Stéphane Mallarmé | Rainer Maria Rilke

Portrait of Stéphane Mallarmé by Édouard Manet

Sea Breeze

The flesh is sad, alas! – and I’ve read all the books.
Let’s go! Far off. Let’s go! I sense
That the birds, intoxicated, fly
Deep into unknown spume and sky!
Nothing – not even old gardens mirrored by eyes –
Can restrain this heart that drenches itself in the sea,
O nights, or the abandoned light of my lamp,
On the void of paper, that whiteness defends,
No, not even the young woman feeding her child.
I shall go! Steamer, straining at your ropes
Lift your anchor towards an exotic rawness!
A Boredom, made desolate by cruel hope
Still believes in the last goodbye of handkerchiefs!
And perhaps the masts, inviting lightning,
Are those the gale bends over shipwrecks,
Lost, without masts, without masts, no fertile islands…
But, oh my heart, listen to the sailors’ chant!

(Méry, sans trop d’aurore…)

Without dawn too grossly now inflaming
The rose, that splendid, natural and weary
Sheds even her heavy veil of perfumes to hear
Beneath the flesh the diamond weeping,

Yes, without those dewy crises! And gently,
Unbroken when the sky fills with storm,
Jealous to add who knows what spaces
To simple day the day so true in feeling,

Does it not seem, Méry, that each year,
Where spontaneous grace relights your brow,
Suffices, in so many aspects and for me,

Like a lone fan with which a room’s surprised,
To refresh with as little pain as is needed here
All our inborn and unvarying friendship.

Stéphane Mallarmé translated by A. S. Kline

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Love Song

How can I keep my soul in me, so that
It doesn’t touch your soul? How can I raise
It high enough, past you, to other things?
I would like to shelter it, among remote
Lost objects, in some dark and silent place
That doesn’t resonate when your depths resound.
Yet everything that touches us, me and you,
takes us together like a violin’s bow,
Which draws one voice out of two separate strings.
Upon what instrument are we two spanned?
And what musician holds us in his hand?
Oh sweetest song.

Before Summer Rain

Suddenly, from all the green around you,
something-you don’t know what-has disappeared;
you feel it creeping closer to the window,
in total silence. From the nearby wood

you hear the urgent whistling of a plover,
reminding you of someone’s Saint Jerome:
so much solitude and passion come
from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour

will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide
away from us, cautiously, as though
they weren’t supposed to hear what we are saying.

And reflected on the faded tapestries now;
the chill, uncertain sunlight of those long
childhood hours when you were so afraid.

The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly–. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Stephen Mitchell

Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet


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