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 .

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

dance.Table of contents Notes on the translation Foreword The foam of the poem The white concern The poetics of mystery The terms of mystery Scene of the dream From nothingness to the nothing The method of fiction The fan of the poem The hymn of spiritual hearts The religion of the century Two theses on divinity The poet and the worker Musical religion The god Wagner: poem. poem: the circle of ‘mimesis’ The authentic page ix xiii 1 4 9 10 13 16 21 23 27 27 29 31 35 38 43 45 48 54 v . music and politics The duty of the book The poem as thought: a secular history Music.

mallarmÉ Appendix: selected texts Notes Index 61 87 93 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.


it does. as Mallarmé says. This singularity. Rancière claims. is then redoubled in a specific way by Rancière’s treatment of the Mallarméan oeuvre. And yet. 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. which implies a certain discussion between philosophy and poetry. entertain a singular relationship to philosophy (which is. cannot reside in the particular philosophical notions it might seek to convey.Notes on the translation Mallarmé’s poetic enterprise. his poetry was no more than an aestheticized philosophy. Taking poetry as a form of thought on a par with philosophy. must be understood as something that stands or falls insofar as ‘its light as well as its night comes from itself’. to say nothing of the uncomprehending condemnations that plague interpretations of his work. Rancière seeks to uncover a Mallarmé that is delivered of the metaphysical mystifications and banalizing psychologizations. as if. and showing us the specific links that the Mallarméan poetic undertaking forged between poetry. it would form an interval between philosophy (traditionally understood) and poetry. thought and the politico-historical moment. at bottom. to be sure. This relationship. then. Rancière brings a set of operations to bear on Mallarmé’s texts so as to enact a leveling out of philosophy and poetry. ‘included and latent’ in it). care is taken ix . and while setting Mallarmé’s work in its socio-political context. if it stands. But he makes sure not to adopt any of the various positions of philosophical mastery that would subjugate the text to a ‘meaning’. In so doing. to give us a more straightforward reading of his specific difficulty.

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

Cain. and his correspondence from: Selected Letters of Stéphane Mallarmé. Oxford: Berg. translated with a commentary by P. 2004. 1988. guidance was taken from Mallarmé on Fashion. for Mallarmé’s writings in La Dernière Mode.N. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 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. Lastly. xi . Furbank and A. 2007.M. edited and translated by Rosemary Lloyd. Finally. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.Notes oN the traNslatioN translated by Barbara Johnson. my warm thanks go to Jacques Rancière for his friendly support and encouragement.


it is easy to trace a line straight to some confrontation with the night of the absolute. 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. it has to be separated from notions that travesty it. His poems. This is true of the name ‘poet’. from that of secret. Matching the obscurity of the text is the figure of poet. And some poets’ names seem to thicken this darkness even further. In order to grasp this difficulty. The idea of secret presupposes that the truth is hidden somewhere beneath the surface apprehended by the eye and the mind. buried under clouds of reverie.Foreword Some names project a shadow that devours them. of which his posthumously published booklet of obscure poems is said to reveal the debris. to his last will as a poet. Mallarmé symbolizes the poet of obscurity par excellence. first of all. grappling with the virgin sheet of paper and the nothingness encountered in hollowing out verse. to extricate both the poet’s words from the shadow cast. The following pages would like to help shed light on this night. 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. From the letters that Mallarmé wrote as a young man. and Mallarmé’s specific difficulty from obscurity. 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 . and that of an obscurity close to the impenetrable night. feathers of celestial birds and storms of passion. and. in which he recommended burning the vain pile of notes destined for the grand oeuvre of the Book. insomniac and sterile. and even his prose pieces.

