Nothing! this foam and virgin verse
to designate nought but the cup;

such, far off, there plunges a troop

Of many Sirens upside down.

We are navigating, my diverse
Friends! I already on the poop

You the splendid prow which cuts

The main of thunders and of winters;

A fine ebriety calls me
Without fear of its rolling

To carry, upright, this toast

Solitude, reef, star
To whatever it was that was worth

Our sail's white solicitude.


        (For your dead wife, her friend)

2 November, 1877

- 'On the forgotten woods when sombre winter passes 
You complain, lonely threshold's prisoner,

That this double sepulchre which is to be our pride

Alone with the lack of great posies is loaded.

Without hearing Midnight cast its vain number, 
A vigil exalts you to continue awake 

Until in the arms of the old armchair 

The last fireglow has illumined my Shade. 

He who would oft have the Visitor should not 
By too many flowers charge the tomb that my finger

Lifts with the lassitude of a force defunct. 

Soul trembling at the so clear hearth to be seated, 
To live again it suffices that I borrow from your lips

The breath of my name murmured the evening long.'



I bring you the child of an Idumaean night! 
Black, with wing bleeding, pale and unfeathered, 
Through the glass burnt with incense and gold, 
Through the panes, frozen, and still gloomy, alas 
The dawn burst forth on the lamp angelic, 
Palms! and when it had shown this relic 
To its father attempting an enemy smile, 
The blue and sterile solitude shuddered. 
O nursing mother, with your child and the innocence
Of your cold feet, receive this horrible birth 
And with your voice recalling viol and clavecin, 
With your faded finger, will you press the breast 
Whence flows in sibylline whiteness woman 
For lips made hungry by the blue virgin air? 



These nymphs I would perpetuate. 

                                                   So clear 
Their light carnation, that it floats in the air
Heavy with tufted slumbers. 

                                         Was it a dream I loved?
My doubt, a heap of ancient night, is finishing 
In many a subtle branch, which, left the true 
Wood itself, proves, alas! that all alone I gave 
Myself for triumph the ideal sin of roses. 
Let me reflect . . . 

                              if the girls of which you tell 
Figure a wish of your fabulous senses! 
Faun, the illusion escapes from the blue eyes 
And cold, like a spring in tears, of the chaster one: But, the other, all sighs, do you say she contrasts 
Like a breeze of hot day in your fleece! 
But no! through the still, weary faintness 
Choking with heat the fresh morn if it strives, 
No water murmurs but what my flute pours 
On the chord sprinkled thicket; and the sole wind 
Prompt to exhale from my two pipes, before 
It scatters the sound in a waterless shower, 
Is, on the horizon's unwrinkled space, 
The visible serene artificial breath 
Of inspiration, which regains the sky. 

Oh you, Sicilian shores of a calm marsh 
That more than the suns my vanity havocs, 
Silent beneath the flowers of sparks, RELATE 
'That here I was cutting the hollow reeds tamed 
By talent, when on the dull gold of the distant
Verdures dedicating their vines to the springs, 
There waves an animal whiteness at rest: 
And that to the prelude where the pipes first stir 
This flight of swans, no! Naiads, flies 
Or plunges . . .'

                           Inert, all burns in the fierce hour 
Nor marks by what art all at once bolted 
Too much hymen desired by who seeks the Ia
Then shall I awake to the primitive fervour, 
Straight and alone, 'neath antique floods of light, 
Lilies and one of you all through my ingenuousness. 

As well as this sweet nothing their lips purr, 
The kiss, which a hush assures of the perfid ones, 
My breast, though proofless, still attests a bite 
Mysterious, due to some august tooth; 
But enough! for confidant such mystery chose 
The great double reed which one plays 'neath the blue: 
Which, the cheek's trouble turning to itself 
Dreams, in a solo long, we might amuse 
Surrounding beauties by confusions false 
Between themselves and our credulous song; 
And to make, just as high as love modulates, 
Die out of the everyday dream of a back 
Or a pure flank followed by my curtained eyes, 
An empty, sonorous, monotonous line. 

