The Afternoon of a Faun is Stéphane Mallarmé’s most well-known poem. In slightly more than a hundred lines, it presents the dreamlike erotic reveries of a faun—a mythical creature of classical legend that, like the satyr, has a combination of animal features (such as horns and goatlike feet) and human features./POE_16479650000335
The poem opens with the faun becoming excited by two nymphs; he is disoriented, however, having just awakened. Finding himself alone, he realizes that the nymphs must have existed only in his dream. “Let me reflect,” he muses. He addresses himself as “Faun,” as if he were another being, and recalls the two nymphs: One is chaste, blue-eyed, and full of illusions; the other, more experienced, is “all sighs” and is like a warm breeze on his fleece. Suddenly changing direction, the faun describes himself as a musician playing his flute (satyrs and fauns were often imagined, like the god Pan, to be in the woods playing reed pipes). His playing is the “serene artificial breath/ of inspiration, which regains the sky” like evaporating rainwater.
The faun next addresses nature directly, asking the marshes to narrate how he was “cutting the hollow reeds” when he saw a flight of “swans, no! Naiads” (water nymphs). It is now midday, and the faun reflects on the fate of the one “who seeks the la”—both a musical tone and the French feminine article (“the”). After thinking of...
(The entire section is 478 words.)