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

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

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

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. which unfold in a single phrase devoid of any punctuation apart from that which. in What is Art?. foam. singles out a sole word: ‘écume’ (foam)? From which angle are 1 . Tolstoy. 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. in the parenthesis.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. cites the following sonnet as an example of incomprehensible. In 1897.7 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. The flank of a young siren girl. écume.

gives us not the keys to the enigma. 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. on the contrary. Hypothesis is the name of that which replaces narrative in Mallarmé. A pivot of the preserved intelligibility of the poem. reduced to its ‘essential rhythm’.8 The arabesque works to dispel the illusion that the poem is about describing – to enable the recognition of – a person or a story. which links together the figures appearing. it remained silent (‘tu’). but the syntactical articulations of the problem. on a double syntactical pivot: the unique commas that isolate the word écume (foam) and the ‘or else’.mallarmÉ we to take this fugitive object. suddenly. It distinguishes the arrangement of its lines from that characterizing the newspaper: the open page receiving a cast of ink. The Mallarméan line is not vague. The arabesque has its own number and logic. or the choice between the hypotheses it proposes to us. The poem’s single phrase turns. which weighs the two terms of an alternative against one another. 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. but the virtuality of history. 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. in effect. Mallarmé in fact placed a singular rampart: not the great wall of hermetic words. has dizzying leaps into known fears’. of which our sonnet is like a summary and to which the indication thus applies a fortiori: ‘Everything happens. What is this play of hypotheses? The rarefaction of poetic language. the mast. Or else – second hypothesis – its agitation attests only to the frolics of a fictional sea being. a siren. The arabesque subtracts the poem from this circulation. 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. at the intersections of the poem: ‘The total arabesque. The ‘mystery’ that it sets up is not some vagueness into which all meaning would dissolve. through hypothesis’.9 Reading the poem reconstitutes not history. First hypothesis: it is the witness of a major drama. but. the trace of a ‘sepulchral shipwreck’ which swallowed up a ship to its last – its ‘supreme one’ – bit of wreckage. Music and Letters states the law of this mobile line. its 2 . the supple line of the phrase which slips from grasp. which ties them together. He provided the following indication to the reader of A Dice Throw. by shortcut. the foam alone knows what it conceals. an object or a feeling.

he gave the proof: the ‘modern image of nature’s insufficiency’ for us is attested by the very way in which vacationers cross it. an environment naturally improper to the visibility and the hearing of the drama. to go. 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 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. which we can therefore identify with the white line of the foam. He said as much in an illustrious text: ‘Nature has taken place. on the contrary.’10 And to the – far too few – subscribers of La Dernière Mode. than theirs. He was most assuredly also a fervent disciple of Baudelaire. the mythical being – here. And he was the contemporary of Hérédia. and simply sit down in front of the ocean ‘and look what there is beyond our abode. the infinite and nothing’. at the end of the line. And the dandies 3 . The alternative can be clarified in this manner. the very opposition between the games of the siren and the sepulchral shipwreck tells us that he was of another era.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. that champion of gold seekers. He was a contemporary of Monet and Renoir. the poem does not describe the uncertain impressions of some observer. Hushed to the crushing cloud. he grew up in admiration of the Victor Hugo of Oceano Nox and the Vigny of The Bottle at Sea. his telescope aimed at the tumult of waves. that is to say. and less still A Dice Throw. Naturally. for the amateur of adventures. Mallarmé took no particular interest in scenes and stories of the sea. the poet of Voyage and The Beacons. However. and if this is forgotten.11 The time of nature and its poets is finished. Second hypothesis: the great spectacular drama (the high perdition) is. that which the surrounding world (vain chasm of billows) awaited but was denied. can scarcely be understood. the siren – leaves behind. and his art another cosmology. But what light does this shed? Manifestly. bent over the front of white caravels. it can’t be added to. He was no longer contemporary with painters of battles and shipwrecks. As in many tales. 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. ‘full steam ahead’. only an ironic trace of its ephemeral and deceptive appearing: a white piece of fairy hair.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

