Baudelaire’s Modernizing Influence on Mallarmé

Mallarmé is said to have been heavily influenced by the poetry of Baudelaire, however he is also known for a newer hybridized form, which is that of combining his poems with other arts. Much like Wilde, Mallarmé was concerned with the esthetics of the page, the relationship between the form of his text, its content, but also how the words, spaces between them, and the way in which they were arranged together functioned within the text.  While looking through some of Baudelaire’s works, I was struck by how decadent—although early—Baudelaire truly was. For Baudelaire, literature is “a poetic idea, that releases itself from this operation of movement within the lines, it is the hypothesis of a vast being, immense, complicated, but eurhythmic, of an animal full of genius, suffering and sighing all of the sighs and all of the human ambitions.” (Fusées, XXII*) Baudelaire is somber and writes sinister texts, he even goes so far as to say that one must  « inspire disgust, and universal horror. » (Fusées XVII) If Mallarmé is to have been influenced by Baudelaire, we are not surprised then when we see an almost suffocating sky in L’Azur.  This sky that in the stead of being liberating in its vastness, is actually haunting and tormenting to the poet. In the 6th stanza Mallarmé says “-The Sky is dead.- To you I run, Oh matter! […]” The poet is a martyr (Baudelaire emphasizes this too), so much so that he must run to actual concrete matter to feel comforted. We spoke this week in class, about a movement from decadence towards modernism within the work of André Gide. Mallarmé too has made a literary shift here: by concerning himself with the urban languor that so disturbs Baudelaire, but also by wanting to integrate the esthetics of his pages within the realm of form and art, he has managed to reach towards a slightly different genre in which he will so famously remain a pivotal member for.

Original French-Baudelaire’s Fusées

*« une idée poétique, qui se dégage de cette opération du mouvement dans les lignes, c’est une hypothèse d’un être vaste, immense, compliqué, mais eurythmique, d’un animal plein de génie, souffrant et soupirant tous les soupirs et toutes les ambitions humaines. »

**«inspirer le dégoût et l’horreur universelle. » (Fusées XVII)





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Filed under Week 1 Reviews: Baudelaire, Mallarme, Pater (and some Wilde)

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