Stéphane Mallarmé, The Azure (1864; English translation)

The everlasting Azure’s tranquil irony

Depresses, like the flowers indolently fair,

The powerless poet who damns his superiority

Across a sterile wilderness of aching Despair.

In flight, with eyes shut fast, I feel it scrutinize

With all the vehemence of some destructive remorse,

My empty soul.  Where can I flee?  What haggard night

Fling over, tatters, fling on his distressing scorn?

Oh fogs, arise! Pour your momentous ashes down

In long-drawn rags of dust across the skies unreeling

To darkly drench the livid swarm of autumn days,

And fabricate of them a great and silent ceiling!

And you, emerge from Lethean pools and gather in

While rising through them, freight of mud and pallid reeds,

Sweet Boredom, to block up with a never weary hand

The great blue holes the birds maliciously have made …

Still more! Unceasing let the dismal chimney-flues

Exude their smoke, and let the soot’s nomadic prison

Extinguish in the horror of its blackened queues

The sun now fading yellow away on the horizon!

–The Sky is dead. –To you I run, Oh matter! Bestow

Forgetfulness of Sin and of the cruel Ideal

Upon this martyr who comes to share the stable straw

On which the happy human herd lies down to sleep.

For there I long, because at last my mind, drained

As is a rouge-pot lying on a closet-shelf,

No longer has the art of decking tearful plaints,

To yawn lugubrious toward a humble death …

But vainly! The Azure triumphs and I hear it sing

In bells.  Dear Soul, it turns into a voice the more

To fright us by its winged victory, and springs

Blue Angelus, out of the living metal core.

It travels ancient through the fog, and penetrates

Like an unerring blade your native agony;

Where flee in my revolt so useless and depraved?

For I am haunted! The Sky! The Sky! The Sky! The Sky!

–translated by Hubert Creekmore


Stéphane Mallarmé, Selected Poetry and Prose.  Ed. by Mary Ann Caws.  New York: New Directions, 1982. Pp. 15, 17.

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