of the virtual that returns all characters to the rank of extras or tapestry figures. 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. Yet the dreamer’s way of seeing. is no longer able to find any action worthy of himself. precariously. in short. Obedient to exhibition and common reward. the power to be without reason.33 This is what the poem writes. he organizes the play of the other types in the manner of a Coryphaeus: leader of the Greek chorus. the shadow faced with which all characters perish. the hero who. the juvenile shadow of us all’. of a completely new sky. This is the natural way of seeing. What exactly does this dreamer par excellence show? Hegel. The doubt or the dream that he embodies is the power of the latent. the bear dropped back down onto all fours and ‘all of a sudden’ the curtain fell ‘with its advertised prices and banalities’. This. on a happenstance stage in the inner theatre. is what is expressed by Hamlet’s monologue: ‘to be or 15 . There is nothing psychological or Christian in this. it is ‘a summary of types and accords’ that ‘anyone who has really looked at nature’ bears in himself. Indeed. since he is the exemplary son of Christian times. come to dethrone the theatre of characters and the recognition of models. On the contrary. that is to say. turned him into the prototypical Romantic character. and a few others. theatre and the poem’s greatness: Hamlet. The dream is this power of grasping the virtuality. 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. the theatre staff only saw in this sublime scene something terrifying.32 Poetry is the pursuit of this truth. the power of equalling the type that takes shape. or do anything. in a world deserted by the Resurrected. He is. in a nutshell. and maybe even the true one’. present in every fairground stall. he who cannot decide. but instead the shadow – tomorrow’s promise – of the new theatre of the Idea. Hamlet is hardly yesterday’s shadow. between aspects of types limited to their appearing alone. to be by artifice. of electing aspects – the bear’s acts – and ordering them in mystery is ‘superior. of ideal aspects. that is. This is because Hamlet embodies the very trouble with appearing.34 He is the power ‘to be or not to be’. sealed in the sole momentary act of a performance. The Idea is the symbol. Hamlet is the supreme type. 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. of this exact interruption. Attesting this is the character that simultaneously symbolizes dream. the agreement.the poetics oF mystery paws.

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

separated from every self by the ‘spidery ruff’ of Igitur. and escaped from this ‘illness’. produced by a pure consciousness. 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. controllable by the quill. 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.39 The Poésies enable us to see this conversion. which are more cloistral still than the robes of monks or shroud of the dead. This dramaturgy sets out from the poems of the Ideal. 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’. This is very precisely the one that we have already encountered: l’infini et rien. With ‘Faun’. Ever since Kant.the poetics oF mystery seeking the pure work. the infinite immanent to the nothing. it closes its shutters on this beautiful azure and enters into the cold lunar night in which the poet. It contrasts them with the pure power of artifice of the ‘the great twin reed played under the azure’ and which knows 17 . has left behind the ‘voracious Art’ of the ‘Cruel country’ of the Absolute. in his image. those first sought in the heights of celestial azure. on his own behalf. in a critical way. Mallarmé followed suit at the end of the great crises of the year 1865. dreaming like his heroine of the ‘bed of vellum sheets’. indeed by the knife that deposits the head of Saint John the Baptist on a silver plate. He reorganized. Commentators have unceasingly inquired into this point: was it thanks to Villiers de l’Isle Adam or Lefébure that he came across Hegel. He converted. the Absolute Subject and the original identity of void. the Absolute as Nothingness – into a new duality. the Medusa’s head of the Spirit – the Absolute and Nothingness. With Herodias. In this work. inheritor of the flown sun. must become impersonal in order to make gleam the pure beauty of the new poem of pure Ideas. the poems are arranged by Mallarmé on the basis of a dramaturgy that is detached from their chronology. 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. the vanishing difference of everything to itself. one that is accessible to the gaze. the system of the spirit.

] and dreams of. and a funereal room which is also a hall of sacrament in which is lit the ‘festive star’ of poetic genius. pourpre ivre et a huge clear bloom. immobilized. le regard which his diaphanous gaze diaphane remaining there. and reduced to the status of ‘abolished bauble of inane sonority’. Just like 18 . [. ‘like some child-empress’s war-morion’. with his inaccessible model. . . monotonous and empty line. grand calice clair Que.] faire aussi haut que l’amour se module Évanouir du songe ordinaire de dos Ou de flanc pur suivis avec mes regards clos. 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. Herodias. . Reste là sur ces fleurs dont nulle rain and diamond. which Mallarmé set out into four seasons and four nights: an initial autumn night of a flown sun and a godless sky. in the ‘frigid dream of scorn’ of the pure Idea. unaltered’ [espace. on these flowers ne se fane.40 Beyond this line of division. summoned like the hundred irises to the new duty of figuring. as cloistral as the ‘space. and a summer night emptied of every funereal material as of every object. put in charge of looking after the heritage of the Idea-sun. vaine et monotone ligne. à soi pareil]. . 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: [. Une sonore. . an aspect of the new Idea. a spring night in which the poet flees the ‘beautiful suicide’ of suns of yesteryear. pluie et diamant.] [.mallarmÉ [. a purple ecstasy. .] Une agitation solennelle par l’air a solemn stir of words stays alive in the air De paroles. . high as love itself can modulate evacuating from the commonplace illusion of some pure loin or rear that my shut eyes create A sonorous. the distribution of ‘tombs’ and ‘fans’. a winter night of the poet-swan. of ‘airs’ and ‘sonnets’. .

