Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui
The virgin, the beautiful and brilliant day
Will it break, with a flutter of its drunken wing,
This hard, forgotten lake which haunts under cracking
Frost, the transparent glacier of flights unmade.
A swan of days gone past remembers that it’s he,
Magnificent, but who without hope is thus freed
For not having sung his song of vitality
When in sterile winter’s resplendent ennui.
His whole neck will shake this white agony
The space imposed on him which he denies fiercely,
But not the frightful soil where his plumage is caught.
Ghost, assigned to this place by his pure light hereon,
Immobilised by circling icy dreams and thoughts
Of scorn, remains exiled, useless; the lonely Swan.
Stéphane Mallarmé, born into a middle-class family on 18 March 1842 in Paris, is one of France’s four major poets of the second half of the nineteenth century, along with Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, and Arthur Rimbaud. A lot of his poetry was acknowledged to be difficult to understand because of its tortuous syntax, ambiguous expressions, and obscure imagery. Since his lifetime, critics have continued to disagree as to the precise interpretations of many of his later works.
Eleanor Hill is a former Sarah Lawrence College student.