Category Archives: translations

Mallarmé translations in MOTE 3

I have a set of translations from Mallarmé’s Vers de circonstance in issue 3 of MOTE, edited by Dominic Hale in Edinburgh.  Other contributors are Kashif Sharma-Patel, Peter Gizzi, Ellen Dillon, Robert Kiely, Azad Ashim Sharma, Alison Rumfitt, Imogen Cassels, William Fuller, Tessa Berring, A K Blakemore, Dominc Hale, Fred Spoliar, Pratyusha and Ollie Tong.  dhale [at] ed [døt] ac [døt] uk for enquiries/pdf.

Cover of MOTE 3, ed. Dominic Hale, showing detail of the clouds of Jupiter



Extract from a letter by Paul Valéry to his brother Jules Valéry (1898)

I have just barely started to pull myself together again after this event which is one of the greatest sorrows of my life and an irreparable loss for me.

Nothing will give back to me this friendship with a unique man, the epitome of the most daring thought, the most modest life, and of the most pure, most incomparable honour. The tenderness which he sometimes showed towards me is, and always will be, for me, the only external reason I could admit for valuing myself a little.

I found his coffin in the garden next to the Seine upon which his little boat was still floating. His daughter fell into my arms, recalling to me the sentiments of her father with regard to me. It is an immense blow for her, she had sacrificed everything to her father, the best chances of marriage, etc.

The people arrived; there were a lot of people there for Valvins, and even enough.

I had had a beautiful wreath made by Augustin, which I brought with me.

Fortunately, apart from Mendès, there were few literary undertakers.

The Church was very far off, then the cemetery in an admirable position, absolutely analogous to that of his house.

There, Roujon, who, like everyone, was dressed in country clothes (except for myself who had come from Paris – almost all like cyclists or in Summer clothing) spoke very simply and very well all in all – since he said the important thing – the assurance that the two women would be cared for.

Then I was led forcibly to the graveside and obliged to speak.

I stammered a few words with neither sense nor sequence, I was so choked up. I returned to Paris with Héredia and Régnier.

“Le Temps” attributes to me two sentences which I don’t remember at all? In the end I am indifferent to all that.

Mallarmé has died of a strange accident, for such it must be called.

Since Monday he had a slightly sore throat. The doctor came to see him on Friday and he felt much better and wanted to get up. While he was speaking with the doctor, he stood up, grabbed at him, and fell dead, asphyxiated by a sudden spasm of the glottis, which had no direct relation to his indisposition. It is, it appears, an extremely rare case in pathology.

Poem and translations in MOTE 1

There are four of my translations from Mallarmé (“…Mysticis umbraculis”, “Sonnet to Valère Gille”, “Macabre gallantry” and “The prodigal son”), a poem translated from Verlaine (“Hour of the shepherd”) and an untitled poem by me in MOTE 1, ed. Dominic Hale, Maria Sledmere and Ryan Edwards (Edinburgh, July 2018).  Many thanks to the editors.


In the storm (from Théophile Gautier)

In the storm

from Théophile Gautier

The barque is small and the sea immense,
the wave throws us up to the sky in anger,
the sky, in madness, sends us back to the flood:
let us pray on our knees, next to the broken mast!

Between us and the tomb there is only a single plank:
perhaps this evening, in a bitter bed,
under a cold shroud, made of white foam,
we will go to sleep, our vigil kept by the lightning!

Flower of paradise, Our sainted Lady,
so good to sailors in peril of dying,
becalm the wind, make the waves go quiet,
and push with a finger our skiff towards the port.

We will give you, if you save us,
a beautiful dress made of silver paper,
a painted altar-candle weighing four pounds,
and, for your Jesus, a little Saint John.

Untitled (from Mallarmé)

from Mallarmé

Stroked by success
and in the narrowest of gloves,
Édouard Dujardin requests
that around nine o’clock, the third

of March, not even your shadow endorsed
by a coat of diverse spitballs!
you visit, eleven, Chausée
D’Antin, his poetry bookshop:

THE REVIEW which is bruited
INDEPENDENT, Sir, is holding
a housewarming golden as
the gas in its elegant premises.


For a baptism (from Mallarmé)

For a baptism

from Mallarmé

If, subtle one, the little nose
dazzling, drowned in such
candour of guessed-at laughter
as this lace half-opens upon,

the filial instinct grabbed you,
prideful, but the second one
to resemble in her low-key
wit your blonde grandmother,

keep safe, from baptismal fonts,
that it might volatilise
miraculously into words
native and clear as a breeze,

mademoiselle Mirabel,
the grain of salt on your tongue.

The girdle (from Paul Valéry)

The girdle

                   from Paul Valéry

When the sky the colour of a cheek
at last allows eyes to cherish it
and when at the gilded point of dying
among roses time takes place,

before one mute with pleasure
enchained by such a painting,
there dances a Shade in a trailing girdle
the evening comes close to catching.

This girdle wandering
in aerial breath
makes the last link tremble
between my silence and this world…

Absent, present… I am truly alone,
and downcast, o sweet-talking shroud.