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

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

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

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

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

if we labour the point. None of these meanings are unjustified and. But the poet is like the crafty siren. It means that in the flapping of the fan. The poem does not ‘mean’ anything. shipwrecks. This is the mystery that succeeds tragedy: the great metaphor of the Idea-sun. We are able. has two faces: on the side of the quatrains is the whirlpool of a shipwreck. Let us not understand this to mean that the poem is ‘polysemous’. the white water lily or that which is absent from every bouquet). It transforms every ‘solid and preponderant’ reality (for example. It emblematizes the doubt itself about the nature of that scansion. it ‘suggests’. several forms of appearing and disappearing can discover they are analogous. Here we return to our initial poem. solitude. is a process of disappearance and substitution. of the trick that he played on it. on the side of the tercets the spray of a siren’s undulation. a king’s daughter or a flower in a vase) into an inconsistent and glorious simulacrum (the siren. we will have a pretty good idea of what Mallarmé might have thought. 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 .mallarmÉ the folds of its emblem. like the fan. it says. in general. 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. that ‘fold of somber lace which retains the infinite’. What appears? What disappears? The movement of the fan does not say. as so many splinters of the great pulverized sun. It emblematizes the gesture of saying as the scansion of appearing and disappearing. buried in sea waters and darkness. the swan and the oar. stars) with a play of vanishing aspects.52 It remains that if there is a ‘thought of the poem’. a siren’s white hair. substitute or combine with one another. is shattered into a multiplicity of schemas of disappearing that respond to. and perhaps now we can understand why our question about its ‘meaning’ was out of place. therefore. a ship on sea waters in a tempest. from which the play of aspects take its power of ideality. One disappearing contains many others within it. He thwarts the appetites of the public’s ‘vain outspread chasm’ and leaves the famished ogre only a trace. The first meaning: the poem. reefs. 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. in combining them. to discern many meanings in the fable of the ship and the siren – the meanings of ‘mystery’. it plays on it. it is in the fluttering which draws all these possibles into the same fold. Second meaning: the new poem replaces the stories and dramas of yesteryear (adventures. or that each person can understand it as he will.

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. 25 . the fan which identifies the movement of its folds with this doubling of the sensory. replete with the ability to elevate the traces of writing on a white page ‘to the heights of the starry sky’. The poem is the supreme consecration because it is the supreme artifice.


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

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

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

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

The poet and the worker At this point enter Mallarmé’s politics. purified by the religion that. books or bouquets – which transpose the delicacies or violences of the solar cycle. gathered in their community at Ménilmontant. 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’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. very close to and yet the exact converse of the great Saint-Simonian dream of industrial religion. all the ceremonials of religious consecration of mattock work made spiritual by men of the book made wheelbarrowers. The essential thing is that in two of his prose pieces he provided a precise retort to it.58 It was a perfect illustration of the ‘new Book’ which is no longer written on paper in volatile words and empty declarations. and even more the intimate celebrations of the book. making holes designed for the foundation of the Temple. that is. Ruthlessly. 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. the pulverized gold of setting suns and agonizing natures. and evening malaise ensues as the dreamer’s 31 . lined up in half-squadrons of diggers and wheelbarrowers. To the strains of the work-king’s new choirs. buried in his hole. through its golds. bourgeois apostles and workers of Paris. but is inscribed in the very arrangement of bodies which transform thought into reality at ground level. by means of his nearby mattock.57 But this religion also presides over ‘intimate celebrations’: the celebrations of the furnished abode of the ‘tangible chimera’ – bibelots. except that this one shatters all the ceremonials of ‘new Christianity’. some ‘apostles’. the ‘mystery’.the hymN oF spiritual hearts community. It matters little whether Mallarmé knew the story of that utopian Sunday. subjected to the gold of sheenless metal and the obscurity of the ballot box. 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. 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. solemnly shifted the earth. One Sunday in June 1832. enclosing the play of the world in the fold of its leaves. as the Republican riot was brewing in Paris. cloths. celebrates the real presence of absence.

