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    The New YorkerAlex Ross4/4/1622 min
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    The New Yorker
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    • DellwoodBarker
      Top reader this weekReading streakScoutScribe
      2 weeks ago

      A compelling dive into a poet, whom until today, I was unfamiliar with.

      Mallarmé’s revolution arrived in an outwardly conservative guise. Many of his poems take the form of sonnets, and many employ the twelve-syllable alexandrine, the meter of classical French tragedy. After only one or two lines, though, you are engulfed in fine mist, and a certain terror sets in. Consider the sonnet “Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui,” whose first version probably dates from the late eighteen-sixties, when Mallarmé was in his mid-twenties. The translation is by the Scottish poet Peter Manson, in a collection published by Miami University Press in 2012:

      The virginal, enduring, beautiful today will a drunken beat of its wing break us this hard, forgotten lake haunted under frost by the transparent glacier of unfled flights!

      A swan of old remembers it is he magnificent but who without hope frees himself for never having sung a place to live when the boredom of sterile winter was resplendent.

      His whole neck will shake off this white death-throe inflicted by space on the bird denying it, but not the horror of soil where the feathers are caught.

      Phantom assigned to this place by pure brilliance, he is paralyzed in the cold dream of contempt put on in useless exile by the Swan.

      Indeed, Mallarmé once said that he was the one true anarchist, the demon in the system: “I alone create a product that society does not want.”