many times throughout this book and I have translated it one way or the other depending on the context. p.)  32.)   24. 294. 123. ‘Planches et feuillets’. Translator’s note: The French word ‘calice’ means both ‘chalice’ and ‘calyx’ and both senses are important in understanding Mallarmé’s use of the word. Divagations.)   22. p. 187. (‘The Mystery in Letters’. p.)   21.

Divagations. ‘La Cour’. p. p. 499–500. O. 283–286. Weinfield. 50. p. O. ‘Autre éventail’. p. ‘best not to say anything’. Mallarmé is playing on the usual French expression ‘Autant ne rien dire’. p. Divagations.. 46. 79. p. (‘The White Waterlily’.  51. ‘Toast funèbre’. Divagations. p.M. p.C. p. O.. 394. p.)   45. (‘Another fan’. p.C..C. The proposed reading of this poem clearly takes into consideration. O. O.)   43.. 391.C.C.. p. [Translator’s note: the English word ‘forgery’ is used by Mallarmé himself in the original text. by lifting the ‘ne’. p. 58.C...C.H. Ibid. O.)  55.. and ‘Villiers de l’Isle Adam’.M Blackmore. (‘Several sonnets’. (‘Funerary Toast’.)   46. and A.. p. 51.  53. 35–6.. 16. ‘Villiers de l’Isle Adam’. Henry Weinfield. translation modified.C. 414. O. (‘A Faun in the Afternoon’. 67–9.C. 182. ‘rien’. and A. ‘Le nénuphar blanc’.C. (‘The Fairground Declaration’. in English. Letter to Gustave Kahn of 13 January 1881. p. 107. the philosophical interpretation put forward by Alain Badiou on the basis of Gardner Davies’ exegesis (see the bibliography). pp.C. O. trans. p. p.   39. See.)   42. O. p. 66-9. (‘Music and Letters’. 246.)   47. 89 . Henry Weinfield.)   40.Notes   36. ‘L’après-midi d’un Faune’. 187. Divagations. p. p. Henry Weinfield. (Selected Letters. ‘La musique et les Lettres’. O. (Ibid. 51. O.]   48. ‘Las de l’amer repos’..C.   57. trans. (‘Music and Letters’. trans. 647. 187. as Rancière makes clear in the following lines. O.C. (‘Sprung from the croup’. 283). O. ‘Catholicisme’. Les Dieux Antiques. p. O. ‘La déclaration foraine’. trans.   44. p. p.)  41.)   38. E. 243. 110. Henry Weinfield. 74. 1159–1280. however without following or seeking specifically to contradict. Henry Weinfield.. p. ‘Surgi sur la croupe’. José Corti.)   49. p. 499. ‘La Musique et les Lettres’. 282. p. (‘The Court’. trans. where. trans.C.. trans. takes on a positive value as that which is to be said.H... p. or.)   56. (‘Catholicism’. Mallarmé et le Drame Solaire.  52. 1959.C..C. trans. 130..)   37. O.. Blackmore. ‘Prose’. p. p.)  54. p. (‘Prose’. 647. O. 56. p. 55. O. p.C. ‘Sonnet d’inauguration du théâtre de Valvins’.. ‘Plusieurs sonnets’. 43. trans. E.)  50. Henry Weinfield. (‘Weary of bitter sleep’.

