Stéphane Mallarmé

(1842-1898 / France)

Funeral Libation (At Gautier’s Tomb) - Poem by Stéphane Mallarmé

To you, gone emblem of our happiness!
Greetings, in pale libation and madness,
Don’t think to some hope of magic corridors I offer
My empty cup, where a monster of gold suffers!
Your apparition cannot satisfy me:
Since I myself entombed you in porphyry.
The rite decrees our hands must quench the torch
Against the iron mass of your tomb’s porch:
None at this simple ceremony should forget,
Those chosen to sing the absence of the poet,
That this monument encloses him entire.
Were it not that his art’s glory, full of fire
Till the dark communal moment all of ash,
Returns as proud evening’s glow lights the glass,
To the fires of the pure mortal sun!

Marvellous, total, solitary, so that one
Trembles to breathe with man’s false pride.
This haggard crowd! ‘We are’, it cries,
‘Our future ghosts, their sad opacity.’
But with walls blazoned, mourning, empty,
I’ve scorned the lucid horror of a tear,
When, deaf to the sacred verse he does not fear,
One of those passers-by, mute, blind, proud,
Transmutes himself, a guest in his vague shroud,
Into the virgin hero of posthumous waiting.
A vast void carried through the fog’s drifting,
By the angry wind of words he did not say,
Nothing, to this Man abolished yesterday:
‘What is Earth, O you, memories of horizons?’
Shrieks the dream: and, a voice whose clarity lessens,
Space, has for its toy this cry: ‘I do not know!’

The Master, with eye profound, as he goes,
Pacified the restless miracle of Eden,
Who alone woke, in his voice’s final frisson,
The mystery of a name for the Lily and the Rose.
Is there anything of this destiny left, or no?
O all of you, forget your darkened faith.
Glorious, eternal genius has no shade.
I, moved by your desire, wish to see
Him, who vanished yesterday in the Ideal
Work that for us the garden of this star creates,
As a solemn agitation in the air, that stays
Honouring this quiet disaster, a stir
Of words, drunken, red, a cup that’s clear,
That, rain and diamonds, the crystal gaze
Fixed on these flowers of which none fade,
Isolates in the hour and the light of day!

That’s all that’s left already of our true play,
When the pure poet’s gesture, humble, vast
Must deny the dream, the enemy of his trust:
So that, on the morning of his exalted stay,
When ancient death is for him as for Gautier,
The un-opening of sacred eyes, the being-still,
The solid tomb may rise, and ornament this hill,
The sepulchre where lies the power to blight,
And miserly silence and the massive night.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 2, 2010

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