Stιphane Mallarmι

 

Fragments –Anatole’s Tomb

 


 HOME                                                                          DOWNLOAD

 

                Translated by A. S. Kline © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.

 


 

Introduction

 

Mallarmι’s second child, Anatole, born July 1871, became seriously ill when he was seven years old. He suffered from rheumatic fever complicated by an enlarged heart, and died in October 1879, aged eight. Mallarmι left a series of fragments for a four-part poetic memorial, a ‘tomb’. He was emotionally and artistically unable to forge a finished work from them. This translation or rather adaptation contains many of the two hundred or so fragments, in some cases fragments of the fragments, excluding things I found too partial or obscure to resonate. I have not followed original spacing exactly, except where it genuinely appears to add impact to the verse. Despite being fragments the pieces communicate some part of the loss suffered, and the thoughts engendered, by the child’s death, and therefore any child’s death, any such tragedy. Mallarmι’s spiritual position is taken to be atheistic, and therefore religious assumptions should not be made in interpreting these fragments. The content is however universal enough, I think, for a reader of any spiritual persuasion to respond in their own manner, within their own belief system.

 


The Fragments

 

 

 

1.

 

Child emerged from

us both – showing us

our ideal, the way

– for us! A father

mother surviving him

          in sad existence

like two extremes –

ill fused in him

that are parted

–hence his death –

cancelling this small

child’s ‘self’

 

2.

 

Ill in

          spring time

Dead in autumn

          – the sun

         


3.

 

Son

          re-absorbed

not gone

          it is he

– or his brother

          I

          myself said it

                    to him

two brothers

 

4.

 

– image of I

other than I

taken in

death!

 

5.

 

          what takes refuge

in me   your future

          becomes a

purity for life,

which I shall

not touch –

 


6.

 

To pray to the dead

(not for them)

 

–  need

for the child here

– his absence

 

because of the true dead

only a child!

 

7.

 

Hands join

towards him not

to be touched –

but who is –

– whom a space

distances –

 


8.

 

To resurrect

– to construct

with his

lucidity – this

work – too

          vast for me

 

and thus

depriving me

of life, sacrificing

it if it is

not for the work

– to be him grown,

deprived – and

do it without

fear of toying

with his death –

if I sacrificed

life for him –

if I accepted

this death

as my own

 


9.

 

Exemplar

          we have known

through you this ‘more

than ourselves’

which often escapes

us – and will be

in us – in our

actions, now

 

child, sowing

          the ideal

 

10.

 

Father mother

vowing never

another child

 – grave that he dug

life ends there

 


11.

 

Useless

          remedies

                    abandoned

if nature

wished it not

 

          I would

          take myself

          for one dead

 

balms mere

consolations for us

– doubt

then not, their reality!

 

12.

 

Child our

immortality

made in fact

of lost human

hopes – son –

entrusted to woman

by a man

no longer young

despairing of finding

the mystery

taking a wife

 


13.

 

Ill

          since the day when death

installed itself – marked by

malady –

no longer himself already, but

the one we would wish

to see again later

beyond death –

summing up death and

corruption – appearing

so, with his sickness

          and pallor

 

14.

 

Ill – to be naked

as the child –

 

appearing to us

– we profit from those

hours, when death

                              stricken

he lives

                    still, and

is still ours

 

title: poetry of

          the malady

 


15.

 

          With the gift of words

I could have made you

yourself       child of the work

king   made of you

                              instead

–        no, sad                   of the son

                                        in us

          – made  you           – of

                                        task

                              no      –

                                                  yet he

          remember the                   proves

                                                  that he

          bad days –                       was such –

                                                  played

          mouth closed                   that role!

                    native

                              speech          –

                                        forgotten

                    it is I who have

aided you since

 


16.

 

– Have brought back in

you the child –

          youth or sickness

of history learned

          forgotten                from which

                                        nothing

 

          I would not have

suffered – to be

in my turn

studying only that

–        death

 

17.

 

Then – you would only

          have been me

          – since I am

here – lonely, sad –

– no,  I remember

a childhood –

          – yours

           twin voices

 

but without you

I’d not have – known

 

18.

 

          So it is I,

hands accursed –

who bequeathed you!