Try then, instrument of flights, oh malign 
Syrinx, to reflower by the lakes where you wait for me!
I, proud of my rumour, for long I will talk 
Of goddesses; and by picturings idolatrous, 
From their shades unloose yet more of their girdles: 
So when of grapes the clearness I've sucked, 
To banish regret by my ruse disavowed, 
Laughing, I lift the empty bunch to the sky, 
Blowing into its luminous skins and athirst 
To be drunk, till the evening I keep looking through. 

Oh nymphs, we diverse MEMORIES refill. 
'My eye, piercing the reeds, shot at each immortal 
Neck, which drowned its burning in the wave 
With a cry of rage to the forest sky; 
And the splendid bath of their hair disappears 
In the shimmer and shuddering, oh diamonds! 
I run, when, there at my feet, enlaced. lie
(hurt by the languor they taste to be two)
Girls sleeping amid their own casual arms;
them I seize, and not disentangling them, fly
To this thicket, hated by the frivilous shade,
Of roses drying up their scent in the sun
Where our delight may be like the day sun-consumed.'
I adore it, the anger of virgins, the wild
Delight of the sacred nude burden which slips
To escape from my hot lips drinking, as lightning
Flashes! the secret terror of the flesh:
From the feet of the cruel one to the heart of the timid
Who together lose an innocence, humid
With wild tears or less sorrowful vapours.
'My crime is that I, gay at conquering the treacherous
Fears, the dishevelled tangle divided
Of kisses, the gods kept so well commingled;
For before I could stifle my fiery laughter
In the happy recesses of one (while I kept
With a finger alone, that her feathery whiteness
Should be dyed by her sister's kindling desire,
The younger one, naive and without a blush)
When from my arms, undone by vague failing,
This pities the sob wherewith I was still drunk.'

Ah well, towards happiness others will lead me 
With their tresses knotted to the horns of my brow: 
You know, my passion, that purple and just ripe, 
The pomegranates burst and murmur with bees; 
And our blood, aflame for her who will take it, 
Flows for all the eternal swarm of desire. 
At the hour when this wood's dyed with gold and with ashes 
A festival glows in the leafage extinguished: 
Etna! 'tis amid you, visited by Venus 
On your lava fields placing her candid feet, 
When a sad stillness thunders wherein the flame dies.
I hold the queen! 

                           O penalty sure . . .
                                                No, but the soul 
Void of word and my body weighed down 
Succumb in the end to midday's proud silence:
No more, I must sleep, forgetting the outrage, 
On the thirsty sand lying, and as I delight 
Open my mouth to wine's potent star! 

Adieu, both! I shall see the shade you became. 

- translated by Roger Fry


The buried temple through the sewer's dark
Sepulchral mouth that drools out mud and rubies
Reveals abominably some god Anubis
His whole snout blazing with a savage bark 

Or should the new gas twist the filthy wick
Assuager so well known of shame long brooded

It kindles haggard an immortal pubis
Whose flight along the street lamps loiters awake 

What dried leaves in the towns without the prayer 
Of night can bless as it again must cling 
In vain against the marble of Baudelaire 

In veils that wreathe its absence with shimmering His own Shade this a guardian poison still 
To breathe in always even though it kill. 

Translated by Herbert Creekmore



Lace passes into nothingness, 
With the ultimate Gamble in doubt, 
In blasphemy revealing just 
Eternal absence of any bed. 

This concordant enmity 
Of a white garland and the same, 
In flight against the pallid glass, 
Hovers and does not enshroud. 

But where, limned gold, the dreamer dwells, 
There sleeps a mournful mandola, 
Its deep lacuna source of song, 

Of a kind that toward some window, 
Formed by that belly or none at all,
Filial, one might have been born. 

translated by Patricia Terry and Maurice Z. Shroder

* From mallarmé: poems ©1951 by New Directions translated by Roger Fry.

** from Stéphane Mallarmé: Selected Poetry and Prose, ed. ©Mary Ann Caws, ©1982 by New Directions Publishing Corp.