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

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

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

‘Catholicism’ and ‘The Same’. have the same welldefined objective: namely. the ‘innumerable Thousand and One Nights. the spiritualized form of the Idea. its abstraction is precisely what makes its language the most immediately accessible. Now. the role of being ‘the last plenary human religion’. We can put this differently: music appears par excellence as that which. the note that sounds the time to return to the capital is given 35 . in recognition of their chimerical greatness.73 ‘Now.the hymN oF spiritual hearts moreover. by the most direct paths. which Christian sacrifice compromises with simulacra of the barbaric feast. Music presents the form of writing and ritual that is most abstracted from corporeality and figuration. The new religion already has its own temples. at which a suddenly invented reading majority will marvel’. its theory and its divinity. It is music. And if the essential content of the Christian religion is the very gesture of elevation.70 Musical religion For a redoubtable game is played around this hymn. now nearing thought’. Nature was the first form. ‘beyond nature’. the baton of the orchestra conductor represents the final purification of this ritual. still primitive and caught in the solidity of matter. then a purified language is best able to lay claim to being the last religion. Three texts ‘Sacred Pleasure’. 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. music presents itself as this language par excellence. in a ‘volatile reduction [dépouillement] into corresponding features. The new religion that henceforth claims to assume the secession of Christianity bears a name which concentrates the Mallarméan problem in its entirety. while music is the last ‘sacred state’. gathered by Mallarmé under the title ‘Services’71. pulverizing all matter and image. It is this abstraction that transforms ‘aesthetics’ into the last ‘religion’ and enables music to establish. the most perceptible communion between men. Music explodes the screen of the image and representation. the book preserves the rhythms of the hymn for celebrations of the future. the tangible form of the Idea. Indeed.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. welcomes the sacredness lost by nature in the age of industry. to understand how what seemed merely to be one art among others came to play a wholly other role. which ranks presence alongside absence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

revives a celestial vision of humanity  ! without it there is just beautiful discourse out of some mouth.90 We find ourselves. by themselves.mallarmÉ il y a recommencement des conditions ainsi que des matériaux de la pensée sis naturellement pour un devoir de prose: comme des vocables. after this difference and the experience of the beyond. First. in the chapter on sibilants. glorious and philosophical and imaginative. the good sentiments of sm and the rampant perversity of sn. What. 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. meaning by this not at all one which. as in Vigny. that the spirit shows itself as theatre. makes more than one pledge toward a neo-Cratylism. In this new sublime state. in Les Mots anglais. laid down naturally for a prose study: the vocables. 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. is this original virtue of words? It can only be understood in two ways. 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’. The music of the orchestra dismissed the coarseness of the imitative figure and the theatre of representation. on the contrary. eux-mêmes. Doubtless Mallarmé. there is a fresh beginning of the conditions and materials of thought. then. après cette différence et l’essor au-delà. But this science of sounds announces straightaway the colour of the chimera. The primary music of the poem purifies the coarseness of the orchestral tumult. Only this theatralization renders to words their primary ‘virtue’ prior to discourse. he becomes intoxicated with the rapidity and the exaggeration of sw. celebrates the purity of the spirit. But it is in a new theatre that thought lays its ‘wing’s blow’ – the figures of its movement – open to view. it is not by moving them closer to their origin. to the degree that it. closer to thought. the stability and frankness of st. when. but instead one which presents us its 50 . resuscitates. in fact. If the flight of verse gives words their virtue. find their virtue. 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.89 The ‘dialectic of the verse’ is introduced at the price of a remarkable reversal. atteignant leur vertu.