          – silence

          (he forgives)


19.

 

Oh! Leave…us

at this word

 – that merges

 us both 

 – unites us

 finally –

     since who has

 spoken it

          yours

 

20.

 

– All this transformation

 once barbarous and

          material

external –

now

                              moral

and within

 

21.

 

          No brother sister

ever the absent one

 

shall not be less than

those present –

 


22.

 

          to feel it burst

          in the night

the immense void

produced by what

would be his life

– because he cannot

know –

he is dead

                    lightning?

 


23.

 

Moment when one must

break with the

living memory,

to inter it

– place it in the coffin,

hide it – with

the brutality of

placing it there,

raw contact

 

to see it no longer

except as idealised –

later, no longer him

living, there – but

the germ of his being

taken back into itself –

the germ allowing

thought for him

– sight of him

 

vision (ideality

of state) and

speech for him

 

for in us, pure

him, a refining

– become our

honour, the source

of our finer

feelings –

 

true re-entry

into the ideal

 

 

24.

 

Death’s treacherous

blow – of

          which he

evil

          knew nothing

– in my turn

to toy with it, the

one thing childhood

knows nothing of

 

25.

 

hour of the

          empty room

–

          until it is

                    opened

perhaps everything

          follows thus

          (morally)

 


26.

 

You can, with your

weak hands, drag me

into your grave – you

have the right –

– I myself

who follow you, I, I

let myself fall –

– yet if you

wish, together,

let us both make…

 

an alliance

a magnificent bond,

– and the life

remaining in me

I will employ

for…………..

 


27.

 

          You watch me

I cannot tell you

the truth yet

          I dare not, too little one,

What has happened to you

–

One day I will tell it

to you

– for as a man

I’d not wish you

not to know

your fate

–

or man

dead child

 

28.

 

No – not

one of the great

deaths –

– as long as we

ourselves live, he

lives – in us

 

it is only after we’re

dead he will be so

– and the bell that tolls

for the Dead will toll for

                                        him

 


29.

 

– And let us speak

of what

we both know

      we two

          mystery

 

30.

 

Oh! Make us

                    suffer

you who

thought so

little of it – all

that equates to

your life, painful in

          shattered

us

 

          while you

          glide, free

 


31.

 

And you, his sister

you who one day

– (that gulf open

since his death

that follows us

to our own –

when we

your mother and I

have vanished there)

must, one day,

 

unite us all

three in your thoughts,

your memory…

–        as in

          a single tomb

   you who, in

turn, will come

upon this tomb, not

made for you –

 


32.

 

          Sunset

and wind

   now vanished, a

wind of nothing

that breathes

(the emptiness

?modern, there)

 

33.

 

Tears, flood

of lucidity, the dead

seen again,

beyond

 


34.

 

Death – whispers low

– I am no one –

do not even know myself

(for the dead do not

know they’re

dead – nor that they’re

                              dying

– children

at least

– or

 

heroes – sudden

deaths

 

for my beauty’s

made otherwise

of last

moments –

lucidity, beauty

face – of

what would be

 

I, without I

 

for as soon as

                    (one is,

I am –

dead) I cease

to be –

 

made then of

premonitions, of

intuitions, ultimate

 

 

frissons – I

am not –

          yet in the ideal

       state

 

and for those

others, tears,

mourning, all that –

 

and it’s my

shade, ignorance

of myself, that

dresses in mourning

 


35.

 

Illness to which

one clings

wanting it

to endure, to possess

him longer

 

36.

 

Death – ridiculous enemy

– who cannot impose on the child

    the notion that you exist!

 

37.

 

No more life for

 

me

          and I sense myself

lying there in the grave

beside you.

 


38.

 

Death

          only consolation

exists, thoughts – balm

 

          but what is done

is done – we cannot

return to the absolute

contained in death –

 

– and yet

to show that if,

life once abstracted,

the happiness of being

together, all that – such

consolation in its turn

has its root – its base –

absolute – in what

(if we wish

for example a

dead being to live in

us, thought –

is his being, his

 

thought in effect)

ever he has of the best

that transpires, through our

love and the care

we take

of being –

          (being, being

                    simply moral and

                       about thought)

 

there is in that a

magnificent beyond


that rediscovers its

truth – so much

purer and lovelier than

the absolute rupture

of death – become

little by little as illusory

as absolute ( so we’re

allowed to seem

to forget the pain)

 

– as this illusion

of survival in

us, becomes absolutely

illusory – (there is

unreality in both

cases) has been terrible

                    and true

 


39.

