© 2013 Diana

“Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard”, Mallarmé (1897)

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Mallarmé’s Preface of 1897

‘I would prefer that this Note was not read, or, skimmed, was forgotten; it tells the knowledgeable reader little that is beyond his or her penetration: but may confuse the uninitiated, prior to their looking at the first words of the Poem, since the ensuing words, laid out as they are, lead on to the last, with no novelty except the spacing of the text. The ‘blanks’ indeed take on importance, at first glance; the versification demands them, as a surrounding silence, to the extent that a fragment, lyrical or of a few beats, occupies, in its midst, a third of the space of paper: I do not transgress the measure, only disperse it. The paper intervenes each time as an image, of itself, ends or begins once more, accepting a succession of others, and, since, as ever, it does nothing, of regular sonorous lines or verse – rather prismatic subdivisions of the Idea, the instant they appear, and as long as they last, in some precise intellectual performance, that is in variable positions, nearer to or further from the implicit guiding thread, because of the verisimilitude the text imposes. The literary value, if I am allowed to say so, of this print-less distance which mentally separates groups of words or words themselves, is to periodically accelerate or slow the movement, the scansion, the sequence even, given one’s simultaneous sight of the page: the latter taken as unity, as elsewhere the Verse is or perfect line. Imagination flowers and vanishes, swiftly, following the flow of the writing, round the fragmentary stations of a capitalised phrase introduced by and extended from the title. Everything takes place, in sections, by supposition; narrative is avoided. In addition this use of the bare thought with its retreats, prolongations, and flights, by reason of its very design, for anyone wishing to read it aloud, results in a score. The variation in printed characters between the dominant motif, a secondary one and those adjacent, marks its importance for oral utterance and the scale, mid-way, at top or bottom of the page will show how the intonation rises or falls. (Only certain very bold instructions of mine, encroachments etc. forming the counterpoint to this prosody, a work which lacks precedent, have been left in a primitive state: not because I agree with being timid in my attempts; but because it is not for me, save by a special pagination or volume of my own, in a Periodical so courageous, gracious and accommodating as it shows itself to be to real freedom, to act too contrary to custom. I will have shown, in the Poem below, more than a sketch, a ‘state’ which yet does not entirely break with tradition; will have furthered its presentation in many ways too, without offending anyone; sufficing to open a few eyes. This applies to the 1897 printing specifically: translator’s note.) Today, without presuming anything about what will emerge from this in future, nothing, or almost a new art, let us readily accept that the tentative participates, with the unforeseen, in the pursuit, specific and dear to our time, of free verse and the prose poem. Their meeting takes place under an influence, alien I know, that of Music heard in concert; one finds there several techniques that seem to me to belong to Literature, I reclaim them. The genre, which is becoming one, like the symphony, little by little, alongside personal poetry, leaves intact the older verse; for which I maintain my worship, and to which I attribute the empire of passion and dreams, though this may be the preferred means (as follows) of dealing with subjects of pure and complex imagination or intellect: which there is no remaining justification for excluding from Poetry – the unique source.’


A THROW OF THE DICE NEVER, EVEN WHEN TRULY CAST IN THE ETERNAL CIRCUMSTANCE OF A SHIPWRECK’S DEPTH, Can be only the Abyss raging, whitened, stalled beneath the desperately sloping incline of its own wing, through an advance falling back from ill to take flight, and veiling the gushers, restraining the surges, gathered far within the shadow buried deep by that alternative sail, almost matching its yawning depth to the wingspan, like a hull of a vessel rocked from side to side


THE MASTER, beyond former calculations, where the lost manoeuvre with the age rose implying that formerly he grasped the helm of this conflagration of the concerted horizon at his feet, that readies itself; moves; and merges with the blow that grips it, as one threatens fate and the winds, the unique Number, which cannot be another Spirit, to hurl it into the storm, relinquish the cleaving there, and pass proudly; hesitates, a corpse pushed back by the arm from the secret, rather than taking sides, a hoary madman, on behalf of the waves: one overwhelms the head, flows through the submissive beard, straight shipwreck that, of the man without a vessel, empty no matter where


ancestrally never to open the fist clenched beyond the helpless head, a legacy, in vanishing, to someone ambiguous, the immemorial ulterior demon having, from non-existent regions, led the old man towards this ultimate meeting with probability, this his childlike shade caressed and smoothed and rendered supple by the wave, and shielded from hard bone lost between the planks born of a frolic, the sea through the old man or the old man against the sea, making a vain attempt, an Engagement whose dread the veil of illusion rejected, as the phantom of a gesture will tremble, collapse, madness, WILL NEVER ABOLISH


AS IF A simple insinuation into silence, entwined with irony, or the mystery hurled, howled, in some close swirl of mirth and terror, whirls round the abyss without scattering or dispersing and cradles the virgin index there AS IF


a solitary plume overwhelmed, untouched, that a cap of midnight grazes, or encounters, and fixes, in crumpled velvet with a sombre burst of laughter, that rigid whiteness, derisory, in opposition to the heavens, too much so not to signal closely any bitter prince of the reef, heroically adorned with it, indomitable, but contained by his petty reason, virile in lightning


anxious expiatory and pubescent dumb laughter that IF the lucid and lordly crest of vertigo on the invisible brow sparkles, then shades, a slim dark tallness, upright in its siren coiling, at the moment of striking, through impatient ultimate scales, bifurcated, a rock a deceptive manor suddenly evaporating in fog that imposed limits on the infinite


IT WAS THE NUMBER, stellar outcome, WERE IT TO HAVE EXISTED other than as a fragmented, agonised hallucination; WERE IT TO HAVE BEGUN AND ENDED, a surging that denied, and closed, when visible at last, by some profusion spreading in sparseness; WERE IT TO HAVE AMOUNTED to the fact of the total, though as little as one; WERE IT TO HAVE LIGHTED, IT WOULD BE, worse no more nor less indifferently but as much, CHANCE Falls the plume, rhythmic suspense of the disaster, to bury itself in the original foam, from which its delirium formerly leapt to the summit faded by the same neutrality of abyss


NOTHING of the memorable crisis where the event matured, accomplished in sight of all non-existent human outcomes, WILL HAVE TAKEN PLACE a commonplace elevation pours out absence BUT THE PLACE some lapping below, as if to scatter the empty act abruptly, that otherwise by its falsity would have plumbed perdition, in this region of vagueness, in which all reality dissolves


EXCEPT at the altitude PERHAPS, as far as a place fuses with, beyond, outside the interest signalled regarding it, in general, in accord with such obliquity, through such declination of fire, towards what must be the Wain also North A CONSTELLATION cold with neglect and desuetude, not so much though that it fails to enumerate, on some vacant and superior surface, the consecutive clash, sidereally, of a final account in formation, attending, doubting, rolling, shining and meditating before stopping at some last point that crowns it All Thought expresses a Throw of the Dice

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