. 869. Divagations.)  70. Divagations. Divagations. translation modified. (‘Of Genre and the Moderns’.C. 398. 46.. p.)   84.C..)  61. ‘Plaisir sacré’. 367. ‘Catholicisme’. p. p. pp..)  88.   68...)   86. 318. 190. 401. p.C. Divagations. p. (‘Confrontation’. 276-80.)  85. 355–60. p. 367.. 1991 [1986]. translation modified. Divagations. 872.C. Rêverie d’un poète français’. ‘Conflit’ O. (‘Bucolic’. p. O. p.C.)  66. p. 1981]. p. E. p. Jacques Rancière. p. 266.C. p. p.C. pp. p.. 275. p.)  73. p. Ibid. Ibid.mallarmÉ   58. 219. O. ‘Plaisir sacré’.C.)  77. 71. Ernest Sturm. (‘Richard Wagner: The Reverie of a French Poet’. O. 393. 543. Divagations. 542. ‘Solitude’. p. 408. Divagations.C. p. O. O. See.C. p... 239. ‘Bucolique’.. (‘Conflict’. p. O. ‘Or’. ‘Le genre ou Des modernes’. Divagations. Divagations. 544.C. and A. Divagations..M. ‘Bucolique’. (‘Catholicism’. Divagations. (Ibid.  65.. trans. trans.C.)   78. 41-6. p. O. p.C. p.C. 110.)   67. O... 73. 240. (‘Displays’. p.)  64. ‘Crise de vers’. (‘Crisis of Verse’.)  62. (‘Sacred Pleasure’. 239-52. p. ‘Le genre ou les modernes’.C. (‘Crisis of Verse’.)  81. 389. Mallarmé. ‘Étalages’. O. Divagations. p.)  75. p.)   76. O.C.)   72.)   74. (‘Restricted Action’. (‘Sacred Pleasure’. Divagations.. (Ibid. 247. 255. p. 108. p. ‘Conflict’. Pennyslvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. Ibid. O.H. p.)  60. O. Ibid. (‘The Reverie of a French Poet’. O. O. p.. or the Poet of Nothingness... p. See.C. ‘Sur Poe’. (‘Services’. ‘Plaisir sacré’. O. (‘Homage’. ‘Richard Wagner.)   79. ‘Services’.. p. translated by John Drury. ‘Catholicisme’.. O. 394. p. p..)  63. The Nights of Labour: The Workers’ Dream in NineteenthCentury France. O. p.C.)   69. ‘L’action restreinte’. (‘Catholicism’. p. 148. translation modified. Divagations. 268.  59.   87. 388.C.)  82.C. (‘Bucolic’. 403. Divagations.. 409–12. (Ibid.C. 245–6.C. ‘Sur l’évolution littéraire’. Letter to Edmund Gosse. O. introduction by Donald Reid.. 367–8. Blackmore.C. 388–97.)  71. (‘Solitude’. 388. p. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Divagations. O. Jean-Paul Sartre. O. p.)  80. p. (‘Conflict’. 314. p. 545. (Selected Letters. 372. 209. 111.. Divagations. 224. 10 January 1893. Divagations. p. p. 209. p. ‘Confrontation’. p. ‘Crise de vers’.)  83.. (‘Of Genre and the Moderns’. 145. ‘Hommage’. 111–2. (‘Sacred Pleasure’. Divagations. 239. ‘Richard Wagner. 90 . (‘Gold’. Divagations. O.. p.C. 359. p. 376. O. O... 210. Divagations. Rêverie d’un poète français’. 1989 [French original.

).C. Divagations. (‘Crisis of Verse’. O. O..   90.) Ibid. p.. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. See. p.C. p. p. p. Divagations.Notes  89. p. 298. 235. p. p.) 105. p. ‘Le Mystère dans les Lettres’. 104. Henry Weinfield. p. and Camille Mauclair.C. p.C. (Ibid. (‘Restricted Action’. p. 1930.. 654. 304. 91 . 477. O.C. (Ibid. 130.) 102.C. 166. ‘Solennité’. (‘Scribbled at the theater’. 296. O. 247. p. 223. 120–1.)   99..  91.. p. 144.) ‘Crise de vers’. Henry Weinfield. ‘Crayonné au théâtre’.) 101. O.C.  95. (‘The Mystery in Letters’... p.  92. p. O. p. trans. 394. p.C. 332. (‘Music and Letters’.  96. Divagations.C.. 654. (‘Catholicism’. Dissemination.. p. 130. Letters to André Gide. ‘Crayonné au théâtre’. Philosophy of Right. p.. 207. 217. 1983 [French original. p. 103.144.) Ibid.. ‘Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard’. ‘Le Livre. (See. p. Divagations.)   97.) 107. Variété II.. Divagations. p. Hegel. p. p.  94. ‘L’action restrainte’. O. (‘Solemnity’. O.  93. O. (‘The Book as Spiritual Instrument’. ‘A Throw of the Dice’. p. O.C.)   98. § 359. 208. La Musique et les Lettres. ‘Catholicisme’. 123. 371.. Divagations. 306. p. 8 October 1897.) 106.. instrument spirituel’. ‘Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard’.. ‘A Throw of the Dice’. Gallimard. Divagations. p. (‘Scribbled at the Theater’. Divagations.. 133. 304. Divagations. p. p.) 100.C.) ‘Ballets’.) Jacques Derrida. 194–9.) Ibid. 195. trans. translated and introduced by Barbara Johnson. 226.C. 378. 14 May 1897 (Selected Letters. (See. p. 1972]. O. Divagations. (Ibid. 365.. (‘Ballets’. 366.. O. 477. p.