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

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

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

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

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

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

whereby body was given to the speech of the prophets. comedy for the bourgeois. 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.] the rhythm of a sentence about an act or even an object has meaning only if it imitates them and. . No writing can designate the rule or the public that testifies for it. The Book had to prove that it indeed was the voice of God. In the last instance. and the suffering body on the cross. . the more it proves that this power really is its own. the nature of what was represented prescribed the forms of its representation: tragedy for kings. The word literature primarily means that what is represented prescribes neither genre nor style. a singular effectuation of that power without norm which is verified alone by its act. in any case. which can be called the Flaubert paradox: the less that literature owes to what it represents.103 Literature must prove itself.]. 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. at the edge of cancellation. of genres and the poetic arts. the real presence of its idea. prove that it really is literature. each time. Literature thus makes its proof: there is no other reason to write on paper’. the consecration of bread and wine. The Book and the Body have to confirm 57 .the duty oF the book In this poem the constellation will. It must. line by line. the form of a constellation. . when the Letters have taken over from the original etching must convey something despite it all [. The ship will list from the top of one page to the bottom of the next. which. the proof of its minute and decisive difference. with the metres and the figures suitable to each. Literature. will triumph in the white following the last word. This obligation leads to a first paradox. then. assume. it proved this through the incarnation of the Word. fatally. This also means that it is. was well proven by its conformity with what was said in figures in their writings. enacted on paper.. depending on the case – the proof by effects: the pleasure or emotion felt by people of taste. it was enough for each poem to present the fable and style appropriate to the rules and usages of the genre that it illustrated. and pastoral for the shepherds. . etc: for [. rediscovers the circle of the Christian proof of Scripture. In the times of mimesis and Belles Lettres. dead and raised from the dead. according to precise laws and insofar as it is possible in a printed text. that each episode of the Passion. with each line. but also the initial movement which consecrates it. It constitutes. To this formal proof was added – or substituted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

avec ses paysages. Forgive me! That blooming of your two lips. et probablement de n’y point lire la Présentation de Votre Serviteur. even beauty and the holding of one’s 64 . Ainsi les choses. on le tient de quelqu’un. reading this deep down.C. apparu dans cette saison de vacance comme à son heure exacte d’apparaître. vous quittez encore le bois et le fleuve. A smile! barely formed. au bas. 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. Everything. I mean to catch its grace. already moves about. . certes. (La Dernière Mode. avides de reposer tout à fait vos yeux dans l’oubli causé par un horizon vaste et nu  . brode de son écume  ? Sans le moindre de remords. to hope to retrieve it or to dissipate its flight. O. à laquelle d’autres lèvres. suivant tout bas cette lecture.. Disregard nothing of the times: everything in it belongs to everyone. dans sa réalité extérieure. pour arriver autre part  : moderne image de son insuffisance pour nous  ! Oui. Tout s’apprend sur le vif. déjà s’essaient. ce Journal s’interpose entre votre songerie et le double azur maritime et céleste : le temps de le feuilleter.) [. will already be trying on. Pardon  ! cet épanouissement de vos deux lèvres. now frantic. il l’affine. and it is in vain for the fan. concert programmes or dinner menus certainly do make for a peculiar literature. thought at first to have hidden it. irritating or soothing them. et le port de tête. loathed. pour la nature  ? comme on la traverse à toute vapeur. 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. même la beauté. c’est-à-dire de chacun. n’est-ce pas. received with thanks or with jealousy. blessed. will here find an echo. before drowning the next moment in the éclat of the orchestra: discarded lists of dancers with depetalled flowers. j’en noterai la grâce. . Fuir ce monde  ? on en est  . 718–9. in itself possessing the immortality of a week or two. ses lieues. que l’Océan. comme le port d’une robe. pour trouver une nouveauté de regard habile à goûter le paradoxe de toilettes ingénues et savantes. p.mallarmÉ ressaisir ou de dissiper son vol. in auditoriums with their heavy portières: expected. which other lips.] A thousand secrets (an evening’s banter) overheard amid the fashionable hubbub. sending souls into ecstasy. 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.

