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Stéphane Mallarmé


Three sonnets translated by Ian Brinton and Michael Grant


I’ve not come this evening to dominate your body,
That beast a people’s sins have entered,
Nor to hollow out a sad storm in your impure hair
Beneath insufferable boredom poured out by my kiss:

I ask of your bed just a heavy dreamless sleep
Blank behind curtains that know no remorse,
Which you can indulge in after your black untruths,
You who know more of nothingness than do the dead.

For Vice, gnawing at my native nobility,
Has marked me like you with its sterility,
But while there lives in your breast of stone

A heart no tooth of any crime has wounded,
I take flight, pale, undone, haunted by my shroud,
In fear of never waking when I sleep alone.


Eyes, lakes of my drunken urge to be reborn
As other than the actor whose gesture evokes
Like a plume the oil-lamp’s common soot,
I have bored a window through the canvas wall.

Limpid deceiving swimmer, in leaps and bounds
Of legs and arms turning my back on nighted
Hamlet! Like carving in the waves
A thousand tombs in which to vanish virgin and be gone.

Hilarious gold of the cymbal drummed by fists
The sun strikes all at once the nakedness
Exhaled pure on my cold pearly breath,

Rancid night of the skin when you passed over me,
Not knowing, churl, that it was my full anointing,
This rouge drowned in the deceptive waters of the glacier.


     Anniversary – January 1897.

The black rock incensed that the wind should roll it
Won’t be stopped even by pious hands
Feeling for how close it is to human woes
As though to bless some fatal death-mask of it.

Here almost always if the ring-dove coos
This insubstantial sorrow will with repeated
Nubile folds oppress tomorrow’s ripening star
Whose scintillations silver-plate the crowd.

Who seeks, tracking the solitary
And now outward leap of our vagrant—
Verlaine? He’s hidden in the grass, Verlaine

To surprise only by naïve accord
Without raising it to his lips or holding breath
A shallow stream slandered by death’s name.




Copyright © Ian Brinton and Michael Grant, 2016.