The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Azure,” a dramatic lyric poem that consists of nine quatrains and contains thirty-six lines in the original French, utilizes a melodic rhyme scheme that is characteristic of the French Symbolist school of poetry.

The poem reflects on the blue sky, a typically Symbolist aspect of nature, which the poet interfuses with his creative personality; thus art, nature, and the poet merge, and what transpires is a state of poetic meditation of thought, mood, and creativity.

The poem merges the idea of the infinite azure with creativity to develop an artistic and poetic aesthetic. Creativity is blended with the poet’s empty soul, the ephemeral fog (an image that appears in the works of Charles Baudelaire, a Symbolist, and T. S. Eliot), and ennui (vexation—a condition of the poetic spirit that also appears in the works of Baudelaire) to represent a poetic state.

The poem presents the nineteenth century in negative terms, in images such as those of “the sad chimneys,” chimneys filled with smoke—which reminds one of Charles Dickens’s prison of soot. For Stéphane Mallarmé, however, smoke and soot are not related to social or economic oppression; they may represent instead a stifling of poetic creativity. Instead of inspiring the artist, as nature did for the Romantics, the sun in “The Azure” is “dying yellowish on the horizon”—an image that reflects the poet’s own mood and soul. There is a sense of stasis in the...

(The entire section is 451 words.)