its leagues. Oxford: Berg. to arrive elsewhere – such is the modern image of its insufficiency for us! Yes. sur l’intervalle vif entre ses végétations dormantes d’un toujours étroit et distrait ruisseau.* *Mallarmé on Fashion: A translation of the Fashion Magazine La Dernière Mode. 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. one crosses it. me remémorer mon départ tôt. d’un grand geste net assoupi. je venais échouer dans quelque touffe de roseaux. Qu’arrivait-il. Furbank and Alex Cain. où étais-je ? Il fallut. and probably not to read in it the Presentation of your Servant. in its external reality. to get a fresh outlook on things. maritime and celestial: long enough for you to leaf through it. ce juillet de flamme. translated by P. terme mystérieux de ma course. as the right and proper moment. from anyone. indeed. choosing. 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. ce qui me rappela à mon identité mondaine. is borrowed from someone. je ne vérifiai l’arrêt qu’à l’étincellement stable d’initiales sur les avirons mis à nu. pour voir clair en l’aventure. for nature? Full steam ahead. to appear in the holiday season. Tant d’immobilité paressait que frôlé d’un bruit inerte où fila jusqu’à moitié la yole. without the least remorse. à qui je devais improviser un bonjour. intervenes between your dreaming and the double azure. au milieu de la rivière  : où tout de suite élargie en fluvial 65 . L’absente/The Absentee J’avais beaucoup ramé.N. 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. is learnt on the go. 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. 2004 (translation modified). just like the wearing of a dress.appeNdix: selected texts head. ingenuous yet subtle. comme le rire de l’heure coulait alentour. les yeux au-dedans fixés sur l’entier oubli d’aller. Get out of this world? of which one is part. that the Ocean embroiders with its foam? This Journal.

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

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

. ‘ – Probably just anyone. . for standing still. ‘To whatever pattern your features correspond. . . . I sense their precision.’ I was about to conclude. Madame. 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. 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. by a hedge enclosing a series of lawns. for we are always at one with the instruments of our magic spells. . suddenly widened to a fluvial grove. then. in the middle of the river where. Then I understood: this was simply the estate of Madame. the stroller: and I. on both sides. . [. the unknown lady I was to greet.] Leaning forward in the agile posture in which curiosity held me. am I not holding up my head too high if. each being borne away with its reflection in the water by the same impartial movement of the oars. unexpectedly. the mysterious end of my voyage. I had just run aground in a clump of reeds. she herself. The footsteps stopped: why? [.mallarmÉ been detained by any strip of grass before one landscape more than another. interrupting something established here by the rustling of 68 . the pond. When an imperceptible noise made me question whether the inhabitant of the shore was haunting my leisure. 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. . or. I raise it up beyond those reeds and all the mental somnolence in which lucidity is veiled. to interrogate the mystery.

formed from untouched dreams. which the most authentically fastened sash. to the point at which the revelation of one (oh. in comparison with this one which I held in order not to be heard. Separated. yes! this instinctive charm of something underneath. rowing little by little. the Cruel or Gay – so much the worse for that ineffable face which I shall never know! for I accomplished the 69 . followed by others. with a buckle of diamonds. does not defend against the explorer. with which it has nothing to do. better than any visit. 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.appeNdix: selected texts an arrival. enveloping nothingness with their hollow whiteness. confirmed. 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. Counsel me. the Meditative or Haughty. we are together: I inveigle myself in her obscure intimacy. If. and from the breath that I am now holding in fear of an apparition. drawn by an unprecedented feeling. as one gathers. How many trifling conversations there would have to be. 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. on the secret threshold where I reign) would drive away my turmoil. 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. closed water lilies which spring up suddenly. will enable me to do. do not incline it. she happened to appear – she. from a happiness that will never take place. O my dream: what shall I do? Sum up with a glance this virginal absence dispersed in this solitude and. in memory of a site. I can try to present myself in this pirate’s outfit. depart with it: steal silently away. one of those magical.

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

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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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

laid down naturally for a prose study: the vocables. . the divine denominator of our apotheosis. 166–7. unknown and floating like unclaimed riches. (‘Solemnity’. [. by themselves. after this differences and the experience of the beyond. glorious and philosophical and imaginative. which reveals itself with the function of guardian. to the degree that it. This – I slide into an observation – is why. momentary and double like flight. find their virtue. revives a celestial vision of humanity! without it. In this new – sublime – state. have had an idea of the concept to treat. the identity of the two halves being stamped by their parity in sound. lines of verse go by twos or more. . and prevents any one of them from dominating. p.) 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 . Divagations. some supreme mould for something that doesn’t exist in the same sense as other objects: from which it borrows. to whom the dreamer yields mastery. that is. essential value. its becomes debatable. A Sign! In the central abyss of a spiritual impossibility that says that nothing can belong exclusively to everything. there is just beautiful discourse out of some mouth. and to give yourself wholly to the dialectic of Verse. As a jealous rival. 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.] 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. or peremptorily staying: in what thought was this made! Who cares? given that as soon as its material is debated. there is a fresh beginning of the conditions and materials of thought. but undeniably in order to forget it in its ordinary sense. it resuscitates.mallarmÉ once. the mysterious law of Rhyme. and that’s even every day’s occupation. many scattered veins of ore. in our language. and forges them together. gratuitious  . by reason of their terminal accord.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