 

Earth – you lack

          a single plant

– to what purpose –

– I who

   honour you –

 

flowers,

          vain beauty

 

40.

 

          His eyes

watch me, double

and sufficient

– already taken by

absence and the void

 

all to unite there?

 


41.

 

Man and

absence –

   the spiritual

twin with which

he blends when he

dreams, reflects

 

– absence, alone

after death, once

 

the pious

    interment of the

body, creates

mysteriously – that

agreed fiction

 

42.

 

Slow to be sacrifice

          earth alters him

all this time

 

          pain eternal

          and dumb

 


43.

 

What! death

in its vastness – terrible

death

 

          to strike down so

          small a being

 

I say to death         coward

 

          ah! it is in us

          not beyond

 

44.

 

He has dug our

      grave

              in dying

 

the burial plot

 

45.

 

Oh! If the eyes of the dead

          had greater power

than those, most beautiful

of the living

 

          if they could draw you in

 


46.

 

After-effect

          immortality

          thanks to

          our love

– he prolongs us

  beyond

 

          in exchange

          we give back

          life to him

 

in deepening

          our thought

 

47.

 

Earth – gap gaping and

never to be filled

          – but by sky

          – indifferent earth

          grave

             not flowers

          wreaths, our

          joys and our life

 

48.

 

No, you are not one of the dead

­– you will not be among

the dead, always in us

 


49.

 

it becomes a

joy (a bitter

enough thing) for us –

and unjust to him

who rests below, and is

in reality deprived

of all that with which

we associate him.  

 

50.

 

I –

          perhaps –

the ambiguity

          that might be!

 

pain and sweet

          joys

             of the ghostly

             sufferer

 

51.

 

Vision

endlessly purified

by my tears

 


52.

 

Ah! Adored heart

O my image

beyond of too vast

destinies –

          only a child

  like you –

          I dream

                    still

  all alone –

in the future

 

53.

 

Ah! Truly you know

that if I consent

to live – to seem

to forget you –

it is to

nourish my pain

– and so this apparent

forgetfulness

          can pour out more

fully in tears, at

 

some moment

in the midst of this

life, when you

appear to me

 


54.

 

Time – it takes

for a body to decompose

in earth – (confounded

little by little

with neutral earth

in vast horizons)

 

          it is then he

let’s go of the pure

spirit one

 

was – which was

bound to him,

organised – which

can take refuge

pure in us,

          to reign

in us,

the survivors

 

absolute purity

on which

time pivots and

re-forms

 


55.

 

 I sense it in myself

wanting – if not

the life lost,

at least the

equivalent –

 

the death

– where one is stripped

of body

– in those who remain

 

56.

 

          – Oh! I

          sense you

so strongly – and that you

always feel

well with us,

the parents – but

free, child

eternal, and at once

everywhere –

 

 

57.

 

          To close the eyes

I – do not want to

close the eyes –

          that will watch

          me always

 


58.

 

          Let us speak of him

again, let us extinguish

– in reality, silence

 

59.

 

True mourning in

rooms

– not the cemetery –

 

to find only

absence –

– in presence

of things

 

60.

 

And he

the father –

who constructs

a tomb

 

– won’t his spirit

go seeking the traces of

 

destruction – and transmute

into pure spirit?

 

so deeply that

purity emerges from

the corruption!

 


61.

 

No – I will not

relinquish

nothingness

 

a father – I

sense the nothingness

invading me

 

62.

 

May my thought

make for him a

more beautiful

purer life.

 

63.

 

          Wreaths

 

          One feels obliged

to throw into this earth

that opens before

the child – the loveliest

wreaths of flowers –

the loveliest flowery

products, of that

earth – sacrificed

– in order to veil

 

or pay his toll

for him

 


64.

 

It is only, there,

the explosion of the

shattering caused

by the cry of I –

that little by little

re-forms itself –

all ended