F. 58. René 22 Feuerbach. Gardner 23 Derrida. Victor 3 ‘Oceano Nox’ 3 Kant. Stéphane (poems and prose) ‘A la nue accablante tu’ (‘Hushed to the crushing cloud’) 1–4. 51–2 ‘Bucolique’ (‘Bucolic’) 4.Index Aristotle 12. 45–51. 59–60 ‘Conflit’ (‘Conflict’) 31–2 ‘Confrontation’ (‘Confrontation’) 31 ‘Crayonné au théâtre’ (‘Scribbled at the theatre’) 6. 52 Hegel. Friedrich 28. Immanuel 17 Mallarmé. 59 Bouvard and Pécuchet 20 Madame Bovary 19 Hamlet 15–16. 10. Charles 3 ‘Phare’ 3 ‘Voyage’ 3 Blanchot. 60 Lessons on Aesthetics 46 Hölderlin.W. 30. Jacques 52 Descartes. 54 ‘Crise de vers’ (‘Crisis of verse’) 4. 57. 33. 15. 35. 17. 38 Flaubert. Gustave 19–21. 29 Davies. 38. Maurice xv Boileau. 33. 35 ‘Catholicisme’ (‘Catholicism’) 30. 28. 23. G. George W. Ludwig 28. 41. Nicolas 12 Coppée. 21 Baudelaire. 51–2 ‘Étalages’ (‘Displays’) 35 ‘Hamlet’ 15 ‘Hommage’ (‘Homage’) 39 ‘Igitur’ (‘Igitur’) 17 93 . 19. 45 Homer 6 Horace 12 The Poetic Art 12 Hugo. François 19 Cox. 37. 38. 12 ‘Autre éventail’ (‘Another fan’) 22–3 ‘Ballets’ (‘Ballets’) 12.

49–50 ‘Solitude’ (‘Solitude’) 34 ‘Sur Poe’ (‘Sur Poe’) 44–5 ‘Surgi de la croupe’ (‘Sprung from the croup’) 88 ‘Toast funèbre’ (‘Funerary toast’) 18 ‘Un coup de dés’ (‘A dice throw’) 2. 54 ‘La bouteille à la mer’ (The bottle at sea’) 3 Wagner. Leo 1 Valéry. Karl 28 Plato 10–12. Paul 41 Vigny. 38 ‘Planches et feuillets’ (‘Stages and pages’) 15 ‘Prélude à l’après-midi d’un Faune’ (‘A Faun in the afternoon’) 18 ‘Prose (pour des Esseintes)’ ((Prose (for des Esseintes)) xvi. 3. 3. 45 Schlegel. instrument spirituel’ (‘The Book as spiritual instrument’) 58 ‘Le Mystère dans les Lettres’ (‘The Mystery in Letters’) 53 ‘Les fleurs’ (‘The flowers’) 16 Les mots anglais 50 ‘Or’ (‘Gold’) 34 ‘Plaisir sacré’ (‘Sacred Pleasure’) 35–6. Marcel 20 Romanticism 37 Saint Simonians 28–9. 38 Symbolism 47–8 Tolstoy. 36 ‘Le Livre. ‘Salut’ (‘Toast’) 4–5. Paul 44. 50. 39–41. 14. 16 ‘Sauveguard’ (‘Safeguard’) xvi ‘Services’ (‘Services’) 35 ‘Solennité’ (‘Solemnity’) 11. 22. 13. 53 and eidos 10–11 Cratylus 50 Phraedrus 12 Proust. Alfred de 3. Arthur 17. 56 Verlaine. Friedrich 28. 55–8 ‘La cour’ (‘The Court’) 6. 31 Schelling. Stéphane (poems and prose) – continued ‘L’action restrainte’ (‘Restricted action’) 7. Richard 38–40 Lohengrin 40 94 . 3 ‘La Même’ (‘The Same’) 35 ‘La Musiques et les Lettres’ (‘Music and Letters’) 2.index Mallarmé. 11. 27 ‘Richard Wagner’ 36. 50. 30 ‘La Déclaration foraine’ (‘Fairground declaration’) 19–21 La Dernière Mode xii. 54 ‘Las de l’amer repos’ (‘Weary of bitter sleep’) 17 ‘Le genre ou des modernes’ (‘Of genre and the Moderns’) 34. Friedrich 45 Schopenhauer. 55–6 ‘Un spectacle interrompu’ (An interrupted spectacle’) 14–5 ‘Villiers de l’Isle Adam’ 17 Marx. 13. 34.

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