304.. (Ibid. p. O. O..) Variété II. 90. 1930. p. ‘A Throw of the Dice’.C. 226. Letters to André Gide. 394. (‘Scribbled at the Theater’.C. 98. 207.. Hegel. p.) ‘Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard’. O.. 93. p.C. 123. Philosophy of Right. 99. (See.) ‘Le Livre. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. p. (‘Solemnity’. (‘Catholicism’. p.C. Divagations. trans.. O. 378. translated and introduced by Barbara Johnson. 235. 103. ‘Solennité’. § 359. 102. (See. 100. p.. (Ibid. p. 654. Henry Weinfield. p. p. ‘Le Mystère dans les Lettres’.. p. Henry Weinfield.144. 97.) Jacques Derrida. Divagations. 133.. (‘The Mystery in Letters’. ‘A Throw of the Dice’. p. p. 94.C. and Camille Mauclair. 106.C. (‘Restricted Action’. O. O. p. p. 296. 1972]. 14 May 1897 (Selected Letters. 654. p. p.) ‘Crayonné au théâtre’.. (‘Music and Letters’. (‘Crisis of Verse’. 194–9..).C. Divagations. 166.) La Musique et les Lettres. O. O. (‘The Book as Spiritual Instrument’. (‘Ballets’... O. 298.Notes 89.) ‘Ballets’.) Ibid. p. 1983 [French original. p. Divagations. p. p. 477. p. p. 91. 105. Divagations. 366. 95. instrument spirituel’. p. 332. p. 247. 130. 8 October 1897. 195. O. 477. O. Divagations. p. Divagations. 96. p. Dissemination..) See.C.) Ibid.C. Divagations..) ‘Crise de vers’.. 208. Gallimard.C.) Ibid.. 107.. 91 . ‘L’action restrainte’. 223.. p. p.C. 120–1.) ‘Crayonné au théâtre’. 104. 217. p. 371. 306. p. O.C. 144. trans. (Ibid. 304. 130. 101. Divagations. Divagations.) ‘Catholicisme’. 92. (‘Scribbled at the theater’.) ‘Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard’. 365.


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

Stéphane (poems and prose) – continued ‘L’action restrainte’ (‘Restricted action’) 7. Leo 1 Valéry. 39–41. 16 ‘Sauveguard’ (‘Safeguard’) xvi ‘Services’ (‘Services’) 35 ‘Solennité’ (‘Solemnity’) 11. 31 Schelling. Paul 41 Vigny. 3 ‘La Même’ (‘The Same’) 35 ‘La Musiques et les Lettres’ (‘Music and Letters’) 2. 55–8 ‘La cour’ (‘The Court’) 6. 38 Symbolism 47–8 Tolstoy. 27 ‘Richard Wagner’ 36. Arthur 17. 45 Schlegel. Richard 38–40 Lohengrin 40 94 . 30 ‘La Déclaration foraine’ (‘Fairground declaration’) 19–21 La Dernière Mode xii. 56 Verlaine. 54 ‘La bouteille à la mer’ (The bottle at sea’) 3 Wagner. 50. Friedrich 45 Schopenhauer. Paul 44. 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. 13. Marcel 20 Romanticism 37 Saint Simonians 28–9. 53 and eidos 10–11 Cratylus 50 Phraedrus 12 Proust. 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. 13. 14. 3. ‘Salut’ (‘Toast’) 4–5. 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. 3. 50. 22. Friedrich 28.iNdex Mallarmé. 54 ‘Las de l’amer repos’ (‘Weary of bitter sleep’) 17 ‘Le genre ou des modernes’ (‘Of genre and the Moderns’) 34. 11. 34. 55–6 ‘Un spectacle interrompu’ (An interrupted spectacle’) 14–5 ‘Villiers de l’Isle Adam’ 17 Marx. Karl 28 Plato 10–12. 36 ‘Le Livre. Alfred de 3.